Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the Internet, the rumor blogs slithered forth with twin, unkillable horrors: the iPad mini and... and... DigiTimes (cue lightning and horror film musical sting).
Before we dive deep into the muck and mire, let's get the handful of semi-credible rumors out of the way first.
AppleInsider did something I haven't seen the site do in a long time -- some original research. By checking on stock levels at various US-based retailers, AppleInsider discovered the 27-inch iMac is out of stock or close to it at many outlets.
Given that the last iMac refresh happened over a year ago as of this writing, the device is definitely due for an update. Whether that will happen sooner rather than later is anyone's guess. Apple seemingly indicated its desktop models wouldn't be updated until 2013, but on this subject, how far can you trust the word of a company that never discusses forthcoming products?
Apple's New iPad is Finally Coming To China (MIC Gadget)
Now that Apple has coughed up $60 million to trademark troll Proview, there don't seem to be any hurdles left to launching the third-gen iPad in China. The government's regulatory bodies have already certified both the Wi-Fi and 3G models for sale, and rumors point to a July 27 launch.
The one new thing I learned from this story is that the iPad (3) isn't already sold in China. I'll never complain about launch delays in New Zealand again. (Oh, yes you will. --Ed)
Inside Apple's Go-Slow Approach to Mobile Payments (Wall Street Journal)
The Wall Street Journal claims to have heard from a source briefed on a senior executive meeting at Apple regarding the possibility of implementing a mobile payments scheme (such as NFC) in a future iPhone. This source claims Apple is taking a "wait and see" approach to mobile payments, with the new Passbook app in iOS 6 representing Apple dipping its toe in the water of an "electronic wallet" system rather than diving straight in.
I can see this going either way. Apple is often conservative about implementing new technology if it doesn't consider it fully-baked yet -- witness the original iPhone with no 3G, or the iPhone 4S with no 4G. On the other hand, once Apple has the tech at the level it desires (usually something developed entirely or almost entirely in-house), it's not shy about dropping it into the marketplace with an unceremonious "Boom."
As wishy-washy as it sounds, the next-gen iPhone might have NFC or similar technology, or it might not, and at this stage neither would surprise me.
Now that the halfway believable rumors are out of the way, let's take our first step on the journey of 1000 duhs.
The iPad mini
Bloomberg gets things off to a spectacularly dumb start by positioning the supposedly forthcoming iPad mini as a reaction to Google's Nexus 7 and Microsoft's Surface. According to Shaw Wu, who like most Apple analysts is wrong far more often than he's right, Apple plans to compete for the lower-priced tablet space that Amazon and Google are currently fighting over.
Because fighting for the low-end market is totally something Apple does. Ever. *cough*
The analysis that follows is kind of baffling in its attempt to justify this still-mythical device. It's well-known by now that Google's margins on the Nexus 7 are razor thin, which makes it incredibly unlikely Apple intends to compete on price alone with an "iPad mini" tablet. It's equally well-known that Apple is selling tens of millions of full-sized iPads per quarter already, while sales of the Kindle Fire tanked after the first quarter and the Nexus 7 hasn't been around long enough to tell what impact it's had.
Despite the new tablet announcements from Microsoft and Google over the past few weeks, Apple still doesn't have any real competition for the iPad. An iPad mini would very likely cause more lost sales for the full-sized iPad than it would for either the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire, two products that seem to be aimed at markets that either can't afford an iPad or just hate Apple that much.
Bloomberg's story set off a firestorm of speculation across the blogosphere this week, because for the first time ever a supposedly reputable news outlet was reporting on the rumor. There's a flawed assumption that once Bloomberg or the Wall Street Journal publishes an Apple rumor, it goes from rumor to fact. That assumption crumbles in the face of the fact that Bloomberg cites no sources in its story other than "people familiar with the plans," an analyst with a shaky track record... and DigiTimes, the epitome of all that is demonstrably inaccurate when it comes to Apple rumors.
Apple Preps for Smaller Tablet (The Wall Street Journal)
The Wall Street Journal weighed in just after Bloomberg, and the Internet jumped up and down saying, "Aw yeah, son. The iPad mini just got real!" Read past the headline and you'll find the Journal's source for the story: component suppliers in Asia.
Follow Apple rumors long enough and you'll find that "sources in the Asian supply chain" is code for "people completely and utterly unfamiliar with the matter, who are likely making a bunch of stuff up."
