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So is This the New Source of Mac Rumors?

It’s clear the media, particularly publications focused on the goings on at Apple Inc., are sometimes desperate to find useful tidbits of information. You have stories from Asia, for example, said to originate from the supply chain, which supposedly reveal previously unknown details about unreleased products that might already be in production.

So there were those stories about large flat panels allegedly earmarked for use in an Apple connected TV set. Of course no such set has arrived, or has even been announced. But even if the stories were true, it doesn’t mean such products will ever be released. There’s a long road from prototype to released product, although it appears some members of the tech media aren’t always aware of that distinction.

Yet another source of a Mac rumor is the apparent placeholder or premature listing of a new product from a dealer. Often those listings disappear about as quickly as they appear, but not before the media discovers the listing and makes the appropriate assumptions. On rare occasions, you’ve seen such an entry at Apple’s site. Regardless, you wonder about people who have nothing better to do than comb the inner recesses of an online’s store in search for something interesting.

You also have to wonder whether the Webmasters responsible for these pages simply made mistakes, illustrated their hopes and dreams for a new product, or are doing so at the behest of Apple. Certainly a listing at Apple’s site has to be somehow authorized.

The latest supposedly mistaken or premature placeholder comes from a Belgian computer store,  Computerstore.be, which displayed an apparent 2014 version of the Mac mini sporting the new Intel Haswell chips.

To be sure, an updated Mac mini isn’t out of the question, even though Apple doesn’t seem to pay a whole lot of attention to that product. It would probably not cost a lot in R&D to swap in new chipsets and a faster drive bus, along with support for the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard.

But before you start saving your pennies for the new Mac mini, bear in mind that Haswell’s biggest advantage is not performance but power consumption. Sure, the built-in integrated graphics are a lot better, but if you’re not into casual gaming, the new model probably won’t be much faster than the current one. So if that 2014 Mac mini appears, you may benefit from the savings on the outgoing model.

The real issue, though, is whether unexpected postings from a computer store should be taken seriously. I suppose they should be, since customers will depend on that information to do online shopping or place orders. If a new Mac is on display, even as a placeholder, you would expect a real product to emerge in the very near future.

But if the computer retailer in question made a mistake, how would Apple react? Would they threaten to pull the dealer’s authorization, or simply chalk it up as an innocent error? Or should you believe that the marketing people at Apple carefully and strategically manage apparently random listings of this sort to keep people talking about the company?

After all, it’s obvious that Apple receives tons of free publicity, wanted and otherwise, just for being Apple and generally quite secretive about possible new products.

In the scheme of things, the Mac mini, and periodic refreshes, probably aren’t very significant. The entry-level Mac, good as it is, evidently isn’t the best seller in the lineup, particularly compared to an iMac or a MacBook Air. But this tiny personal computer offers pretty decent performance that’s good enough for many Mac users, particularly if you want to repurpose an old display, keyboard and mouse. There’s even a server version for use in a datacenter. Maybe it’s not as robust as the high-end models with redundant power supplies and other industrial strength components. But they get the job done, particularly for a small business or school system.

As far as the Mac rumor universe goes, perhaps the story that’s getting the most attention this week is the claim that Apple has nailed down the raw configuration of the next iPhone. So an industry analyst, one Timothy Arcuri of Cowen and Company, is claiming it’ll sport a 4.8-inch display, along with 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

It doesn’t matter if the story is true. Cowen has gotten his headlines. But if the real iPhone 6 differs substantially from this prediction, you wonder whether anyone will ever pay attention to him again. More than likely, they will continue to listen to his bold announcements, right or wrong. That holds true for other so-called industry analysts who are constantly wrong, yet manage to stay on the payroll.

Sure, it’s quite possible Apple is outfitting a larger iPhone for release later this year. After all, CEO Tim Cook hasn’t dismissed the possibility. His excuse, that existing oversized smartphones have technological deficiencies, could very well be part of a marketing plan to claim the bigger iPhone 6 has solved those problems.

We’ll see.

But one thing is certain: We haven’t heard the last of those premature Apple product announcements from previously unknown stores in faraway places.