Rose regrets claims

SAN MATEO - Rose was spitting bullets recently. Three months and three days ago she bought one of those combined TV/VCR sets from a salesman who assured her that if either component went wrong, it could be replaced without throwing out the whole thing. Well, guess what: the screen blew last week - right after her warranty expired - and it's unfixable.

Rose immediately drew a parallel between the combination TV/VCR and the combination CPU/screen on Apple Computer's iMac. She believes there will be a lot of angry Apple users unless the company is prepared to repair any and every breakdown.

Of course, everyone's speculating about the iMac at the moment, and rumours abound as to what Apple is planning.

Some of the more credible theories are that Apple will manufacture a TV-top iMac for less than $US200 that will use Windows NT for the backbone and the iMac on the front end. The other main suggestion by users is that Apple position the iMac as a network computer: the system is network-bootable, has built-in Ethernet, and Apple could ship it with the Mac OS X Server (the product formerly known as Rhapsody 1.0), which has features to let it boot systems across a network.

Poor scalability

Meanwhile, Microsoft has always been accused of poor scalability, and attendees at the Microsoft Exchange Conference in Boston last week saw the results. Sessions overflowed so much that attendees with good seats stayed put so they wouldn't have to risk switching rooms and not being able to sit down.

Although Microsoft seems to have let its customers down, it looks like both Dell and Microsoft are thinking about significantly bolstering their customer-support effort using a Web-based support application from Motive, in Austin, Texas. The Motive System uses agents and XML technology to route user enquiries to the right library of data, and it allows IT managers to write scripts that collect data or install new fixes.

A future version will allow customers to link the help desk across the Internet so that, say, Microsoft and Dell could link their customer-support centers.