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I, Cringely On A Momentous Week 221

Posted by Zonk
from the warping-space-and-time dept.
rocketjam writes "Robert X. Cringley offers his take on three recent high-tech occurrences, saying they add up to an 'inflection point' that will change the landscape of the personal computer, video game, and electronic entertainment businesses forever. He briefly points out that Bill Gates' revelation that the next-gen XBox will offer music and movie playing capabilities as well as web-surfing will put MS into direct competition with its hardware OEM customers. He also touches on Yahoo's new music service and Apple's rumored movie download service. The meat of the article though is his take on the significance of Google's Web Accelerator. He says, 'If surfing can be doubled in speed for nothing, of course nearly everyone will go for it', the upshot of which is that AOL, MSN and Earthlink lose their relevancy. From this point more speculation on the implications of Google's success in this endeavor ensues."
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I, Cringely On A Momentous Week

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  • Gasp! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Meagermanx (768421) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:20PM (#12524999)
    The computer world is changing? OMFG!!
  • ooOO (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stanistani (808333) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:21PM (#12525008) Homepage Journal
    Cringely is somewhat more reliable than Dvorak...
    but we still need the "pundit deduction" in force here.

    I do wonder about the xBox 360 though... can you say, "PC?"
    • "I do wonder about the xBox 360 though... can you say, "PC?"

      XBOX 360 != PC. Just like XBOX != PC. That's like calling a man a woman because they're not biologically dissimilar and they can do pretty much the same work.
      • Re:ooOO (Score:5, Funny)

        by Stanistani (808333) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:26PM (#12525048) Homepage Journal
        so...
        That makes the Xbox 360 a girly-box?
        Me confused.
      • Are you just being a stickler? Is a Shuttle computer not a PC because it doesn't have all the ports and expansion capability of a mini-tower Dell? What about the iMac?

        In a few years MS will be able to produce the xbox360 and not lose any money on it. Around that point they will release Longhorn and Office on it. If tax software and other popular programs follow, MS will have taken a huge chunk of business from Dell and other PC makers.
    • ``What message does this send to Microsoft's hardware OEM customers that make home computers? What is Microsoft saying to Dell, HP, Gateway, and others?''

      The same thing they've been saying to the rest of us for years. It rhymes with "duck foo".

      MS has always done this in the software space. They work with other vendors to do the stuff they don't, woo them, make all sorts of promises, then one day announce their own version and let those vendors try to survive on eating their product they can't sell. Ju
    • But he's a pundit that reads Slashdot. And carefully. Late in the article he mentions an anonymous Apple employee posting here. While I disagree completely with some of his conclusions - mainly due to the fact that, well, Google keeps talking about their 'core business' being search and everything else revolving around it for the foreseeable future, and Apple going to a subscription model won't exactly be tough - I also think he's come up with a quite well-reasoned article.

      He doesn't quite mention ho
    • Seeing as it doesn't have an x86 CPU in it, it won't natively run any Windows x86 PC software. They may implement some lame emulator. So at best it would be a thin client which has some merit as a replacement for a PC, as long as all you want is games, web browsing and email.
    • "Cringely is somewhat more reliable than Dvorak..."


      Yes, and modern jet aircraft are somewhat more reliable than old piston-to-prop aircraft.

      Look it up....

  • More on XBOX 360. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:21PM (#12525013)

    I work at Microsoft as do several of my friends. A couple work on the XBOX 360 and told me something over beer that really struck me as great marketting. Microsoft has purposely designed this box to be easy to break and mod-chip. The reason? Sales. They can go to game design houses and say "We sold X million units. You should design for us." and they will. Very much as in how they don't care much about the home pirate as they know it gives them mindshare.

    I'm not breaking an NDA here as I'm not actually on the dev team.
    • Re:More on XBOX 360. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Worked for the desktop.

      That said, all wireless was a brilliant move. So's the harddrive.

      One of my buddies is already planning not only to buy one, but setting up to get it painted by the same guy who did his motorcycle helmet.
    • Re:More on XBOX 360. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aftk2 (556992)
      How does this attitude jive with making a lower barrier to XBox Live? In case people don't know, XBox Live will be a two-tiered service, in which the free members can still chat with other members, access statistics, download certain types of content and play for free on weekends.

