Next week, Apple is expected to take the wraps of the next iPhone, and let us know if all those rumors over the last few months came close to the truth. Or maybe the tech pundits and Apple rumor sites got everything wrong, but I doubt it.
As has been published elsewhere, Apple PR is very crafty about creating demand for new Apple gear. A handful of "favored" journalists get special access to new products with an embargo to keep from getting the word out too early. There are background briefings that may form the basis of stories quoting informed sources or sources with access to information confirming the arrival of an Apple product, the possible specs, and even when a media event might occur. Since it's done on background, there can be no direct quotes, nor will the source ever be named.
But it's usually clear who is letting out the information.
So when a re/code scribe recently reported that Apple planned a press event on September 9th, presumably to launch the next iPhone, you had to take it seriously. It was clear that this report, from a reporter known to be credible, came direct from Apple on background, and confirmation came last week.
For the past few months, chatter about the presumed iPhone 6 have focused on two display sizes: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches. There has even been speculation about display resolutions, and Daring Fireball's John Gruber, one of Apple's favored bloggers, went to the trouble to calculate what resolutions Apple would use to deliver the required Retina display picture quality, yet make it easy for developers to build apps that would "just" work.
I could suggest Apple had something to do with those calculations, or perhaps Gruber, a smart guy, was able to come to a credible solution with a spreadsheet and simple logic. Besides, we'll know soon enough if he was close to the mark.
But imagine, just imagine, if Apple PR and those alleged supply chain leaks produced nothing of importance about the next iPhone. The speculation might not have exactly died down, but the details would be scarce. Lacking a coherent story, I suspect Apple customers and the media in general would not focus so closely on what Apple planned, at least until the media event was announced.
Thus, Apple would lose all that free publicity. Anticipation would be reduced. Consider the fact that Apple's media event is happening over a week after the Labor Day holiday in the U.S., which generally signals the end of the summer season. The timing is correct, buttressed by the fact that we saw months of stories, alleged product leaks, to whet (or drown) the public's appetite for what is to come.
Of course, the system doesn't work so well if there are no surprises. Certainly most of the details about iOS and OS X Yosemite weren't available until the WWDC event back in June. Yes, there was scattered information online, certainly the revelation that the look and feel of Yosemite would change dramatically. They even got the name right, though I suspect that, too, wasn't exactly a lucky guess. But most of the details of what would be new and different weren't mentioned at all. Apple's efforts to clamp down on much of the information about the new operating systems and developer tools succeeded admirably.
As of the time I write this column, it seems as if there's little left to reveal about the iPhone 6. There may even be NFC networking at long last, though that feature has been predicted for several years without success. I suppose there's the feeling that if something is mentioned often enough, it'll really happen.
But what about an Apple branded smart TV set? Didn't Steve Jobs crack the secret sauce to build the best TV interface ever? Where is it? Did it ever exist, or did Jobs, with marketing considerations in mind, simply drop that bomb to spook the competition? It wouldn't be the first time.
We haven't heard much about the next Apple TV set-top box either, although new channels continue to be added here and there. There may even be one I'm interested in watching, something that doesn't already duplicate what I can get on cable or satellite TV. But all those extra channels also increase the clutter of the interface, which is hardly the "magic" solution we've been expecting.
There's also a dearth of information about the alleged Apple wearable, which is expected to be launched next week, with an uncertain delivery date. Will it be an iWatch? Will it even be called an iWatch, or are we all barking under the wrong tree? While the other tech companies are building smartwatches, some no doubt with Apple in mind, what if the product isn't a watch after all?
No doubt Apple PR is working overtime this week to maximize interest and fine-tune the message even more. All the better to overshadow expected announcements of competing gear from Samsung and other companies.
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