My first stop: www.Apple.com. I click and click through software options, multimedia options, anything that mentions DVDs. No luck. A search of the site turns up a two-paragraph press release dated April 10, 2000 about the purchase of Astarte. It tells me to click for more information. I do so and am redirected to the Public Relations site. There is nothing more on Astarte or its software products. Refusing to give up, I write the following email to product support:
I have searched your site for information about DVDirector, but have found only a press release regarding the purchase of Astarte in April. Do you sell Astarte's software via Apple.com? If not, could you please direct me to a Web site that does?
A day later, I received the following response:
Subject: Response to your Request
RE: Tell Us: Products
Thank you for your correspondence concerning Apple's acquisition of the DVD authoring technology, products, and engineering team from Astarte GmbH. At this time, Apple has no further information to provide about this acquisition. Or Astarte products. Apple may release information to the public when it is in a position to do so.
Thank you for your interest in Apple products. We appreciate your support
Needless to say, this is not a terribly satisfying response. What did they do, toss all the boxes of DVDirector into the trash last April?
My next strategy is to call 1-800-MY APPLE, the phone number listed on Apple.com. The first person I speak to, "Mike," had never heard of DVDirector and redirected me to a software division. He also kindly gave me a direct line to software central in case I got disconnected. "Francis," in software, suggested I download QuickTime. Guess Francis is unaware of the chasm between Apple's quaint little movie playback software and high-end DVD authoring software. After explaining exactly I what was looking for, Francis informed me that DVDirector is not available for purchase. Apple is reworking the software, he said. He thinks it will be available mid-January. It most likely won't be called DVDirector, but the new name is not yet known, nor are any of the product specifications known. Curious, I ask Francis if he knows of any place still selling DVDirector. I also ask if Apple provides technical support for pre-Apple versions of DVDirector. Francis kindly gives me MacMall's toll-free number and Apple's pre-sale technical support number.
Add "Jason" at MacMall to the list of those who haven't heard of DVDirector. Jason also wisely points out the fact that MacMall doesn't sell high-end software. The pre-sale technical support number Francis gave me has changed and offers a forwarding number for general technical support. I decide to call Apple software again. "Donald" puts me on hold. He can find no information about the product and gives me the number for Customer Relations. Customer Relations gives me the number for G4 technical support, as that would be the system I'd be running DVDirector on if I could find it. I call tech support and—par for the course—my call can't be answered due to technical difficulties. A recording gives me two choices: visit Apple's Web site, or call back later.
On my second attempt, "Dave" answers my call. He checks his computer for anything relating to DVDirector. He's stumped. For 20 minutes, Dave searches various Web sites and search engines for information about this program. When I tell him what Francis said, he says everyone probably got an email about DVDirector months ago along with hundreds of other emails. He finally puts me on hold to query his coworkers. Turns out none of them knows about Apple's purchase of Astarte. No one has ever heard of DVDirector. Dave searches Apple.com and encounters the same press release I did. He's determined to get to the bottom of this, but he keeps digging and finds nothing. Finally, he suggests I contact Public Relations. I must admit that in my many online shopping efforts, I have never been directed to call Public Relations. I wasn't looking for spin, here; I was looking for DVDirector.
As a last resort, I call Apple one last time and ask—"Judy" this time—if Apple sells any DVD authoring products, or can recommend any to me. She seems confused as to whether I was asking for software or not. She suggests I go to the Apple Web site, click on Made4Mac and search there. I gently inform her that I have already scoured their Web Site with no success and that is the reason for my call. Judy tells me she has only sold a limited amount of software to go to the Web site. So I hang up and try the Web Site one more time. No luck, quelle surprise.
Mike, Francis, Donald, and Dave were all patient, friendly, and willing to help; Judy's heart was in the right place but she was just poorly informed. Too bad Apple, Inc. doesn't feel compelled to communicate to them, much less the buying public, what its plans for DVDirector—and DVD in general—might be. Maybe they'll spring it on the MacWorld when it gathers in San Francisco in January. Who knows?