      Obviously, if XBox Live is more attractive, people will do the opposite of what you're describing: they'll be hesitant to mod their Xboxes, because then they won't be able to access Live. That is, unless Microsoft stops caring a
      • Re:More on XBOX 360. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I'm the original poster.

        MS sells lots of XBOXs because they can be mod'd

        They tell game makers "We sold X units."

        Game makers make more games based on that

        MS says "We have Y games for XBOX 360!"

        People buy more XBOX 360s.

        Mod chips can easily be turned off for XBOX Live play.

        Microsoft has all the various mod chips in their R&D lab. They know how they work and they're leaving loopholes for the mod chip makers in the future product. They don't care if the game companies have 30% of their games pirated,

        • Re:More on XBOX 360. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Julian352 (108216) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:48PM (#12525243)
          That sounds VERY iffy for the reason that if the word gets out that Xbox 360 is easily modded, publishers will try to release games first on other consoles to get more sales and then port them to X360. The pirating of games is the biggest problem for the makers, as it costs them direct sales. The big benefit of console market is the fact that it's so much harder to pirate.
      • The hd is removable. The hackers can have one hard drive for their modded xbox, and one hard drive for their LIVE play.
    • by mufafa (868159)
      How does that make sense?

      If the xbox is easy to mod.. then more ppl pirate games.

      More games pirated doesn't equate to more sales.

      In fact if anything, ppl being able to pirate and play games easily, means that less of the original games would be sold.
      Unless you mean the very original person who pirated the game had to buy it at some point, but I doubt that would increase sales much - everyone else down the line would just copy/download the game and burn it.
      • Re:More on XBOX 360. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MankyD (567984)
        But more units sold does make a more attractive market to game publishers, since the number of units sold does not indicate the number of units modded. Mind you also that a lot of XBox games will be designed for Live, which may or may not work on modded boxes (probably won't.) Thus to play them, people will still have to buy the game and use it on an umodded box.

        At the same time, I'm not sure I believe the grandparent poster...
      • Re:More on XBOX 360. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I'm the original poster (again!)

        Look. Microsoft doesn't make lots of money on the game titles themselves (other than those developed in house). They're trying to go to a subscription based model ala XBOX Live. THAT is where the money is. They don't care about piracy on the retail side of things, that's not going to put a publisher out of business but it will entice people to buy XBOX 360s.

        The security put into place is just to appease most publishers that "Yes, we have a way of digitally signing games."
        • by snuf23 (182335) on Friday May 13, 2005 @07:35PM (#12525969)
          Then why do they currently actively ban modded Xboxs from accessing Live? Why have they changed the way they detect modded Xboxs on Live to get around newer mod chips that allow locking the hard drive?
          The obvious statement about banning comes from the fact that modded Xboxs can run hacks which can lead to cheating. However the PC suffers from this problem anyway and the PC game companies provide things such as Punkbuster to block out cheaters.
          I'd love to believe what you are saying and I'd love to see homebrew development on Xbox 360 - but it doesn't seem to jive with the current Xbox mod situation.
          • Then why do they currently actively ban modded Xboxs from accessing Live?

            Many organizations are strict with a few offenders to show that they are doing something, but in general allow the practice because it benefits them. Larger penetration of Windows and Office helps Microsoft, because "everybody runs it", even if a fair amount of them are pirated. They still bust pirates on a regular basis.

            Likewise, selling x amount more consoles because people are hacking them up for other purposes will not only

      • Honestly, I don't think easy mod ability has much to do with game sales. In fact if you take a look at PSX (probably one of the 1st systems to ever get modded big time) outsold both the Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 in both games and units.

        However, then we have the Sega Dreamcast case where only a bootdisc was required (modding wasn't even required) and they failed horribly. They had tons of good games, but I believe their marketing strategy went kaput and they finally gave up on the hardware business. Maybe
    • Quote:
      I'm not breaking an NDA here as I'm not actually on the dev team.

