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Apple hopes to cash in on holidays with iMac

By James Hanback Jr.

NOVEMBER 9, 1998:  The holiday shopping season will start in earnest less than three weeks from now. And Apple Computer Inc. is already betting that its big seller, the iMac, will end up under more than a few Christmas trees this year.

The appeal of this eye-catching little all-in-one unit extends far beyond Apple's loyal customer base. Already, according to Apple, the iMac is attracting new computer users because of its charm and ease-of-use. Indeed, it has even won a few converts from the Microsoft Windows market.

And with the battle raging between Microsoft, the government, and the rest of the software industry, the little Macintosh that could may well chug its way to becoming not just Apple's best-selling computer of all time, but the industry's as well.

With the approach of the holidays, Apple is attempting to make the iMac even more appealing. According to a recent report at www.abcnews.com, the company is planning a sort of "loan" purchase for consumers who simply can't manage the computer's $1,299 price tag. (It is, by the way, the lowest-priced Macintosh ever.)

Apple plans to sell the iMac for $29.95 per month over a four- to five-year period. The exact details of the plan have not yet been released to the media, although the plan was supposed to begin on Nov. 2.

Some sources claim that, in addition to the loan program, Apple will also offer coupons for peripherals, such as the Imation Universal Serial Bus (USB) floppy drive, Epson printers, and Virtual PC, which runs Windows on a Macintosh.

The iMac was introduced in August and sold approximately 278,000 units in its first six weeks, according to Apple. A few weeks ago, the company also reported its first yearly profits since 1995--an impressive show, given that many observers thought for the last few years that Apple was on its last legs.

Apple started down the comeback trail in late 1997, when the company bought NeXT, the software corporation started by Apple founder Steve Jobs, who himself returned to the driver's seat at Apple. In late 1997 and early 1998, the company introduced its G3 series of Power Macintosh computers, Mac OS 8.0, and the G3 PowerBook. It appears, however, that the iMac has made the biggest splash.

Now analysts are saying the iMac's $29.95 deal could help Apple maintain profitability over the long haul. Computer prices are always falling, but Apple's plan, they point out, offers customers ease-of-purchase while maintaining the company's profit margins.

Death of a pioneer

There aren't many people who know his name, but thanks in part to Jon Postel, we have access to more information than at any other time in history. Postel, the 55-year-old "behind-the-scenes" man of the Internet, died recently while recovering from heart valve replacement surgery.

During the last years of his life, Postel directed the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which matches unique numerical identifiers with computers over the Internet. His name is recognized among non-high-tech people as the man who redirected half the Internet's directory-information computers to his own machine to see how easily it could be done.

According to a recent report at cnn.com, Postel was considered by the Clinton administration as one of the most important figures in the future of the Internet.


Netscape has released what it calls the "most stable version ever" of its Internet software suite, Communicator 4.5. The program is available for download at http://www.netscape.com.

Initial reviews by various Internet sources indicate that the software loads pages faster than previous versions. It also includes updated search and page-history features, and a feedback feature that allows bug reports to be sent from the browser directly to Netscape.

Communicator 4.5 has also been more integrated with Netscape's Internet "portal," NetCenter. In addition, the new version fixes the "Cache Cow" bug, discovered in versions earlier than 4.06. It also now fixes the "Son of Cache Cow" problem, which affects every Javascript-enabled version of the browser on every platform.

"Cache Cow" and "Son of Cache Cow" could both allow malicious Webmasters to glean information from a visiting browser's hard drive.

Watch those IE security settings

Sune Hansen, the Webmaster of http://www.worldwidewait.com, has discovered another bug in Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 security settings, according to a recent report at http://www.abcnews.com. The bug could allow a malicious Webmaster to trick IE into believing that it is accessing a corporate intranet rather than the public Internet. If a user has IE's intranet securities set to "Low" rather than the default "Medium," a Webmaster could take advantage of the browser's lax state to sneak in malicious ActiveX code (such as JavaScript or VBScript).

Microsoft has acknowledged the bug and has just released a fix for it, at http://www.microsoft.com/ie. Meanwhile, executives at the company say users who have not changed their security settings from the default setting are not at risk.

Email James at jhanback@nashvillescene.com.

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