EXCLUSIVE! Hot on the heels of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s public speculation of a hostile takeover of Apple, Steve Jobs announces the merger of Apple and Pixar, Jobs’s successful animation company. In this special issue, we also unveil a host of behind-the-six-colored-curtain information, including sale of the Newton and PowerBook divisions, new technologies for Rhapsody, a TidBITS global reorganization, rumors of Cyberdog abuses, and more.
New PowerBooks — Just after the release of the PowerBook 3400, dubbed "the world’s fastest portable" by Apple, comes the PowerBook 1000, codenamed Falcon. Announced on 01-Apr-97 and bearing the affectionate slogan "the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy," the PowerBook 1000 is based on the diminutive PowerBook 100 design and features a 320 MHz low-power PowerPC 620 CPU, 80 MB of RAM, a 2 GB hard disk, a hot-swappable removable storage bay that supports a CD-ROM drive, Zip drive, or floppy drive, and ten hours of battery life on trilithium resin battery technology. Unique to the PowerBook 1000 is generalized wireless communication technology that enables the machine to act as a pager or cellular telephone, or to connect to the Internet via a wireless modem at speeds up to 53 Kbps. Prices are expected to start at $1,500. [ECA]
Double the Trouble — Connectix recently announced the latest in its Doubler suite, a new browser plug-in called JAVADoubler (formerly known by its code name, DoubleShot). Slated for release on 01-Apr-97, the plug-in downloads all Java applets twice. Using special parallel download technology described by engineers as "caffeinated to the max," the double download takes no longer than a normal, single download. Why download two copies? Well, JAVADoubler doesn’t stop percolating its magic once the copies are downloaded. Using memory buffering technology borrowed from RAM Doubler, JAVADoubler monitors the first download’s activities, and when the applet crashes or hits an offending instruction, JAVADoubler moves operations over to the second downloaded copy. While that copy continues to run, JAVADoubler quickly downloads another copy. We applaud Connectix for its continuing efforts to help users catch up to the ever-rushing train of technological change. [EJT]
Cyberdog Abused? Rumors are circulating on the net that the real reason for the demise of Apple’s OpenDoc technology was due to allegations made by an organization calling itself the Animal Internet Rights Foundation (AIRF) about Apple’s mishandling of Cyberdog. A spokesperson was quoted as saying, "We received reports that Cyberdog was repeatedly hacked, delayed, and not given proper resources." AIRF investigators are also reportedly looking into the conduct of programmers Peter Lewis (in regard to his domestication of the Anarchie kangaroo), and Jim Matthews (for not paying enough attention to the Fetch dog). The University of Minnesota could not be reached for comment regarding its treatment of the gopher in the almost-defunct TurboGopher. Some have suggested that the decline of the Gopher technology was related to cutbacks in the University of Minnesota’s gopher food budget. [ECA]
Mac Attack — In a swift and decisive move, Symantec Corporation announced that it would purchase game developer Id Software for an undisclosed sum. Id, creator of popular "blast-and-run" games such as Doom and Quake, immediately issued a press release disclosing that negotiations had been "relatively bloodless (ha ha)." Symantec’s first offering from its new Chainsaw/Cutting Edge department will be a revised version of Norton Utilities for Macintosh entitled NUM-Cruncher, in which users will be able to run through virtual 3D "corridors" of their hard disks in real-time, blasting bad sectors and setting fire to corrupted B-tree branches. [CLJ]
TidBITS Announces Reorganization — Following in the footsteps of such industry leaders as Apple Computer, TidBITS today announced plans to lay off thousands of employees. “It’s a bit like selling a stock short,” explained TidBITS publisher Adam Engst. “First we lay off the employees, take advantage of a massive tax write-off, and then we can use the money to hire them.” TidBITS also announced a shareholders meeting to be held this time next year; bring a dessert to share. [ECA]
Smoking Newtons, Batman! After a flurry of industry speculation about the fate of its underappreciated handheld technology, Apple has sold its Newton line to the highest bidder, the RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp. (RN), parent company of the independently traded Nabisco, Inc. (NA) and creator of cigarette lines Camel, Winston, and Salem. As a result of the sale, Nabisco’s well-known Fig Newton line will gain a new member – the Cig Newton.
