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ATPM 10.02
February 2004




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by Robert Paul Leitao,

Welcome to the February issue of About This Particular Macintosh! It’s been a month to remember. At January’s Macintosh Expo, Apple Computer announced the iPod mini. Retailing at $249, there’s nothing small about the price. The Mac maker’s high margins on well-designed products haven’t changed, but the perception of Apple Computer as a technology and design leader is gaining new ground. In this issue of ATPM we will look at many of the changes in the world of Macintosh computing and explore the platform’s renaissance with consumers and creative pros.

When Last We Left You

In January’s Welcome we talked about the BCS system for selecting the top two teams in NCAA college football. The BCS computers selected Oklahoma and Louisiana State University as the top two teams in the nation. This left USC, the nation’s top-ranked football team, out of the national championship game and LSU to face third-ranked Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl for the BCS championship. Not only was the nation denied an opportunity to see the top two teams in the nation face-off in a championship game, but it highlights what happens when we put too much emphasis on computers and too little emphasis on common sense.

USC and LSU won their respective bowl games, so the two teams share a split national championship designation. USC is the year’s AP champion, and LSU received the national top spot from the BCS. We not only recommend to the folks who run the BCS that they revise their computer point system for selecting the top two teams in the nation, but we also recommend that next year the BCS should use Macs. You never know. A Mac might have selected the correct two teams for the national championship game.

Gateway to Acquire eMachines

What happens when you combine a floundering computer company with a maker of really cheap PCs? We are about to find out! Gateway Computer, the computer company turned electronics retailer, has announced it has purchased eMachines, the maker of budget-line PCs.

Gateway’s purchase of eMachines roughly doubles Gateway’s US market share and launches the company back into foreign markets. It also provides Gateway entry to other retail stores. Faced with a fall off in PC sales, Gateway turned their Gateway Country Stores into electronics stores in order to pay the rent. With the increase in sales through the eMachines acquisition, Gateway may choose to close many of the company’s retail stores as the leases on the spaces begin to expire.

Pixar Dumps Disney

The “other company” headed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs has chosen to break off talks with the Walt Disney Company on a new distribution deal. Pixar Animation has announced an end to the most recent round of talks with Mickey & Co. and that the company will look for a new distribution partner following the end of its current deal with Disney. The five-movie contract with Disney expires toward the end of 2005.

Meanwhile, Finding Nemo, the current Pixar-Disney release, has become the ninth-highest grossing motion picture in history and the top animated movie of all time. At press time Nemo has earned about $850 million at the worldwide box office.

Pixar is dumping Disney in favor of a search for a new deal that will leave the company with a larger piece of the box office profit pie.

How Much Is Too Much?

That’s the question being asked by investors following the release of Apple’s most recent quarterly numbers. iPods represented 13% of revenue and represented a significant portion of the company’s rising profits. Apple surpassed Wall Street estimates on better than expected revenue and earnings. For the December quarter, Apple earned $.16 per share after extraordinary items on sales of about $2 billion. But the Street is now concerned that iPods comprise too much of the company’s overall sales mix and worries that G5 sales should be higher. Go figure.

I Fought the Law, and Pepsi Paid the Fine

That seems to be the case after watching Pepsi’s Super Bowl advertisement announcing the $100 million iTunes music giveaway. The ad features people busted by the RIAA for illegally downloading music from the Internet. The message: through the iTunes promotion, Pepsi makes it legal and free for winners to get music off the Net. No doubt the appearance in the spot by the former music lawbreakers did not come about for free. A happy ending for everyone? Over the next couple of months, we’ll know for sure. The Pepsi bottles with winning bottle caps will be on sale through March 31, 2004. Winners must redeem the bottle caps for songs by the end of April.

Meanwhile iTunes rival Napster may get help from parent company Roxio’s release of Creator 7, a product that provides users with functionality similar to iTunes. We’ll see if the new product invigorates Napster’s seemingly moribund music sales.

Debt Free

Later this month Apple Computer will retire its remaining long-term debt, paying off $300 million in loans. That will leave the company with about $4.5 billion in cash and no long-term liabilities. Aside from sharing a CEO, Pixar and Apple have another thing in common: business models that make lots of cash from popular products while allowing the companies to finance capital expenditures from cash flow. This includes the costs of Pixar’s new corporate headquarters.

Until Next Month

Thanks for reading our February issue! We’ll be back in March with another look at the state of Macintosh computing and more reviews from our editors.


Our February issue includes:

The Candy Apple: Technology & Values

Ellyn Ritterskamp summarizes some ideas from a class discussion of a piece by Emmanuel Mesthene, a distinguished professor of philosophy.

Bloggable: Fairly Quiet on the Blog Front

In spite of January marking the Macintosh’s 20th anniversary, Wes Meltzer finds that things like Apple’s much-heralded foray into RSS feeds and the “H-Bomb” were last month’s biggest news.

Quick Tips in Design: Part 8—Pattern

In this month’s installment, Andrew Kator discusses the role of pattern in visual arts.

About This Particular Outliner: Outliner User Interfaces

Ted Goranson continues his survey of outliner features this month. The focus in this column is user interface details. All outliners are compared.

Web Accessibility: Part 2—Text and Language

In her second installment, Raena Armitage explains how everyone—and not just those with a disability—benefits when a little care is given to presenting a page’s text.

How To: Panther Meets NTFS

Sylvester Roque explores the perks and caveats of using an NTFS-formatted drive with Mac OS X.

Cartoon: Cortland

NeoCort confronts the Agents.

Cartoon: iTrolls

The iTrolls ponder entropy, free software updates, the hassles of flying, and Soundtrack’s price reduction. Plus, a parody featuring Howard Dean and Steve Ballmer was inevitable.

Desktop Pictures: Remembering Summer

Reader Dave Trautman shares his summer memories—pictures of Canadian prairies and some images that say “summer” to him.

Review: Cyborg 3D USB Gold

While not perfect and technically having no Macintosh drivers, Joe Kudrna believes the Cyborg 3D is a better choice than its closest competition from Logitech.

Review: iFire

Andrew Kator has no complaints about this device which makes Apple Pro Speakers compatible with computers (and iPods) that don’t normally support them.

Review: iView MediaPro 2.0.2

Though it costs nearly twice as much as the 1.x version, Gregory Tetrault discovers greater stability and a number of useful new features in this version.

Review: Greppie 1.0.1

Following up on his AquaGrep disappointment, Eric Blair finds that Greppie has potential, but its version 1 edges are a bit rough.

Review: Old Fart’s Guide to the Macintosh 2nd Ed. (book)

Kirk McElhearn thinks that seniors who look to this book for a little help getting started with a Macintosh may do better to look elsewhere.


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