      Well, but MS still hates you: modded xboxes will presumably also play warez games, so the game design houses now won't be convinced that easily that the plattform already has a hole in it...
    • Re:More on XBOX 360. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Vaevictis666 (680137) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:46PM (#12525226)
      Actually, the fact that XBox360 has networked music/video playback stock intrigues me quite a lot.

      The main reason I modded my xbox was just for that reason, and I think I'm accurate in saying that my xbox has spent more than 20 times as much time running XBMC (for streaming video from my PC for the most part) than it has spent running games.

      If this is built in to the 360, then that cuts out a big reason for many people to mod it, which to me seems like good business sense. I'm just curious how comparable the two are.

    • by Rorschach1 (174480) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:53PM (#12525284) Homepage
      Yeah, the 'install modchip here' silkscreen on the motherboard was a dead giveaway.
    • by Tim C (15259)
      I'm not breaking an NDA here as I'm not actually on the dev team.

      No, but you are a Microsoft employee, so you probably *are* breaking a general (perhaps even implied) NDA. Company employees generally are *not* at liberty to discuss unannounced stuff publicly, whether they're directly involved or not.

      For example, I can't tell you about a number of projects being developed by my company, and I'm not involved with any of them, either. (Not that you'd care about them, of course)
    • by oGMo (379) on Friday May 13, 2005 @06:59PM (#12525791)

      Congrats, you broke my bullshit detector.

      First, if you work for someplace with an NDA, it covers any nondisclosure information unless they're totally incompetant... so even if you overheard someone while getting coffee, you're probably still breaking NDA. In fact, you could be breaking NDA even if it's not true.

      Second, the revenue stream for a console is its games. Weak or no copy protection scares developers. The Xbox 360 will probably be sold at a huge loss, so there's no profit from just selling consoles. Is mindshare worth that much?

      Third, even if you're telling the truth on both counts, I wouldn't be bragging about this. It makes the 360 reek even more of Dreamcast: out early, no protection, big hype... big flop.

      • NDAs aren't broken if the "leak" comes from an employee of MS or a MS PR agency broadcasting the information as part of their job responsibilities.

        Though if I were the "MS" AC, I'd want that order in writing.

    • I've so much always wanted to say this:

      > I work at Microsoft as do several of my friends...

      Oh, I'm terribly sorry!

      Simon
    • that's inside information, and the boilerplate phrase everybody uses is that it all stays inside.

      but that's OK, we have two competing channels here, and let the best one win.

      that will be the one with iTunes and links to Pixar trailers and 32-inch screens that you can drown in....
    • I'm not breaking an NDA here as I'm not actually on the dev team

      Man, you're an idiot. NDA generally applies to contractors, not employees. As an employee, your rights are limited by all that shit you signed without reading when you were hired. I have a feeling it didn't limit your responsibility of secrecy to only things you work on; I'm pretty sure it covers stuff your coworkers tell you over beer. Even if you signed nothing - and working for MS, that ain't the case - you'd be covered by trade secret

      • Re:More on XBOX 360. (Score:2, Informative)

        by grub (11606)

        Man, you're an idiot. NDA generally applies to contractors, not employees.

        I've signed several NDAs as an employee which are still binding. No more or less as I've signed as a contractor/consultant.
  • by Scoria (264473) <slashmail@in[ ]alized.org ['iti' in gap]> on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:22PM (#12525019) Homepage
    will put MS into direct competition with its hardware OEM customers.

    And, once Microsoft begins to gradually dominate that market, their positions might become similar to that of a Wal-Mart supplier. Their business models will change as they begin to provide manufacturing services for Microsoft.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Microsoft won't be in competition with the OEMs until they port Office to the XBox 360. Same goes for all the other existing x86 software and backwards compatability. Until then that is all just fluff to make the XBox look better than the competition (Playstation). Besides, they said all the same things about the XBox last time as well. Every time a new gaming console comes out we have to hear about how it brings the power of ten thousand supercomputers into your living room.

      Michael
  • Can we please stop this crap cliche phrasing?! I know it works for the computer-not-so-literate, but stop this "We will blow your mind for $2.50" and just advertise real-life broadband connections.

