Twenty four hours after Steve Jobs' 'big event', Apple investors accused the company of crying wolf when it faied to deliver the huge announcement that the company's PR machine had led the market to expect.
On Monday, interim CEO Jobs hosted a satellite-linked event in over a dozen US cities in which he introduced new Apple machines based on the G3 chip, an online sales channel and a new build to order philosophy - all events that had been trailed well in advance of the meeting.
But absent was any discussion of a rumoured move towards producing a range of low cost network computers, any merger or investment from Oracle or any mention of progess towards finding a new chief executive.
Afterwards Apple executives were unapologetic about the lack of 'steak to go with the sizzle', with Jobs telling reporters that the pre-announcement speculation was no more than that. "I've heard everything," he admitted when asked about the rumours. "I've heard NCs, I've heard Oracle, I've heard Lucent...I don't know why people make this stuff up. At least they're interested."
Some investors and observers on Apple-related bulletin boards were impressed. "An Apple watcher friend caught the conference," wrote one. "He thought Jobs is an absolute genius. He created this atmosphere of secrecy. Then he said nothing and allowed third parties to spins all sorts of scenarios, thereby creating lots of suspense and free publicity to debut Apple's new product line and store."
Others were less amused. "This time he cried wolf," argued one. "Investors and the media went the extra mile for him when he had nothing special to deliver. He could have done all this with a press release. The boy who cried wolf burned the credibility he owned with this one."
Another correspondent was equally irritated and subscribed to the theory that another announcement had been intended to close the presenation. "I cannot believe even Jobs, crass as he is known to be, would be so crass as to do a dog and pony show with no dog and pony," he said. "So I think there is another shoe to drop."
In the end the event climaxed with the declaration of a 'holy war' on Michael Dell, chief executive of Dell Computer, which pioneered the kind of online selling which Apple is now trying to copy. One bulletin board observer thought this was petty, but inevitable on Jobs' part. "It's the end of the cold war with Microsoft and we need new enemies to fight," he said. "There is no peace dividend here."
"Jobs wants to restart the jihad," he added. "He needs to whip the Apple community into a religious fervour. These people want to see blood spilt on the grass."
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