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The sad state of Apple rumors

John Moltz | May 2, 2013
It's a weird time for those of us who've followed Apple rumors for years. (And I'm not the only one who has noticed.) At the risk of sounding like your prototypical hipster, today's rumors just aren't as good as they used to be. The devices that we hear whispers about now--a smartwatch, a television, a cheaper iPhone--seem lackluster compared to the rumored products of days past--products that, when they actually appeared, changed entire industries.

It's a weird time for those of us who've followed Apple rumors for years. (And I'm not the only one who has noticed.) At the risk of sounding like your prototypical hipster, today's rumors just aren't as good as they used to be. The devices that we hear whispers about now--a smartwatch, a television, a cheaper iPhone--seem lackluster compared to the rumored products of days past--products that, when they actually appeared, changed entire industries.

Yes, we do seem to be in a lull--but I'm here to tell you that that's OK. And, since Macworld has a minimum word limit, I'll 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 age--more 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 weren't 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. (There's 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, Morgan's missives seemed, if not crazy, at least off the mark. It wouldn't be until 2006 that the company announced the Apple TV, then called the iTV. Frankly, it's 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 possible.

The phone

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. Sculley's great tumble came after he staked his and Apple's reputation on the ill-fated Newton hand-held computer--an 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 "iPhone."

 

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