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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.

We'd have another five years to stoke that rumor fire, but despite that long gestation period, there were still people arguing--just months before its unveiling at Macworld Expo 2007--that 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, it's never universally hailed.

The tablet

This one is pretty much all Steve Jobs's fault: Shortly after Jobs killed the Newton, he said Apple would ship a replacement device within a year. For those of you who are not students of Apple history, that, er, didn't actually happen. In fact, it ended up being more like 12 years, so he was only off by 1200 percent. During that decade-plus, people had plenty of time to obsess over Apple tablet rumors--and with good reason, since Apple was actually working on just that. But the technology behind it didn't 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 rumor's 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.

The unrumored

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, that's kind of what we do.

But I think that, to a certain degree, we've 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 wasn't 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 wasn't rumored at all. And, I don't know if you noticed, but the iPod turned out pretty OK.


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