Recently a huge Mac rumor was unleashed: McDonalds was going to give away a billion (that’s like a million but with a B) songs via iTunes. The rumor was never exactly denied but it was also never confirmed. So McDonalds might still give away a billion songs, but then again McDonalds might not. So the rumor (reported as fact) is now just a rumor again and the net result is a zero increase in certainty. This is a fine opportunity to engage in a little free form speculation: McDonalds won’t give away a billion songs via iTunes. Why do I say that? I have my reasons: Mayor McCheese isn’t a very strong authority figure and can you really expect the Hamburgular to go legit? (Note how the preceding was presented as speculation.)
Whether or not Grimace starts passing out John Hartford singles the entire sordid affair says a little bit about the nature of Mac Rumors. The first thing the McTunes fiasco says is: If you put a rumor in print on paper it’s reported as absolute fact. If MacIndustrialEspionage.com had reported the same rumor it would be widely ignored, or if not ignored it would be cited as: “MacIndustrialEspionage.com is reporting” instead of “ApplepieTunes” (Oh, the delicious pun). To be fair many sites did run the “Daily Post is Reporting…” right under the monster headline “McDonalds to Give Away a Billion iTunes” so we should cut a little slack to the more cautious web sites. I digress, the point of this particular missive is not on the proper format when reporting a rumor but the value of a Mac rumor in general. That value, it turns out, is very low.
Apple is a secretive place and secrecy breeds rumors. People want to know what’s going on behind closed doors so with an absence of official news many folks go the extra mile and do the next best thing: they make news up. I have had personal contact with a former Apple employee and I asked him all kinds of nifty rumor garnering questions(Anything you CAN’T tell me?). All I came up with is that the cafeteria really isn’t vegetarian and they feed the engineers very well at dinner meetings. These are rumors, I haven’t talked to any other sources to confirm these statements so take the preceding items for what they are worth: zero. Apparently Apple is fairly secretive even on the inside (or my source wasn’t forthcoming) leaving me to speculate that you have to be pretty high up before you are privy to the really good stuff. Remember Jonathan Ives and Steve Jobs brainstormed the flat panel iMac betwixt themselves so any source lower than those two major Apple players is fairly suspect. Strangely enough there was a flat panel iMac rumor before Jobs and Ives ever chatted up the topic…
Which segues nicely to the topic in any discussion of Mac rumors: selective memory. Most folks remember the Mac rumors that turn out to be true and forget the ones that were wrong. Take the aforementioned flat panel iMac rumor. I recall that there was an illustration of a pretty awesome flat panel iMac, unfortunately it bore no resemblance to the final product. As recently as the G5 introduction there were rumors that Mac resellers had pallets of product marked “Don’t Open Until We Say So.” Off the top of my head I also recall a rumor that the new iBooks would have a radical form factor (memo: white chiclet is not radical). However, the inclusion of a G4 chip is something a bit more radical, and this was the subject of more than a few rumblings. There were rumors that Apple would cram a 550 MHz G4 in the iBook (again wrong) followed up by rumors that the G4 in the iBook wasn’t really a G4 (hope you didn’t bet it all in final jeopardy). Most folks won’t remember these misses for very long (I chose only recent rumors, there are rumors from two years ago you’d laugh out loud at) but they will remember the rumors that panned out. And even if they remember the rumors that didn’t pan out most hardware rumors only delay a purchase. When is the last time you heard someone lament that their computer was too new ? I haven’t done any statistical analysis but I would bet that the ratio of hits to misses is on par with a competent fraudulent psychic say John Edward for example.
Like whale flatulence one question bubbles to the surface: Why the popularity of Mac rumors if the accuracy isn’t all that great? I don’t know, ask the publisher of “The Farmers Almanac.” Of course I can speculate (different from rumor mongering, I freely admit I’m making this stuff up) People like rumors because of the “that would be so cool factor. If you read that Motorola has the G5 running at 9 GHz in late 1999 you should know that the rumor has as much legitimacy as one of Shawn Kemp’s children but you couldn’t help but think “that would be so cool. Finally those Pentium loving bastards can bite my shiny metal ass.” This kind of fantasy life is probably healthy, but really you don’t need rumors to live it. I used to dream that the G5 would be so fast that it would outperform a Pentium while running virtual PC*. The other reason why rumors may be of inordinate interest: You “play” the market on a daily basis. If this is the case you like voodoo, so you should probably keep reading the rumors and buy buy buy (remember to sell on the news). For everyone else I suggest that you avoid rumors in general and Mac rumors specifically, you have better stuff to do with your time, stuff like catching Futurama reruns (watch them while you can, they’re going to be canceled next week**). And don’t believe Mac news until you hear it from the source.
*Until I read a rumor that that was actually going to be the case. I knew it was a pipe dream at that moment.
**I made that up