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About All Those Apple Rumors

Let me get right to the point: I really don’t see any further point in making further predictions about Apple’s new note-books, with the event close at hand, and probably here for many of you when you read this column.

In passing, though, I might suggest that Apple has staged a major effort to fuel the speculation in the information-starved rumor sites — and even some mainstream sites — with strategically-generated “leaks,” such as a certain repair document that appeared briefly, which covered servicing an AirPort card in the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

Now maybe some of you really think such things are simply mistakes on the part of one of Apple’s Web programmers, who will soon be summarily disciplined by his or her supervisor for this evidence of sheer incompetence.

I don’t agree. I think that Apple has been doing what it can to stoke the fires, and that document was briefly available strictly to whet your appetite for the real thing.

Some years back, in fact, I’m quite certain Apple created bogus documents on an alleged FireWire audio interconnect or breakout box to see which rumor sites would lap it up. This misguided plot was intended to find out who was violating their confidentiality agreements by giving news to the purveyors of Apple secrets.

In the end, Apple lost most of the legal actions they filed as a result, though they did manage to shut down Think Secret in the process. So maybe it was a partial victory.

These days, it doesn’t appear that Apple is quite as aggressive in fighting the rumors, particularly since they’ve spread to the mainstream media, where cease and desist letters from attorneys will have no impact whatever. Those large media conglomerates have their own attorneys on the payroll who’d be delighted to fight tooth and nail with Apple should the occasion arise.

So all those photos featuring the casings of the newest Apple note-books have not, so far at least, attracted the usual takedown orders. Perhaps Apple’s marketing people finally realized they are getting tens of millions of dollars worth of free publicity, so it’s better to quietly embrace and extend the speculation.

Speaking of speculation, there are stories out now that Apple is working on a networked LCD flat panel TV. But it’s not a new rumor, but one that surfaces every now and then, only to be shot down again when it fails to occur.

The Apple TV, considered a “hobby” by Steve Jobs, has been considered the precursor to a major strategy to bring the personal computer into the living room. So far, efforts by other PC makers haven’t succeeded. The so-called media center PCs have been around for years, but haven’t been major sales successes. They are also difficult to use, and not always reliable in operation.

Right now, the question is where Apple might go, and whether existing products really meet your needs. If you already have a high definition TV, for example, you likely also have a cable or satellite set top box to receive content. This device may also include a DVD to record your shows for later viewing. That’s what the Steinberg family does, in fact, and at the end of the week, we might have a marathon session to catch up on the shows we’ve missed during the week.

No doubt, you also have some sort of DVD player to flesh out your viewing capability, and perhaps a membership with Blockbuster or Netflix to get the latest releases. A smaller number of our readers have bought into the Blu-ray high definition DVD format to get the maximum picture quality.

So where does Apple fit in? Well, Apple TV is basically a conduit to deliver the audio and video content from your Mac or PC to your TV. For that limited purpose, it works quite well, but it’s also another box and another set of wires to clutter the rear of your TV.

The speculation about the Apple HDTV has it that it would be a conventional set with an integrated Apple TV. That seems to be an unduly simple concept, simply because it does nothing that separate products can’t do now, and that isn’t Apple’s way.

Instead, should such a product appear — and I rather doubt it will — it would work best by integrating all the peripherals you normally connect to your TV. That means the cable or satellite receiver, the DVR and the Blu-ray DVD. Call it the TV equivalent of the audio receiver, where all the separates combine into a single box.

But is it logical? I mean, why limit your ability to swap the peripherals in and out to fit your needs? You aren’t, for example, necessarily married to your cable or TV provider. Today you can switch services if you don’t get the picture quality or channels you want.

When it comes to DVD or other content delivery players, why restrict yourself to a single format? What if Blu-ray fails, and is supplanted by downloadable high definition videos? What if it requires a separate player and that product isn’t an Apple TV? Do you just remove the DVD module and replace it, assuming a replacement is available?

Indeed, the problem with some of the rumors that you read is that far too many tech writers, and that includes the ones working for traditional media, are too quick to repeat what they hear without taking the time to see if the stories pass the logic test.