Cig Newtons will feature a special compartment for storing cigarettes. An RJR representative commented that "too many potential smokers use PDAs but don’t want the inconvenience of carrying around a PDA and a cigarette pack. By giving customers cigarettes and a PDA in one handy package, we think we can convince adults to try smoking and turn a huge profit." The representative had no comment when asked if the new Newtons would ship with a program that automatically recorded cigarette usage and charted the increasing risk of health problems. Additionally, no comment was offered when asked if the company would offer a similar Cig Newton aimed at children, based on the eMate design and sporting a Joe Camel face. Rumor has it that RJR is currently negotiating a technology alliance that would enable it to add a "flick-top" Bic lighter technology to future models. [EJT]
Kinko’s, The New Way to Verb — If you don’t possession at home the software or hardware you requirement to completion a job, automobile down to your nearest Kinko’s, where you’ll discovery a row of Macs cargoed with a good selection of fonts and software, plus some great printers. Everything is all arrangemented so that at the end a time slip is printered enumerationing your charges. I’ve employmented this service on a number of occasions and I consideration it fun and easy; if you entrance at an odd time (such the middle of the night) you can just chair down and commencement working without competitioning for a computer. [NAM]
In a move that surprised all but the cagiest industry analysts, it was announced this week that Apple Computer, Inc., had been acquired by Pixar Animation Studios. Apple promptly laid off its entire development staff, plus David Krathwohl and the whole Developer Relations department, hiring in their place on permanent retainer a number of film stars including Jim Carrey, Jeff Goldblum, Roy Scheider, and others who have been seen using Apple computers in movies over the years. According to former CEO (now Vice President of Rhetorical Affairs) Gil Amelio, Apple will henceforth confine its activities to star-studded, high-tech animated multimedia presentations at conventions and stockholder meetings.
"This was the real reason we bought NeXT [Software, Inc.], but we couldn’t announce it until the details were finalized," Amelio said. "We needed to leverage the animation expertise of Pixar, and this was the only way Steve [Steven P. Jobs, CEO of both NeXT and Pixar] was going to let us at it. We save NeXT, he saves Apple: it was a simple quid pro quo."
"It was a completely logical move, which I’d been contemplating ever since I joined the board of directors [in 1994]," Amelio went on. "I looked at Apple’s work over the last five years or so and saw immediately that Apple was really in the business of giving demos about technology that they never had and never intended to release. People were shelling out big bucks to watch this stuff at Macworld Expo and the World Wide Developers Conference. For a while early on it had looked like folks might catch on to the fact that all the so-called demos were just animations, but we started interspersing occasional screen shots of MacsBug and the critics went wild."
"Meanwhile, the actual development effort had become a complete financial sinkhole," Amelio continued. "I realized quickly that we could save a lot of time and expenditure by cutting development out altogether. Computers and entertainment have been linked from the start; Apple has been marketing computer-based fiction for years and now we’re going into it full time."
Ellen Hancock, executive vice president of research and development, will remain with Apple to help plan the scenarios of future animations, in which Apple, in an ongoing soap opera, will portray a Silicon Valley corporation desperately coming up with ever-whackier technologies in an effort to stay afloat. Hancock will be assisted by Walter S. Mossberg, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, who will serve as chief editor and head writer.
Apple’s move was enthusiastically received by the press, who, in a frenzy of interviewing one another as usual after the press conference, looked forward to ripping Apple’s new fictional company to shreds. Steve Jobs, now CEO of Apple as well as Pixar and NeXT, was unavailable for comment.
In an effort to reassure the Macintosh developer community in the wake of recent layoffs and restructuring, Apple Computer has been privately demonstrating a host of cutting-edge new technologies slated to appear in its forthcoming NeXT-based operating system, codenamed Rhapsody. Though none of these new features have been finalized, TidBITS was fortunate enough to attend one of Apple’s sneak previews for programmers and developers, and the demonstrations were truly spectacular instances of Apple showmanship.