    But I guess I am just a fool.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:26PM (#12525052)
    ASOTV, it's been a good ride, but all good things must come to an end. Cringley used you as his source [slashdot.org] of insider info in this article. This would normally mean that you are in trouble, but you have been so blithe about revealing company strategy (and philosophy, and personal opinion of SJ, etc) that you are clearly not worried about job security. I wonder why? Who at Apple is not worried about job security? I do not think you are Steve Jobs. In any case, some big eyes are now turned in your direction, and you should probably be more tight-lipped. But thanks for some great posts!
  • by Mr. Flibble (12943) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:31PM (#12525095) Homepage
    I swear, each time he comes out with a new article about a given toy that does "XYZ" or can be hacked in some way I am compelled to go out and buy one and tinker with the damn thing.

    Stop Robert! Stop for the sake of my pocketbook and my sanity!!!
  • Speaking as an OEM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scronline (829910) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:35PM (#12525131) Homepage
    People buy from us because they DON'T want to have to deal with companies like Dell, HP, Compaq and the like. They also have a love hate relationship with Microsoft. They hate the company, but they also love having a computer. They already know the shoddy software microsoft puts out.

    Personally, this just reinforces my opinions of late of the complete end of sales with Microsoft products. If a "partner" decides to go into direct competition, then they cease to be a valid partner. Linux is gaining mindshare and market share. Windows has become the product every wants to get rid of but is afraid they can't.

    Hence forth a new business model for any OEM is to offer Linux training and products. Free of charge or very low cost. Let's show MS that they can't piss on the army of people who help put them where they are by even supporting their crap. If it wasn't for places like mine all over the US, how would MS get their stuff repaired? You know full well they won't work with someone over the phone to resolve issues. That will just take more value away from their products. And of course the huge OEMs answer is always "use the restore CD" and fail to mention that data will be lost.
  • no no no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lo_fye (303245) <derek@@@geekunity...com> on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:48PM (#12525245) Homepage Journal
    First, using a "web accelerator" will NOT speed up your computer and turn it into a Thin Client. It will make things get to your computer faster, but if you don't have the juice to render it, it's still a no go.

    Second, it is technically impossible for Google to pre-render Flash and pass it on to you. Flash isn't "server-side" -- it's done by your computer, which needs to be fat enough to run it.

    Third, Yahoo's music service is priced well, but they're still misleading. They say "1 million songs" for $6.99/month, but that's to have them streamed to you, not downloaded. You can only download a handfull of tracks per month. Booo!

    Fourth, why didn't Cringley (or anyone for that matter) ask if/when Google will try to buy Yahoo?

    Lastly, no mention of Flickr? I think Google messed up when they let that puppy slip through their fingers and be purchased by Yahoo. Picasa? Puh-lease-a.
  • by saforrest (184929) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:51PM (#12525267) Homepage Journal
    It's an expression made popular in Silicon Valley years ago by Andy Grove of Intel: "inflection point." It's that abrupt elbow in a graph of growth or decline when the new technology or paradigm truly kicks in, and suddenly there is no going back.

    Man, I really wish that Cringely, as a supposed pundit to the geek masses, would not contribute to distorting into sensationalist manager-ese technobabble a phrase that already has a precise mathematical meaning [wikipedia.org].
    • So what you're saying is that you don't like what the technology industry has done to a term with a "precise mathematical meaning"?

      You're not talking about the "giga" prefix are you?

  • by Strudelkugel (594414) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:55PM (#12525301)

    At that point, you'll buy your PC from Google, use Google as your ISP, surf an Internet that is really the Google cache,

    (A) Right about here the DOJ decides to take action...

    be fed ads and sold content from Google servers. Its a GoogleWorld that requires no AOL, no Microsoft, no Intel, no HP or Dell -- only Google, cable companies, telephone companies, users, and of course advertisers and web page producers.

    Doubtful because of (A).

