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Making News Out of Nothing At All

Normally, the news covers something that happened, or is about to happen. But when there are no stories, yet another tact is to speculate about what might happen, or should have happened, rather than what is actually expected to happen. You can also write about what might be happening now behind the scenes, assuming you had inside knowledge about it. But if you don’t have inside knowledge, you just speculate, perhaps after you do some research, look at the tea leaves, or deal out the Tarot cards.

This week, there are reports that Apple may have postponed release of a TV until 2015. Postponed? Well, Apple has not, in fact, admitted that they are actually working on a TV. Yes, the living room is part of a “grand vision,” and the Apple TV set top box remains a hobby. But that doesn’t mean that the end game is a TV set and not an enhanced set top box. Nor does it mean its might end up being a combination of both.

There’s yet another story that shipments of Apple TV have slowed, which would seem curious as it’s an ideal holiday gift. This would mean that sales would be expected to increase, rather than go the other way.

But don’t forget that all of these stories are unconfirmed. Apple rarely speaks about future products, unless those announcements fit in with a marketing strategy. So you know about a forthcoming new version of iOS or OS X, because developers will be seeded with preview releases months earlier, and there will be the promise of new products to accompany these releases. The Mac Pro was announced in June to build demand, even though it won’t be out till next month.

The very first iPhone and the very first iPad were also announced way in advance to tempt you to crowd the Apple Store in your neighborhood when they came out. In the case of the iPhone, the announcement came at a time when Apple was still participating at a Macworld Expo, and the required application for FCC certification would have spilled the beans anyway. So Apple unleashed the iPhone on their own terms.

Now one reason why there’s so much speculation about what Apple is up to is that the company keeps things close to the vest. You just know that if Samsung is working on something new, such as creating a 64-bit processor to compete with Apple’s A7, that announcement will come way in advance. They won’t hold back. Microsoft and other companies also announce products or services months or years ahead of release, and sometimes they release nothing, though at least there’s the hope for some media coverage.

By being mostly silent, Apple simply builds anticipation for new products. Sure, close to a release date, stories may emerge from the supply chain that will often reveal the essence of a new product design. That genie is out of the bottle, and it’s hard to think that Apple can shut things down ever again.

At the end of the day, though, few people outside of Apple know exactly what’s being planned when it comes to TV, Apple TV, or even an Apple-branded or iTunes TV subscription service. When and if such products are actually slated to appear, Apple will decide what to reveal and when. Indeed, when you begin to read stories that appear to rely on “informed sources” or “sources close to the company” in mainstream outlets, you can be sure something is afoot, and Apple is probably the source of the story.

Now when it comes to the alleged iWatch, it seems as if Apple is indeed working on something. Clearly Tim Cook admits to an interest in so-called wearables, and a watch is the quintessential wearable that appeals to both men and women. Indeed, there’s a story this week claiming that there will be men’s and women’s versions, with different sized OLED displays. From a fashion viewpoint, that would seem to make sense, but what direction will really Apple take?

Will an iWatch be something in the vein of a Pebble, meant as something that works as an accessory to an existing mobile gadget? That is the way smartwatches have been designed up till now, but it it’s not an efficient solution. What happens if you forget to take your smartphone or tablet with you? Are you left with a doorstop until there’s something with which the watch can pair?

It’s also true that smartwatches have not yet shown traction. Pebble seems to be doing well enough, but the numbers are nowhere in the league of what Apple would expect for an iWatch. That existing products haven’t set the tech world afire doesn’t mean Apple should give up. Digital music players went nowhere before the iPod, and tablets were moribund before the iPad arrived.

So if Apple, as the rumors suggest, really releases an iWatch, it would have to be very different from existing gear. Otherwise, why bother? The reports of an iWatch even have some level of support, with claims that Apple hired 100 engineers to work on the project some time back, not to mention recruiting people from the fashion industry who would be able to help deliver something that’ll make a first class design statement even before it actually does something.

But don’t presume what Apple might do. Even if an iWatch were in the pipeline, it still may not come to pass, and the jury is out on what sort of TV-related products and services are going to appear.