Also Known As… System 7 first introduced Macintosh users to aliases, tiny files that point back to an original item, like a program, document, folder, or disk. Rhapsody will take aliases to the next level by integrating them with both the Appearance Manager (scheduled to appear in Mac OS 8) and Macintosh Easy Open, enabling Rhapsody users to work in a predominantly Windows or Unix environment without being detected. "We’ve heard about sites, particularly in corporate America, where Mac users are being forced to give up their Macs and switch to another platform," said an Apple representative. "Rhapsody’s new Alias Manager lets these Apple customers continue to use their Macintoshes in those environments under an assumed identity." The new Alias Manager, codenamed AKA, can give a Macintosh the appearance of a Windows 95, Windows NT, or Sun OS operating system, complete with functional interface elements, all tied to customized hot keys that let Macintosh users switch between interfaces when their supervisors have left the room. Although the new Alias Manager cannot fully emulate other operating systems, it’s smart enough to know when its out of its league, and simulates a disk problem, network error, program crash, or other commonplace event for the simulated operating system if it gets too close to its limits. "At no point does it give away that you’re using a Mac." When asked how many users are expected to rely on the new Alias Manager, an Apple spokesperson declined to give specific figures, but predicted large numbers, especially after a planned alliance with the Federal Witness Protection Program, noting Apple was already planning an advertising campaign for the year 2000, entitled "We’re everywhere."
How Does That Make You Feel? Recognizing that modern operating systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated and difficult to deal with, Apple also demonstrated an early version of the Empathy Manager, codenamed Troi, which lets the Macintosh running Rhapsody use a PlainTalk microphone and a video camera (like a Connectix QuickCam) to sense and respond to a user’s moods and emotions. If the user is in a good mood, the Empathy Manager will change the screen’s appearance to happy colors, change the system beep to joyous tones, and even make the Internet work faster. If you’re in a bad mood, the Empathy Manager will try to be supportive, offering to open windows, edit email, let the user win a few games of solitaire, or even suggest a well-deserved nap. Like many of Rhapsody’s technologies, the Empathy Manager is Internet-ready; using a protocol called ThinkTalk, Macs with the Telepathy Manager can pool mood information about their users, enabling them to more effectively formulate work strategies, delay email that might upset their user, or even request prescription medication via a secure Web server.
Internet for the Rest Of Us — Although Apple recently discontinued its Performa brand of computers, Rhapsody is scheduled to include technologies specifically intended for low-end, non-technical Macintosh users. First among these is GeekWatch, an Internet utility designed to filter out confusing and overly technical information on the Internet. "The Web offers a vast amount of information, but a lot of that information isn’t relevant to many non-technical professions, like hairdressers, rock musicians, and marketing executives," said an Apple representative. GeekWatch monitors information as it comes into your computer from the Internet and compares it to a user profile built up gradually from the contents of Internet sites visited by a particular user. If the content of a site is deemed too technical, that data is blocked by GeekWatch. As an example, someone who was mainly interested in gardening information who accidently loaded a Web page on Java programming, a GeekWatch dialog appears with a smiley-face icon and the phrase "This site blocked by GeekWatch!" (Version 1.1 will include translations for technical terms; in the previous example, an Apple Guide window would appear beneath the smiley-face icon, explaining that Java is "essentially another term for coffee, which programmers need to survive." At this point, the Empathy Manager could kick in and suggest that the user go brew a cup.) The Apple representative commented, "We think this will make the Internet less intimidating for real people, and have a beneficial side effect of letting real geeks talk to each other without confusing anyone."
