January 09, 2009

Does Your Ethical Stance on Rumors Change in a Down Economy?

By Cyndy Aleo-Carreira of Shakespeare I Ain't (E-mail / Twitter)

Tech blogging is just as competitive, if not more competitive, than mainstream news. Nearly every blogger salivates over the tiniest little rumor that could turn into the scoop that lands you the top spot on Techmeme or the front page of Slashdot or Digg. It's practically become acceptable to run with the unconfirmed rumor in order to make it out of the gate first.

Should that codicil to a blogger's code of ethics be removed in a down economy?

Two notable stories have "broken" so far this year that lack confirmation. The first, making its appearance on Gizmodo this past Monday, had Steve Jobs passing on the Macworld keynote because he's allegedly on his deathbed. The second, also breaking on Monday, had SD Times claiming Google would put Juniper out of business by coming out with a hush-hush router to end all routers.

Apple still had a new 17" MacBook Pro and some sexy software upgrades, but Juniper didn't fare so well, dropping steadily throughout the week with a huge dip this morning as the story about the stock falling and the alleged Google router hit the mainstream press.

Are either of these stories true? Looking at past history and the companies involved, I think it's pretty safe to say that Steve Jobs is sick. That's been apparent since the rumors of his imminent demise started swirling after his appearance last year. However, Steve Jobs is not stupid. I don't think he would let things get to the point where he's on his death bed before taking some steps to turn over control of the company, and speculating that he's got one foot on a banana peel over a grave is gossip, not news.

As for Google and Juniper, it's no big secret that Google wants things Google's way. Is Google going to go into the hardware business and compete against companies like Cisco? Never. It's simply not going to happen. If they weren't willing to do it for a consumer device like the rumored Gphone we were all salivating over the idea of years back, they certainly aren't going to do it on a scale like routers, where failure would be catastrophic. But they have Android, and they've shown a desire to apply their software acumen to existing hardware issues. Is it conceivable they are planning to (or already are) working with a hardware company, much as they did with HTC on Android? I might bet a few pretzel sticks on that.

Based on the evidence, however, Google isn't going to topple Juniper, and we aren't going to see Cupertino shrouded in black crepe any time in the near future. And in a climate where tech jobs are on the chopping block and companies are scampering to drive their stock back up to appease shareholders, going for the big dramatic story rather that looking at the facts is going to end up with all of us out of work. If the tech companies go under, so do the jobs writing about them.

Read more by Cyndy Aleo-Carreira at Shakespeare I Ain't.