News Buried On Page Six (10/22/03)
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Mac, shmac; as we mentioned before, Apple's big push right now is all about the music, and if you doubted that even for a minute, can we direct your attention to Apple's home page? At broadcast time, it still featured a big ol' graphic trumpeting the availability of iTunes for Windows, while underneath, wee little tiles less than an eighth the size quietly mumble today's big news: that iBooks now boast G4 processors, while new lower prices make eMacs more affordable than ever. So two brand new and fairly important Mac announcements get pushed to the bottom of the screen while a screenshot of a Windows application that's been out for almost a week chews up the primo real estate. Even the countdown to Panther's release, the single most knicker-twisting factor in Mac fans' lives right now, is relegated to bottom-of-the-page status. "Hell froze over," indeed.

Just to clarify, we're not complaining, or anything like that; clearly Apple should be pushing iTunes for Windows as hard as possible right now, since anything that brings Wintel users to Apple's site represents a ton of potential mind share, and mind share properly exploited turns into market share. We're just marveling at the wonder of it all; iTunes for Windows rates the full-on Stevenote experience, while a fairly momentous Mac-related development like the iBook's move to G4 chips just barely rates a press release. (No, really, it is momentous: this marks the retirement of the long-working G3 from Apple's product line completely, and firmly establishes the G4 as a decidedly consumer-grade chip. PowerBook G5, anyone?) These are some wild and wacky times, to be sure.

Anyway, if Apple isn't going to play it up, we sure will. The iBook G4 comes in three configurations in what Apple now calls its "hallmark" Snow enclosure (so much for that "completely new form-factor" rumor), packing G4s running at 800 MHz, 933 MHz, and a full 1 GHz. Along with the G4s come the expected updates to the underlying technologies-- USB 2.0, AirPort Extreme compatibility, internal Bluetooth support-- and bigger hard drives, faster graphics, and a base 256 MB of RAM. On the marginally-down side, the new iBooks will now set you back at least $1,099. That's a nice price for a G4-based portable, sure, but it is a hundred bucks more than what the previous entry-level iBook cost-- and it misses the magical sub-$1,000 price point, which might nix some sales to the public at large on purely psychological grounds. Existing Mac fans, at least, might be able to rationalize it away by noting that Panther comes preinstalled, so hey, that's a $129 value right there! (As a community, we're so good at that sort of thing, aren't we?)

And let's not forget that we've got eMac price drops, too-- well, sort of. According to another Apple press release, Apple now offers just two configurations, both with G4s running at 1 GHz; Apple basically dropped the previous 800 MHz-with-CD-ROM config completely and shuffled the 1 GHz combo drive and SuperDrive models each down a step or so in the price structure. In other words, the bottom-dollar price for an eMac is still $799, but now you get essentially what used to be the $999 model for that price (albeit with a 40 GB drive instead of the previous 60 GB one). For $1,099 you get what used to cost $1,299-- and yes, both models come with Panther preinstalled. Our only disappointment is that Apple didn't keep the 800 MHz model and reprice it at $599 for the Curious Windoid set; $799 might still seem like a lot to risk when investigating a full-on platform switch.

So here's the big question: once Panther is actually shipping come Friday night, will it finally unseat that XP desktop from Apple's home page? Or is it that screenshot there to stay, with only news on the order of "President-Elect Jobs Heads For White House" powerful enough to chisel it off its perch? Only time will tell. Well, time and a lot of votes.

[Addendum: Apparently about three hours after we broadcast, Apple.com added a big ol' iBook G4 splash into 50/50 rotation with the iTunes for Windows graphic. Coincidence?]


 
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The above scene was taken from the 10/22/03 episode:

October 22, 2003: Apple sticks G4s into iBooks and drops eMac prices, but the hype is still iTunes, iTunes, iTunes. Meanwhile, some lucky preorderers are already receiving their copies of the not-out-'til-Friday release of Panther, and worrying numbers from Virginia Tech reveal that the G5-based supercomputer might not be quite all it's cracked up to be...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4286: Karma Wheel Smackdown (10/22/03)   So remember yesterday when we rattled off some possible methods of acquiring a boxed copy of Panther prior to its official release this Friday at 8 PM? Well, in addition to bribing, blackmailing, threatening, physically assaulting, hypnotizing, drugging, killing and then replacing with a lifelike android, or proposing marriage to a reseller who already has a shipment in the back, it turns out there was an easier way: preorder the thing and then just be one seriously lucky English son-of-a-gun...

  • 4287: Slacking Something Fierce (10/22/03)   And suddenly, disaster struck! Well, okay, maybe not "disaster," per se, but the latest buzz about "Big Mac," Virginia Tech's supercomputer built from 1,100 Power Mac G5s, is that it might not be nearly the powerhouse that early testing hinted it would be...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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