The Blame Game — Finally, the most fundamental – and perhaps most controversial – new functionality scheduled to appear in Rhapsody is the Conspiracy Manager, a comprehensive set of low-level object classes designed to handle errors and crashes for all programs and services. The Conspiracy Manager allows programmers to have extensive control over the appearance, timing, and impacts of their errors. With the preemptive multitasking capabilities provided by Rhapsody’s Mach kernel, errors and crashes can appear to be caused by any program or software component running under Rhapsody. Thus, a programmer could release a program that blamed all its crashes on the ever-popular whipping boy Microsoft Word, Java, the dreaded "extension conflict," or even a particular Internet site. Acknowledging that the best way to hide a conspiracy is to admit to it up front, Apple representatives declined to comment on how the Conspiracy Manager might make Macintosh use less intuitive for users, although they did note that Apple had to conform to industry standards for software problems, and the Conspiracy Manager was vital to the job security of technical support workers around the world. Apple representatives also refused to comment on whether Apple was considering licensing the Conspiracy Manager to other companies. "Um…," the Apple rep nodded. "Could be."
We at TidBITS have long been proponents of the theory that we should provide TidBITS in as many ways as possible for our readers. Unlike other publications, which limit themselves to the Web, we’ve long supported email, FTP, and Usenet news. That’s why, when Intermind announced its Intermind Communicator product last year, we started publishing TidBITS that way as well, even though the Macintosh version of the product hadn’t yet shipped.
We’ve also been trying to separate our organization from the TidBITS newsletter slightly – you might have noticed our copyright notice for "TidBITS Electronic Publishing." All of these moves have come in preparation for our latest announcement, the TidBITS Channel!
Shove Technology — The TidBITS Channel will take advantage of the very latest in Internet technology – so-called "shove" technology, which was designed specifically for information with an attitude. We feel that shove technology is the logical extension of the initial "pull" technology of the Web, where users had to go get everything manually, and the "push" technology used by companies such as Intermind, PointCast, Marimba, and BackWeb.
So, thanks to our use of shove technology, when you turn on your computer in the morning, an avatar (we’re in negotiations with Chicago Bulls "bad boy" Dennis Rodman) will appear on screen and begin a dialog with you. "Hey bud, move back from the screen – yer crowding me," it will say. If you don’t do as it asks (or at random times even if you do), it will invite you to step outside, saying, ‘You wanna piece of me? Huh? Whatsa matter, sucker, you scared?" Once you’ve been sufficiently cowed, the avatar will get down to business. "Read this, dork!"
We have high hopes for the future of shove technology – some joystick manufacturers have already signed up to provide physical feedback devices that will be able to simulate those initial shoves before a fight starts for real. Future enhancements to these devices will be able to simulate the feeling of being thrown against a wall and having a chair broken over your head.
But enough about the nuts and bolts behind the TidBITS Channel, let’s look at our new content. We’ve been watching a lot of syndicated television recently, and have "borrowed" a few ideas from our favorite shows.
Martha Stewart Macintosh Makeover — Everyone loves and envies uber-homemaker Martha Stewart, and we convinced her to broaden her horizons past projects that help you filter your compost and teach you how to make delicious desserts and centerpieces from the parts that haven’t yet fully decayed. On this show, Martha will demonstrate how to use a soldering iron to stencil those cute little geese onto the side of your Macintosh so it matches your curtains, how to French-braid your cables to avoid that ugly cable nest behind the computer, and other fun projects that anyone can do, given a week or two of concentrated effort with Martha standing over your shoulder with a whip.
BitWatch — This new show will star ex-Apple employees who don’t have anything better to do while working off their five-month severance packages. Each week will focus on a different, recently eliminated Apple technology and the team that had been working on it. Of course, everyone on the cast will wear only small bits of clothing, and the show will be set on Silicon Beach.
Tonya: CodeWarrior Princess — TidBITS Senior Editor Tonya Engst has always wanted to branch out into fantasy, and she gets her chance in this new show. Dressed up in a skimpy leather and metal outfit with a very large sword, Tonya roams Silicon Valley with her wise-cracking sidekick Ebbe (Even Better Bus Error), protecting innocent memory and battling evil big-endian overlords, CISC wizards, foul daemons, and other 3D-rendered terrors. Preliminary ratings and usability studies indicate a spin-off series (Colonel Mach: Justice Server) might get the go-ahead for next season.
