Apple Eclectic’s Review of 2008: November

When they come to write the definitive history of the 21st century, November 2008 will be remembered for one thing and one thing only — it was the month when Sesame Street came to iTunes. There was also some kind of election in the US, returning the country’s first black President. Apple’s share price fell on the historic news. Barack Obama — whose name, coincidentally, is still not recognised by OS X’s built-in spellchecker — soon joined Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in the pantheon of world leaders photographed near MacBooks.

We can only hope that they were having more luck with them than other flush early-adopting sods were having with their aluminium unibody MacBooks. Reports of problems were flooding in, mainly centring on the new glass trackpads. We also heard how, while the MacBooks did have undocumented support for 6Gb of total RAM, it didn’t always work. But worst of all, the laptop’s HDCP proved to be a bag of hurt when some copy-protected media failed to play back over analogue outputs. Eager to ride the zeitgeist, owners of PowerBook G4s launched a class action lawsuit over dodgy memory slots. They formed a neat orderly queue behind the 128k Mac owner’s whose mice had packed in.

random_woz_urinal_segway_pictureApple celebrated the opening of its 250th Apple Store, in Modesto, California. This month also saw the arrival of a slew of stores — both physical and on-line — across Asia. But their was something strange afoot outside a number of Apple’s UK stores: in an embarrassing display of attention seeking, Microsoft parked “I’m a PC” photo booths on their doorsteps. The move was broadly welcome by Apple Store customers, making up as it did for the lack of alternative public bathrooms.

iPhone OS 2.2 shipped — and although iPod Touch owners didn’t have to pay cash money for it this time, they still found themselves badly treated due to the lack of the new maps and street view features. Apple became the world’s no. 2 smartphone vendor, with news that the iPhone was outselling all Windows Mobile devices combined. Safari 3.2 was released, and rumours began to circulate that Snow Leopard would be arriving sooner than anyone had hoped, possibly even during the 1st quarter of 2009. Less certain of an imminent arrival were The Beatles on iTunes, as Macca revealed that talks were currently ’stalled’. Whatever than meant. In the mean time we had to amuse ourselves listening to some former manager of Pink Floyd whining about how iTunes was destroying the album. (In truth, the kids today have better things to get stoned to than the Floyd.)

Just as the blogosphere was getting up a good head of rumour — new iMacs, new Mac Mini, new CEO — Apple went and rained on its parade, announcing “Our holiday line-up is set.” Spoil sports. Instead, we had to keep ourselves entertained watching senior Apple management playing musical chairs. Tony ‘who?’ Fadell was out as iPod Big Cheese, replaced by Mark ‘who?’ Papermaster, who would have become Senior VP of Devices Hardware Engineering if his former employer, IBM, hadn’t stepped in to stop him. Fadell was left with a consolation prize of a $300,000-a-year special adviser role. But his sudden fall from grace shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone who remembers this incident from the iPhone launch event (at about 5:55):

(Oddly enough, based on Steve’s actions during the same event, rumours that Apple was to buy Starbucks never surfaced. Until now.)

Apple’s 10-K filing this month revealed that their number of employees had grown by almost 50% over the last year. But since ‘zombie apocalypse’ didn’t appear anywhere in their list of ‘risk factors’ they’re either being criminally negligent or — more likely — have a plan in place to deal with the expected flood of undead. (Thinking about it, they must have built all those Apple Stores for a reason.) Making it onto the ‘risk factor’ list, however, was ‘the danger of legal actions going against us’. I think we can all imagine the heart warming scene as, somewhere in Miami, the Pedraza boys point with slack-jawed simplicity to this entry and say, “That’s us, that is!” The anti-trust portion of Psystar’s countersuit against Apple was dismissed by the Judge, and a tentative trial data of November 2009 was set.

Elsewhere in law, Apple wielded the DMCA ban hammer against the BluWiki site and its iPodHash team attempting to reverse engineer the iTunes library copy protection. And in the UK, the ASA was up to its old tricks again, banning the ‘real fast’ iPhone advert after concluding that, no, it really isn’t.

Meanwhile, November was a bad month for garbage-based vocalising. Real Dan Lyons got told to stop blogging by his new masters at Newsweek after trash-talking Yahoo!’s top lawyer; and Rob Enderle — renowned for talking the other kind of trash — lost his gig at Dell after they cancel plans for their iPod killer. Which is a shame, because with Rob on board, how could it possibly fail?

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