Windows 0 — Apple -1

I thought I should finally get around to sharing my impressions of the new 12.1″ PowerBook that I bought from Apple. Well, I sorta can’t do that yet – the freakin’ thing hasn’t shipped yet! Let met tell you this: this thing is starting out as a very, very negative beginning to my adventure with Apple. There’s been one problem after another with this notebook, and they haven’t even bothered to ship one to me yet – so much for the Switch being an easy thing to do.

I was one of the Windows-curious that tuned into MacWorld Expo on Jan 7, in San Francisco. Apple decided to run a simul-webcast so anyone with QuickTime could tune in from their desktop. I was mostly curious to see what new features they put into the iPod or if there was a new Apple PDA in the works; I was treated to some new applications and a bit of hardware: the huge 17″ mobile-desktop, the 12″ ultra-portable, and 802.11g networking. There was other stuff, but the 12″ notebook is what really caught my attention.

It seemed that Apple finally got around to making a iBook sized G4 notebook; the G4 has been in the PowerBooks for a while, but the PowerBooks – while thin – have been heavy and large, due to 15″+ screens. This 12″ PowerBook seemed to be in the 12″ iBook case, but with all different perks and definitely a different color case and keyboard. More or less, this was a bridge between the huge/powerful PowerBooks and the slower G3-powered/smaller iBooks: Say Hello to the pBook!

Given the features that were touted in the 17″, I had high hopes for the 12″. Since Jobs introduced it as the 17″‘s little brother, went on to say it was “small, yet full featured” and then put it back on the table, it led me and a number of other people to believe that it was just a smaller version of the 17″. Jobs also stated that while the 17″ was a couple months away, the 12″ would ship in two weeks. After Apple updated their web site, when the webcast ended, it became the “what’s not in the 12 inch version?” game. No under-lit keyboard, no FireWire 800, no included SuperDrive or AirPort Extreme (optional additions to the pBook), no L3 cache, no PCMCIA slot, no lots of stuff. Still, as it was under 5 pounds, slightly over an inch high, and ran OS X; I snatched one within a 1/2 hour after the store posted the pricing guide.

As I completed the order, the web store told me that “ships in 3 days” was the estimated order completion date. I freaked! Two weeks indeed! Because I ordered from Apple, I was getting it in under a week, with my 2 day shipping. I later received an E-mail stating that the catalog screwed up its estimates and it was actually shipping in 2-4 weeks. Um, ok 2-4, fine. Had to be closer to two for me and that 2-4 was just a padding estimate for people that ordered later in the original two week interval.

About a week after I ordered, I started to poke around the Apple store to see if the status had changed. I even went to the store with the current beta of Safari; when I it for the first time, Safari reported an error! Some weird URL encoding caused a problem – I submitted a bug, like a good beta tester should, and I tried with IE. A couple of days later, Apple changed their online store a bit; the order tracking system looked totally different, but it still had my order – if you can’t fix the browser, fix the site! Now when I checked my order, it said it would be shipping “On or Before Feb 7th”. I freaked. Even though this said the same thing as 2-4 weeks, what the hell does it mean “on or before”? Why not just say “soon” and be done with it? As I was still within the two week window, I didn’t think much of it.

Earlier this week, two weeks to the day of Mac Expo’s keynote, pBooks started to appear in the Apple stores. I think, “Hey, ok, they got demo models to show people the new nuts and bolts”. I later find out that they’re for sale there. OK, well, ya know? They are the retail stores and should get stock – but no worries. Then I see online that MacMall has a special: $39 gets you a AirCard Extreme card and a free printer (after rebates) for the same price that Apple is charge. Actually I think it was $5 less than the sticker price. They also say “To be delivered to you by the end of January”. Now I’m pissed. I’ve been waiting and I’ve got a charge card tied up in this order, so what do I do? Try to cancel the order with Apple? The last time I tried this with a retailer, I ended up with two of what I ordered and had to take a loss selling the extra on eBay.

I call Apple. Twice, actually, but with the same result both times. “That won’t ship until on or before Feb 7th”. Well, what about the stores that have it? “Oh I don’t think they have them yet.” What about the sale at MacMall? “…” Yes, and they say end of Jan for delivery. “Wow. That’s a good deal, but I don’t know if…” is what I got from both of them. I let them off easy because they were friendly and polite, if not very helpful.

Tonight I popped into CompUSA to see about a case for the Pocket PC. I wander into the Mac shop – guess who has a 12″ pBook on display? You got it. Is it just the demo? No: “We got in a bunch today! It’s cool, isn’t it?” I already asked if they work with the same Education Discount policy that Apple offered – if they do, I’m canceling the order from Apple. Apple is charging me sales tax already, because they have a store in Connecticut, and while shipping is only $15 it’s not much extra, but if CompUSA can match it, at least I know Apple will lost some money on the deal. CompUSA has to take a cut of the purchase price and send less to Apple, or else they wouldn’t carry Apple in the first place. And the machine itself now makes me worried a bit. The thing was hotreally hot. I assume it had been on for hours, but the battery heats up much more than my Sony does. Makes me wonder how portable it will be if it burns off leg hair when you use it. Otherwise, it looked like a silver iBook which is just what I wanted in the first place.

Moral of the store is that the only thing worse than not getting your hardware on time is seeing CompUSA getting it first. If CircuitCity gets a pBook before me, I’m going back to a Commodore 64 and saying “Screw you all!” to technology.

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