TidBITS Swimsuit Channel — Not to be left behind in the annual fuss over the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, we’ve decided to do our own swimsuit issue, complete with swimsuit pictures of some of your editors in exotic locales. Of course, being as sensitive as we are to the bandwidth problems on the Web, we’ve come up with a clever way to present these images for your viewing pleasure. Check them out on our Web site! (Warning! These images have not been rated by the RSAC Ratings Service.)
We’ve all watched fads turn into trends and crumble under the withering heat of reality. Most of these fadlets (trendlets?) suffer because they don’t work, or perhaps no one’s willing to ante up even a small amount of money for the resulting products. An argument could be made that Web browsers fall into this category.
However, recent announcements from the leaders in the 1997 Internet Press Release Championships, Netscape Communications and Microsoft Corporation, hold promise for some truly successful new products.
As everyone knows, making money on the Internet is generally a losing proposition. Most of the money made so far has been in advertising, and if you look closely, you’ll realize that the same companies are both accepting ads and buying them on other sites. In other words, money is staying in the system. Researchers at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management believe they’ve uncovered a relationship that implies that all money on the Internet will be conserved and recycled, much as water from the oceans evaporates, moves around in the atmosphere, returns to earth in the form of precipitation, and washes back down to the oceans.
Unwilling to accept this theory, the Internet economics engineers at Netscape Communications (well known for engineering Netscape’s 1996 IPO (initial public offering) that showed that money really does grow on trees hydroponically raised in the dark sewers of New York City under Wall Street) have come up with a new money-making idea that’s sure to succeed.
Netscape’s mascot, before the company became too stuffy to have a mascot, was the lovable Mozilla, a Godzilla-like creature born in the minds of the early Netscape programmers from watching too many bad science-fiction movies while writing NCSA Mosaic, Netscape Navigator’s predecessor. In an effort to capitalize on the Netscape name, Netscape plans a line of Mozilla action figures, including a plastic Mozilla that can melt AOL floppy disks with the addition of common household items such as matches and an aerosol can. Another Mozilla will be a large plush stuffed animal that can repeat several phrases, including "See you on alt.dinosaur.barney.die.die.die!" and "Bill Gates is a weenie."
In response, industry juggernaut Microsoft announced that it has had a line of action figures in the works for some time, the first of which will of course be the Bill Gates action figure, available for free download on the Internet to anyone who can figure out how to download an action figure. A Steve Ballmer action figure that froths at the mouth while talking about the Macintosh is planned for the fifth quarter of this year.
Microsoft also announced the IAFS, or the Internet Action Figure Standard, and said that it would be turning the standard over to the IETF to show that it wasn’t really interested in controlling the world. A spokesman for the IETF sounded confused when asked about the IETF’s plans for the IAFS. "The what?" he asked.
The nascent IAFS has already come under fire from Internet security experts after a class of third graders at Benedict Arnold Elementary School near Burlington, Vermont, uncovered a security hole in the Bill Gates Action Figure using a networked pool of eMate 300s. Unfortunately, because TidBITS is a family publication (and was already cited once under the Communications Decency Act in 1996 – see TidBITS-321), we can’t provide additional details about the security hole. Microsoft promises a fix but has not yet given a date when it will be available.
Other computer industry companies refused to comment on their action figure strategies, although rumor has it that Apple plans to release a Steve Jobs action figure (based on the G.I. Joe action figure with the karate chop arm) once engineers can figure out how to miniaturize a PowerBook sufficiently to please Jobs, who reportedly said that any Steve Jobs action figure must include a fully functional, no-compromises PowerBook.
Although much of Apple was acquired by Pixar Animations Studio (see the related article earlier in this issue), some hardware divisions were sold off. In a move that surprised many industry analysts, the PowerBook division was exchanged for a $1 million gem-encrusted brassiere (reportedly now worn by Ellen Hancock in Apple/Pixar soaps) and will now be under the control of the well-known lingerie chain, Victoria’s Secret.