In the wake of these poorly-sourced reports from usually reputable outlets came speculation from John Gruber of Daring Fireball that the iPad mini would use the same non-Retina display technology as the iPhone 3GS. The 7.85-inch device would have the same 1024 x 768 resolution as the original iPad and iPad 2. Other blogs picked up on this speculation and compared UI elements from the iPhone and iPad, concluding the iPad mini would be more of a super-sized iPod touch than a downsized iPad in terms of its software.
Then came reports from far less reputable sources:
BGR cites a Chinese-language site no one heard of before saying the iPad mini would be between $249 and $299. This, of course, contradicts earlier BS rumors claiming the device would cost a mere $199. BGR cites supporting "analysis" from Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White (a name that's popping up more and more often in my Apple rumors RSS feed), as if that means anything at all.
iPad mini to be produced in Brazil? (9to5 Mac)
Citing Macotakara, whose shaky record essentially makes it DigiTimes Junior, 9to5 Mac reports the iPad mini may be made in Brazil, may be released in September, may be as thin as an iPad, and may actually exist, ever, outside the fever dreams of the blogosphere. Well, not that last part. That was me.
No matter how reputable or disreputable the news outlet and no matter what evidence they claim to have, after more than two years of speculation, prestidigitation, and obfuscation concerning the iPad mini, I am burnt out on this device and the rumors surrounding it. After 24-plus months of nonsense, there is literally no source worth listening to on this matter other than an Apple executive walking onto a keynote stage holding a miniaturized iPad in his hands.
Until that happens -- if it ever happens -- there is no way I will believe this product exists. And despite the fact that I don't really see any plausible economic reason for Apple to make one, I still kind of hope they do introduce something like an iPad mini just so the rumor blogs will finally shut up about it.
We haven't heard much from DigiTimes in a while after the very public beating the site's credibility took. My systematic dismantling of any claim the site had to being mentioned in the same sentence as the word "reliable" would have been enough, but Harry McCracken coincidentally took it to the next level on Time Techland and abused the site so thoroughly that I thought we'd never hear from it again.
Indeed, weeks passed where sites like MacRumors passed on reporting the latest rubbish from DigiTimes while sites like BGR and AppleInsider were happy to carry on looking foolish by taking them seriously. Even so, DigiTimes stopped being the regular rumor fixture it was in the past, and for a sweet, short while it seemed the site would fade into obscurity at last.
Alas, it was not to be. Perhaps counting on the Internet's short attention span and hoping we'd already forgotten how completely inaccurate the site is, the rumor blogs positively bursted with DigiTimes-sourced "news" this week. Here's a selection of the truth-free flotsam clogging the Internet's tubes this week. I've only cited the first site to gleefully feed on the nonsense, but rest assured they are all equally culpable.
No links, because as of now I'm not linking to DigiTimes-sourced claptrap anymore:
More Claims of October Launch for Updated iMac Models (MacRumors)
Rumor: Apple readying minor revisions to new iPad battery, lens (AppleInsider)
Apple's next iPhone rumored to feature quad-core processor (AppleInsider)
Apple rumored to revise backlight for iPad update (AppleInsider)
Apple to continue dominating ultra-thin notebook market following Windows 8 launch (BGR)
Aside from the iMac story, which at least has supporting
evidence speculation from other sources, every other story has DigiTimes as its sole source. That means if there's one thing you can count on, none of these things will actually happen.
It's interesting to see how the various rumor blogs are treating rumors sourced from DigiTimes. To its credit, 9to5 Mac now usually refrains from posting them at all. BGR pounces on them with wild abandon and never goes out of its way to acknowledge the site's less-than-reputable track record. AppleInsider posts absolutely every DigiTimes rumor it can get its hands on, and its only nod in the general direction of credibility is appending "sometimes reliable" to DigiTimes' name.
MacRumors is the most interesting case, particularly since it swore off DigiTimes rumors for several weeks. I've seen site founder Arn defend the site on Twitter, and a snippet from one of this week's posts does the same:
DigiTimes has come under increasing criticism for a number of claims that have not been borne out, but the publication does occasionally offer correct information and weighing its information with other rumors can still help fill out a picture of Apple's roadmap.
MacRumors points to the one thing DigiTimes managed to get right in two years of speculative nonsense, a report about the MacBook Pro's forthcoming Retina Display which merely echoed speculation found in countless sources elsewhere on the Internet.
Look, even a broken clock is right twice a day -- but that's more often than some rumor sites.