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Rumor Roundup: Prototypical


Several rumors from legitimately reliable sources have now come out with information about the iWatch that doesn't sound like completely pie-in-the-sky nonsense. This was so shocking I thought I might be having heart palpitations. There was no way for me to tell for certain, however, because I don't have a wrist-mounted device keeping track of several aspects of my biology and beaming that information to my iPhone... yet.

Don't worry, Apple's not killing off the iPod yet (9to5 Mac)

9to5 Mac reads the tea leaves sprinkled around some of Apple's online job postings and figures the iPod will be getting a long-overdue redesign later this year, not just the minor refreshes it's seen over the past several years.

Although the iPod sold "only" 6 million units last quarter, that still outnumbers the number of Macs Apple sold by about 1.2 million, and no one (with a triple-digit IQ, anyway) has been writing epitaphs for the Mac lately. However, there's no denying that the iPod line has been in steep decline for a long time, and this is a trend that will likely continue whether Apple heavily revamps the product or not.

An iPod touch that's essentially the guts of an iPhone 5s, with Touch ID on the high end, in an iPhone 5c-like plastic shell, seems like the most likely outcome for that device this year. I base this idea on nothing but pure speculation, which is the kind of transparency you won't get from the analysts who'll say the same thing over the coming months.

Apple Hires Chief Medical Officer From Pulse Oximetry Company Masimo, Possibly for iWatch Team (MacRumors)

The plot thickens with regard to Apple's hires with experience in the biometrics field. This latest revelation relates to pulse oximetry, AKA a means of measuring blood oxygen saturation and pulse rate, AKA that irritating alligator clip thing they make you wear on your index finger at the emergency room.

I'm still skeptical of the concept of the "iWatch" as a device designed to feed information from your phone to your wrist, but a device designed to feed information from your wrist to your phone is starting to look a little more plausible -- especially since several of those devices already exist, and according to some accounts a few of them actually work.

Analyst Skeptical About Imminent Launch for 12.9-Inch 'iPad Pro' (MacRumors; also reblogged by BGR)

Some analyst contradicts several other analysts by saying the "iPad Pro" is a long way off, assuming Apple is even interested in launching one.

Now that we've heard both sides, we're left with the typical situation with these types of rumors: Apple may or may not be planning on launching this product. No one has any real idea either way, much less any actual proof, and the launch date for this possibly entirely mythical product will be a perpetually moving target in the months (and possibly years) to come. *coughAppleHDTVcough*

iWatch + iOS 8: Apple sets out to redefine mobile health, fitness tracking (9to5 Mac)

This report, drawn from 9to5 Mac's own reliable sources rather than the typical parade of analysts and Asian tech publications, is worth paying attention to. Whether Apple launches a device of its own or not, it's clear that it has its eyes set on the fitness tracking/biometrics space.

One bit from this report is particularly interesting to me: "Sources with knowledge of the iWatch's development say that the future product is designed to be heavily reliant on the iPhone." This sounds a lot less like the "touchscreen on your wrist" concept that's been thrown around since the days of the iPod nano that looked vaguely watch-like. It's starting to sound more like a simple fitness band that offloads to the iPhone most of the actual job of interacting with the data it records.

Building a Better Battery (New York Times)

Every rumor blog out there focused on the iWatch angle of this piece while ignoring this key phrase: "such experiments are years from becoming a reality."

I think this is symptomatic of a problem with tech reporting in general. We've been conditioned to expect technology that's in the experimental stage, or at best a crude prototype, to show up in shipping products within months instead of years. So when the next generation of product (X) instead shows evolutionary refinements of existing technology alongside a few new technologies substantially more modest than we were expecting, that's when the "disappointment" headlines start flying left and right.

We expect an iPhone that's only a millimeter thick, with a 6-inch screen, 48-hour battery life when browsing over 3G, and a processor faster than the fastest MacBook Pro currently on the market. And inductive charging, and solar charging, and a flexible battery, and an "indestructible" display, and the ability to grab a wireless signal anywhere on Earth, and a camera sensor rivalling those in a DSLR, and 8 GB of RAM. And it had better cost the same as the iPhone 5s costs now, but we'd prefer it if it were cheaper. And we expect it this September, not in September of 2024. You got all that, Apple? Make it happen, or else you've "failed to innovate."

Think of how much work had to go into the iPad before it actually hit the market, and how long that took. Apple built a prototype of the thing in 2002, but the first-gen device didn't come out until 2010. I'd argue further that the iPad Air is really the first iteration of the device that fully delivers on the ideal tablet concept without any of the compromises that came with earlier versions. So we're talking eight years between prototype and shipping product, then another three years between shipping product and fully-refined version of that product.

The stuff that Apple's playing with in its underground labs would probably make the eyes bug straight out of your skull. Just don't expect to see any of it on store shelves this September.

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