    It's surprising to me that he didn't mention the comment of the week; that from Gates about mobile phone making iPods obsolete. It was an important observation, since it is already happening. My phone serves as an MP3 player already. While it doesn't have the capacity of the iPod (yet), who cares... It has an antenna, has considerably more functionality, and I Always-Have-It-With-Me(TM)

  • by theclam159 (833616) on Friday May 13, 2005 @05:56PM (#12525319)
    The new Xbox has several processors, 512MB RAM, a good graphics card, a hard drive, HD video quality, network connectivity, and is supposedly easily moddable. Eventually someone is going to get Windows or Linux to run on this and run WELL. When that happens, you'll be able to buy a highly capable PC for $300. An interesting side effect of this, is that Microsoft has to sell these things at a loss, in order to remain competitive to Sony and Nintendo. Therefore, this might be bad for their profits.
    • Since Linux already supports PowerPC, methinks it would be a heck of a lot easier to get Linux to run on an Xbox 360. That and the fact that anybody in the world can hack Linux to run on Xbox, but only a Microsoft employee can hack Windows.

      You can ALREADY buy a capable PC from Dell for $299... what makes you think the Xbox 360 price point will be $300??? Most guesses I've seen are closer to $500. Plus the accessories (e.g. 802.11 adapter) will be more expensive because it is a closed architecture. So while

  • by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Friday May 13, 2005 @06:03PM (#12525387) Homepage
    So.

    Cringely is impressed that Google is offering a web accelerator service, something AOL has done for years; that the XBox will play music and video, something the playstations 1 and 2 did, respectively; that Yahoo is unveiling a service almost identical to the Napster service that appeared in the wake of the iTunes Music Store; and that Apple may, at some unspecified point in the future be releasing a product.

    Well, that's all well and good. But I think the really important thing for the tech market is, will Gore or Bush win the election? Because Cringely doesn't weigh in on that at all.
    • Cringely is impressed that Google is offering a web accelerator service, something AOL has done for years;

      Well something to think about - AOL grew out of their own network, which sucked but they had full control over, into an interweb gateway (which they still suck at) but google has done it simply as a side effect of having built the required infrastructure they use to do other tasks very very well. With a small effort they've nearly moved into another market and further solidified their status as valua

  • To be honest, even with "just" a 512Kbps ADSL link, I'm not entirely sure I'd notice if you *halved* the speed of my surfing...
  • by klossner (733867) on Friday May 13, 2005 @06:14PM (#12525467)
    Cringely had a lot of interesting things to say in his prime. But now he's moved out of the valley, and many of his columns trumpet the Next Big Thing when it's not really.

    Here, he seems to have missed the fact that Google Accelerator has already failed and is being withdrawn. The world is not going to redesign their web pages so that GETs have no side effect.

    A couple of weeks ago, he waved his hands and explained that airline scheduling is just like network scheduling and you can speed up the net by eliminating the hubs and running traffic directly from one host to another. Then he waved his hands again and said that hubs are servers.

    Last December after the tsunami, he told us how to build a warning system that could be deployed by putting a networked PC "on every populated beach a month from now." Never mind that third-world populated beaches usually don't have electricity, much less an internet connection.

    Last July he designed a scheme to compress video for broadcast by encoding only what the retina was focusing on. But it would work only if every person receiving the broadcast always pointed their retinas to the same place as everyone else.

    Cringely is at his best when describing a funky experiment that he's actually done, like when he was one of the first to put a WiFi antenna in a Pringles can. But his blue-sky predictions just don't fly anymore.

  • by Peter Cooper (660482) on Friday May 13, 2005 @06:20PM (#12525512) Homepage Journal
    'If surfing can be doubled in speed for nothing, of course nearly everyone will go for it', the upshot of which is that AOL, MSN and Earthlink lose their relevancy.

    Er, maybe not. For a start, the GWA doesn't "double" surfing speed. Second, with current bandwidth, I doubt most people would notice or care much about "double" text-loading speeds (GWA doesn't get that sort of compression on images, MP3s, etc, obviously). Third, it's not complex technology. People have been developing (and using) this crap for ages. It's not as if Google have cracked cheap, in-your-house nuclear fusion.
  • by KillerBob (217953) on Friday May 13, 2005 @07:11PM (#12525854)
    It's a proxy server with server-side compression. Plain and simple. That's all it does. One of my former ISP's was doing this years ago, and it wasn't that great.

    http://webaccelerator.google.com/support.html#basi cs2 [google.com]

    Revolutionary, it is not.
  • rendering flash? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blue_adept (40915) on Friday May 13, 2005 @07:33PM (#12525958)
    If Google adds power to its part of the Accelerator, you don't have to add power to your end, meaning your old PC can last longer. Part of that has to come from Google assuming a larger role over time, taking responsibility for rendering Flash, for example. And they'll do it.

    wtf is this guy talking about? How is google going to render my flash? what a dumbass.
  • comes from the broadcast mindset. "We are in control, you will consume."

