May 15, 2009

How I Learned to Stop Chasing and Caring About Apple Rumors

In college, during a time when Apple's potential demise ran from probable to "extremely likely", my obsession around the Mac was all-consuming. In the early days for customizable Web browsers, my entire browser bar was littered with Macintosh-related bookmarks, from MacCentral and Macintouch to MacWeek, Apple Recon, Apple Insider, ThinkSecret, As the Apple Turns and the big kahuna, MacSurfer, which had practically every Apple-related update from the day's news known to man. Add on to that my constantly participating on Apple stock related chat boards, from Yahoo! Finance to Raging Bull and Investors Hub, to the ultimate in insider Applery, a real-time chat room for discussing Apple stock, called AAPL Talk, and you could see that Cupertino was a major hub of my daily universe.

As I made it my personal mission to help convert PC users to the Mac, and debated the benefits of OpenDoc and CyberDog, constantly reloading VersionTracker to get the up to the minute updates to Mac software, I also was an occasional participant in the darker underworld of Mac rumors, reading the anonymous bulletin boards across the Web which often featured unreleased specs of yet to be issued products, sometimes full quarters in advance. Sometimes they were wrong, but very often they were right. MacWorld Expos would be anticipated, and then arrive, as we saw exactly what we had already predicted on display, and remained decidedly underwhelmed with everything else - unhelpfully dubbing each the weakest MacWorld to date.

Two Rumors that Never Came Close to Making It

The froth around what Apple would or would not do was so palpable that fans would breathlessly demand Cupertino release products that fulfilled their every wish - fantastical items that would never see the light of day. Strawberry iBooks. A Mac Palm Pilot to replace the Newton. An Apple Tablet. The G6. Apple-branded projectors. It all got to be pretty silly - as "sources" often turned out to be any teenage kid with access to Photoshop or a handheld that made blurry video.

Over time, a few things happened. First, most of Apple's updates stopped having relevance for me. I'm not updating my computer all that often, so the month by month specifications race meant very little, and not being a movie or graphics pro, anything in that realm was a waste for me. Second, our small community of rumormongers started to blur in with the rest of the tech media, themselves eager to get a sniff of Steve Jobs' plans days ahead of their unveiling. Third, Apple started to succeed and become one of the more trusted, if not stable, companies, making my mission a much less important one. Now, practically anyone can see the benefits of the platform over the alternative, even as we move more of our activity to the Web, making some of the issues moot.

Harry McCracken of Technologizer recently had a solid post discussing how Apple's long history of acquisition rumors are almost entirely without truth. So too are the many finger to the wind prognostications from those would-be tech journalists and bloggers eager to get a scoop. Apple has done a fantastic job, in most cases, of locking down the rumor flow from the sieve of the old days. That there will be an eventual update to the iPhone is no secret. That the newest Mac Mini had one extra USB port was hardly news. I've even committed something resembling heresy - I've stopped watching the video taped updates from WWDC and other Special Events. Considering the first blog post I ever made on was in anticipation of MacWorld Expo in January of 2006, you can see things have changed.

The net change over the last few years is this: First, there are fewer leaks and news items sneaking out of Cupertino. Second, there are more people looking for them than ever. As a result, there is a ton of noise, and most of it is completely useless. So I've turned off the noise. I don't go to these sites, and I skip over most Apple rumor news when it hits my RSS reader, because it's devoid of truth, largely guesses, fumes and hyperbole. I just wish some of you could have experienced some of the very real excitement and glee the rest of us dedicated fans felt back in the late 90s when we scored early graphics of the next iMac, or heard about the iPod the day before Steve showed it to the world, before the Mac went mainstream, and those of us who were "the crazy ones" started to look normal to the rest of the world.