Mobile Cellphone Info has posted a new item, 'The sad state of Apple rumors'
Its a weird time for those of us whove followed Apple rumors for years. (And I'm
not the only one who has noticed.) At the risk of sounding like your
prototypical hipster, todays rumors just arent as good as they used to be. The
devices that we hear whispers about nowa smartwatch, a television, a cheaper
iPhoneseem lackluster compared to the rumored products of days pastproducts
that, when they actually appeared, changed entire industries.
Yes, we do seem to be in a lullbut Im here to tell you that thats OK. And, since
Macworld has a minimum word limit, Ill even tell you why.
There were three canonical Apple devices that were foretold in prophecy: the
phone, the tablet, and the set-top box. These three formed a trinity of promise
that dates back to a bygone agemore than 15 years ago now. But though the tales
of yore might seem meatier than the meager crumbs we get today, you have to
remember that even those epic rumors werent built in a day.
The set-top box
Back in the late 1990s, there was a rumor site called Apple Recon, run by Robert
Morgan. (Theres not much of it left now.) Much of his writing focused on the
convergence between computers and entertainment devices. He frequently claimed
that Apple was working on a set-top box, and that Apple was coming to your
living room. Crazy, huh?
Apple was indeed working on a set-top box back in the 1990s but nothing really
came of it. At the time, Morgans missives seemed, if not crazy, at least off the
mark. It wouldnt be until 2006 that the company announced the Apple TV, then
called the iTV. Frankly, its hard to imagine how that device would have worked
using late 1990s technology, unless you felt like wiring your house for
ethernet. But just as time heals all wounds, it also makes all Apple rumors
Rumors of a new Apple PDA (remember PDAs?) kicked off right around the time
Steve Jobs killed the Newton, but the earliest mainstream reference to the
iPhone was a piece by John Markoff in The New York Times back in 2002.
Mr. Sculleys great tumble came after he staked his and Apples reputation on the
ill-fated Newton hand-held computeran ambitious product based on
handwriting-recognition technology that was ahead of its time. And now come
signs that Mr. Jobs means to take Apple back to the land of the handhelds, but
this time with a device that would combine elements of a cellphone and a
Palm-like personal digital assistant.
Mr. Jobs and Apple decline to confirm those plans. But industry analysts see
evidence that Apple is contemplating what inside the company is being called an
Wed have another five years to stoke that rumor fire, but despite that long
gestation period, there were still people arguingjust months before its
unveiling at Macworld Expo 2007that an Apple phone would never come to be: It
was too difficult, the market was too mature, Apple had nothing to offer. No
matter how good a rumor is, its never universally hailed.
This one is pretty much all Steve Jobss fault: Shortly after Jobs killed the
Newton in 1998, he said Apple would ship a replacement device within a year. For
those of you who are not students of Apple history, that, er, didnt actually
happen. In fact, it ended up being more like 12 years, so he was only off by
1100 percent. During that decade-plus, people had plenty of time to obsess over
Apple tablet rumorsand with good reason, since Apple was actually working on
just that. But the technology behind it didnt see the light of day until the
iPhone was released.
The iPad moniker itself emerged after the release of the iPod, because people
are brilliant and know how to change vowels (or they watch Star Trek and can put
an i in front of something). Initially, the rumors focus was on running the
full-fledged Mac OS on a tablet; later, the idea briefly transmogrified into a
netbook, during what we can only assume was a bout of mass hysteria. But when
the real iPad finally arrived, it changed the landscape of the entire computer
industry. So, some things are worth waiting for.
But that was that: the holy trinity of Apple rumors for a whole decade. Sure was
a long time for people to hang their hopes on unicorns and pixie dust. But, then
again, thats kind of what we do.
But I think that, to a certain degree, weve idolized these rumors in retrospect.
Not necessarily because they seemed like sure-fire winners at the time, but
because we followed them for so long. Now that decade of those iconic Apple
rumors is over. So, is this the end? Are we destined to nothing more than lousy
rumors and ho-hum product announcements?
Well, if you were paying attention, you might have noticed that I left out one
highly successful Apple product of the 2000s, a device that wasnt part of the
rumor trinity: the iPod. The iPod came out in October of 2001 and was something
of a surprise to everybody. Rumors of an Apple digital music player had only
sprung up about a week before it was unveiled. Before any of those storied Apple
rumors above came to fruition, we got a product that wasnt rumored at all. And,
I dont know if you noticed, but the iPod turned out pretty OK.
So, while we might be flying blind right now, dont assume that means Apple has
nothing planned. And dont assume that what is planned is anything youve heard as
a rumor. Before the iPod came out, nobody had any idea what it was. Before the
iPhone came out, no one had any idea what it would look like, let alone how
transformative it would be. A year before the iPad came out, people were
speculating about an Apple netbook, for crying out loud.
On the company's most recent conference call with analysts, Tim Cook said that
the company has some great products on tap for this fall. That might seem like a
long time for us to poke at paltry speculation, but dont let the current sad
state of rumormongering get you down. The magic can still happen without priming
the pump for years.
And, remember: If you knew exactly what was going to happen, it wouldnt be
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