    You want a revolution the likes of which will blow away the $ figures of the early dot bomb era?

    Increase the frigging upload speeds.

    With 5mbit up, 'distributed distribution' becomes practical. Everyone will be able to relay multiple channels and a cornucopia of virtual of virtual networks will evolve.

    You want your friggin inflection Cringer? It's the congruence of cheap, quality, direct to video recording coupled with inexpensive ed
  • by ewe2 (47163) <ewetooNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday May 13, 2005 @08:07PM (#12526117) Homepage Journal
    1. Cringley reads Slashdot for industry inside-information. It's the end of an era.

    2. Microsoft is finally playing someone else's game. The surprise is that it's Apple, like always. Colour me astonished.

    3. Google accelerator. So noone is bothered by privacy concerns about an Internet-sized cache? Never saw that coming.
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zebra_X (13249) on Friday May 13, 2005 @08:11PM (#12526140)
    Cringley touches on some good points. However his analysis of Google accelerator is seriously lacking in imgaination.

    There is a really, really, really, really good reason for Google to go through this "Heroic" effort. In fact, it is almost sickeningly self serving. Googles accelerator will allow them to capture the click stream of every participating user. That is, google will know where you are going, what you are reading, and how long you are reading it for. That is, they will have an entire stream of data to more accurately return search results and target ads. This will also help their page rank system be more "accurate".

    This isn't a technology play as Cringely supposes - IBM's not doing this becuase umm, wait they don't do that sort of thing - MS isn't doing it becuase they don't really have a need for the data. Google is "catching" up to companies like double click and poindexter at the moment. Their plan will ultimately give them way more data than any other ad server out there. Online advertising is about data, the more data you have about a user, the larger a profile they can build about you. In google's case they can make their targeted ad offerings far more relevent which will equal $$$.
  • by r2q2 (50527)
    Its interesting to note that google has disabled more people from using their new service. They state on their site http://webaccelerator.google.com/ [google.com] that they have reached maximum capacity.
  • by mveloso (325617) on Friday May 13, 2005 @08:23PM (#12526192)
    One problem that any search engine has is getting URLs.

    How do you index URLs? Simple: you start someplace and spider out from there.

    What if people are going directly to unlinked, or unindexable pages?

    Well heck, you stick something in the way so you see everyplace they go.

    Simple. GWA is just a way for Google to get a lead on the "dark web," just like the google toolbar. From your point of view, it speeds stuff up somewhat. That's it!
  • by korielgraculus (591914) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @12:08AM (#12527219)
    Has Cringely even read the released information about the XBox 360? It will stream video and audio FROM A PC! How exactly is this competing with PC manufacturers? To get the most out of the system you will need a PC running ... wait for it ... Windows Media Center! What MS seems to be saying is that the future of the home PC (as far as they are concerned) is tied up with Media Center. The XBox 360 is an extension of a PC system, not a replacement.
  • One of the interesting things though is that xbox 360 has PowerPC chips in it. The thing will also have a home multimedia center future. So probably there will be a Windows Mediacenter Edition for PowerPC/Xbox.
    Is Microsoft going to do what Apple has never wanted because it will destroy the Mac-Market? Maybe there will be PowerPC(Mac)-clones popping up in the next few years, which will run MS-Windows. Small step to have it also run on original Macs and destroy Apple's market share.

    Maybe a x86 OSX wasn't su
  • Ok, YOU try writing a column each and every week. Sometimes you may have very little hard info to draw from. Sometimes your speculation may be a bit off kilter. Give the poor guy a break.

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro..." -- Hunter S. Thompson

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