Said Kelly Kahn, VP of Technology Acquisitions, "Modern women don’t just want to look great, they want to function effectively in a chaotic, information-rich world. PowerBooks are the management tool of choice, and we look forward to improving the line to better meet fashion needs. Take the stylish eMate 300: we plan to move the PowerBook line in that direction, with more colorful, fun looking cases, slimmer profiles, and vastly improved customer support."
In time for Boston Macworld this year, Victoria’s Secret plans to ship a series of HotSurfer PowerBooks. These machines will be based on the Duo line, but Victoria’s Secret has eschewed the use of numbers to describe machines. Ms. Kahn commented, "We could have named them with numbers, but we felt that HotSurfer much more aptly describes the new line." An important innovation in the HotSurfers will be a second drive bay designed either to hold a hot-swappable storage device or a special purse. The new PowerBooks will have strong enough shells that for many events a protective carrying case won’t be necessary. By stowing a wallet and other essentials in the purse, HotSurfer owners can attend such events looking "streamlined and elegant," not "burdened with accessories."
In addition, to help users avoid the awkward look and feel of operating a computer attached to a snake’s nest of cables, the company is aggressively partnering with technology companies that support wireless communications.
Victoria’s Secret also plans a new line of PowerBook cases. Cassie Connolly, Director of Accessory Fashions explained, "Most of today’s PowerBook cases operate on a functional level only. Our customers want cases that express personality or inject a humorous note. Cases will range from elegant satin or velvet items to whimsical options, decorated with lace, silk flowers, and faux fruit." Straw cases will be sold only in warmer climates; look for quilting and polar fleece in colder areas. The buzz on the street suggests that a matching line of hats may be in the making.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the buyout, though, is that every Victoria’s Secret store is adding a special PowerBook sales area right up front. Many big malls have a Victoria’s Secret store, and with the displays slated to combine eye-popping models holding slick looking PowerBooks, not only should business should be brisk, but consumers should see the Macintosh portable market in a more favorable light. Executives at Power Computing are already working with Victoria’s Secret on sublicensing and cross-marketing deals.
Will Victoria’s Secret introduce unisex- or male-oriented PowerBook models? Ms. Kahn noted, "We don’t want guys to feel excluded – sure, our cases will appeal more to women, at least in the short term. However, we think we can make PowerBooks that appeal to both sexes. We don’t look at our upcoming PowerBooks so much as for one sex or another, but for people who have fashion sense or want to look glamorous while computing."
With the recent rise of "Geek culture," the long-held misperception that computer users are solitary, electronic slaves is slowly receding like a ten percent drop shadow. Geeks have asserted for years that they can party as hard as any testosterone-filled football player. To prove it, we present the TidBITS Web Surfing Party Game (TBWSPG, pronounced "Fred").
Fred is best experienced in a group setting (say, a rack of office cubicles at lunchtime), but you can also play at home alone or networked, of course. To play, choose your favorite drink, connect to your ISP, and start surfing the Web. Remember to be responsible, and hand over the mouse when you’ve drunk too much.
Drink once if:
- your modem has to redial when connecting to your ISP (if more than five times, stop drinking and cancel that darn AOL account already!).
- you see a "Best Viewed With…" tag (twice if it’s animated)
- you get any error message (bad URL, etc.)
- you see an under construction sign
- you view a page with a Web counter (twice if it’s a broken graphic)
- you view a blink tag (not necessary to drink for every blink)
- you come across a Java applet (twice if it doesn’t load)
- you see the phrase "cool links"
- a background sound loads (you also must dance with drink in hand)
- your browser crashes
- you have to resize the browser window
- a graphic doesn’t load
Drink twice if:
- you arrive at a password-protected site (if you can guess the password in three tries, collect a dollar from everyone in the room and chug drink)
- you find a home page purportedly belonging to someone’s pet.
- "cool" is spelled "kewl"
- you have to download a plug-in and restart your browser
- the graphics are broken on a Web designer’s home pages
- If you hit a Shockwave project, you have to wait to drink until it’s downloaded. (This is a good chance to walk to the store for more drinks, render 3D images, or write a new operating system.)