Okay, we've had a day for the news to sink in, now, and we think we've finally gotten our heads wrapped around yesterday's whole "HP-branded iPod" curve ball. For those of you who spent the day with your heads stuck inside a large wheel of cheese (replica or otherwise), Hewlett-Packard and Apple stunned the world yesterday by announcing that, starting this summer, HP will be selling a rebranded version of the iPod and preloading iTunes for Windows on all of its consumer Wintels, with desktop icon links to the iTunes Music Store. How's that for news that'll blast the gouda from your ear canals?
And when we say "stunned the world," believe it: faithful viewer Mike referred us to a New York Times article which describes Microsoft as the proverbial deer in the headlights yesterday: "Thursday the company appeared unprepared for the Apple-Hewlett agreement, which clearly stung Microsoft executives." How unprepared, you ask? So unprepared that the company actually said the deal would "limit choice and harm consumers" because it didn't have time to realize just how butt-stupid that sounds coming from freakin' Microsoft. ("Justice Department? What Justice Department?")
Check it out, this was the best a company spokesperson could muster to undercut the announcement: "Windows is all about choice... we believe you should have the same choice when it comes to music services." Translation: "Use any service you want as long as it sells Windows Media, buy any player out there as long as it plays Windows Media-- but for heaven's sake, don't buy one of those wretched iPod thingies or we'll be completely boned with our whole plan to monopolize digital media commerce and then we might actually have to start innovating for our paychecks for a change." Or, to put it a little more succinctly, "you can have any color you want, as long as it's black."
No, there aren't black iPods. That was a Ford reference. Oh, never mind.
(And before the flood of corrections comes roaring through, okay, yes, there are black iPods, sort of.)
Back to the whole "industry taken by surprise" thing: What about Dell? Dell, as you know, used to be an iPod reseller, until what we laughingly refer to as its design department was able to cobble together its own copycat model, the Dell Digital Jukebox. (Actually, we're told it's a rebranded third-party product, but it's certainly ugly enough to have sprung malformed and dripping from the design lab at Dell.) So what was Michael Dell's reaction to the news that its player will soon have to compete not just with the iPod, but with a "stealth" iPod in HP clothing-- and one that'll be sold at retail stores, no less? Well according to a Cox News Service article pointed out by faithful viewer Bobbynow, when "asked about HP and Apple's iPod alliance on Thursday, Dell Chief Executive Michael Dell said he had nothing to say."
Now that's unprepared, and boy howdy.
Still, can you blame him? This announcement caught us all by surprise, and no wonder: the Times reports that the deal "was completed only after an extensive bargaining session that ran long into Wednesday night between Carleton S. Fiorina, Hewlett's chief executive, and Apple's Steven P. Jobs." Seems to us that Steve is a fan of late-night, last-minute deal-making; wasn't that landmark Microsoft agreement in '97 hashed out the same way? We suspect that Steve's Reality Distortion Field works better at night. So if you ever find yourself haggling with the man over the price of a falafel platter, try to position yourself so he's in direct sunlight-- you'll probably get a better deal.