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by Wes George



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Authentic MACWORLD Rumors!
July 10th, 2000

All I know is that something is up (it always is), things are not as they seem (they never are), everyone will go into MacWorld with wildly different expectations (they always do), Steve will surprise the heck out of us (he always does), and as he walks off stage, he'll turn back around and say "oh, and just one more thing...."

Not surprisingly, the Mac rumor mills were working overtime this weekend. After all, there are only 7 more rumor mongering days left till Christmas-in-July for all the little Mac techies who can hardly wait to find out what this year's new toys will be.

Even worse, it's time for that horrible Mac Web tradition of allowing its editors to speculate freely about what goodies will tumble forth from Mr. Job's keynote cornucopia. I say 'horrible' because the predictions are usually wrong unless the much maligned rumor sites have already broken the news -- like last year when some variation of the iBook theme was widely anticipated.

This year, due to the recent drift in Apple's hardware strategy combined with Apple's Promethean ability to keep a secret, no one in the press knows what Jobs and co. have in store for us at MACWORLD. But that won't stop us from babbling on and on!

Most MACWORLD gadget forecasts - wish lists, really - say more about the editor's technical fetishes rather than accurately reflect reality. As speculation about new hardware heats up among the Mac punditocracy, the living Net eats these daydreams only to regurgitate them as even more rumors. As I pointed out in a recent diatribe a rumor is nothing less than a measure of people's hopes or fears. Unless, of course, the rumor is true, in which case, it wasn't a really a rumor but the truth.

Here's a typical geeky forecast; a classic example pre-MACWORLD "what if" dream-spinning I cribbed from the Mac Web:

"Remember the Knowledge Navigator? How would you feel if Apple introduced one at the show that runs Mac OS 9, recognizes your handwriting, surfs the net, and synchs up with your desktop using AirPort? Would it make you pee in your pants? Remember Steve Jobs saying, " PDAs from Apple!" That's a marketing slogan. Get it? You know, like, "No Beige"? This new product is NOT a puny PDA. It's a PKN! I could be wrong, but if I'm not, you heard it here first!"

The above pre-Macworld speculation has it all: Hype, a heartfelt hope, a feasible concept, a desire to scoop everyone and best of all it has a built-in paradigm shift. God, we pundits love paradigm shifts! There's nothing like the smell of bifurcation in the morning to get my heart racing. But what it best reveals is the writer's intuitive understanding of the biggest challenge that faces the entire IT industry at this time. As computer science wizard David Gelernter puts it, "Software is 20 years behind hardware. It's a crazy historical anomaly that we're attempting to deal with 21st century reality using late-' 70s/early-' 80s software." (US New & World Report, July 3, 2000)

Maybe that's why Apple isn't jumping into the Web device market immediately. The real challenge is reinventing the OS. One insightful reader of this column wrote in:

It almost goes without saying that the most discouraging aspect of Apple's almost complete lack of game plan is the fundamental inability to re-imagine the root paradigm of what a computer is supposed to be. Apple is merely creating a better version of the status quo instead of trying to change it. Apple's historic business model has always revolved around a "publishing" paradigm. And GUI's were great for that: they created an abstraction of a machine-model that was intelligible to the user. But the future is all about a "subscription" paradigm - aka AGENTS - that entails creating abstractions of the content-model, which are intelligible to the user (or more properly, the creator). But all of the technology that is essential to express these multi-various semantics isn't even on the radar for OS X: UML/XMI, CORBA, XML (beyond just bundles), etc. There are lots of INFORMATION frameworks in OS/X. There are no KNOWLEDGE frameworks in OS/X. TASK-based, instead of COMMAND-based, is absent in OS X in a way in was very much nascent at Taligent.

Interesting. But, hey, we're digressing here and getting too heavy. After all, Apple's "complete lack of a game plan" is far more likely an illusion orchestrated by Mr. Job's paranoid obsession with secrets. Steve Jobs no more lacks a game plan than Garry Kasparov.

In fact, if loose lips sink ships then Apple's tight lips are helping to float a battalion of rumors, some of which are quiet humorously imaginative. Here's a few of the most outrageous:

The iSole, Apple's new mouse, (antifungal disinfectant not included)

Behold the alleged Mac rodent supposedly destined to sweep away the universally reviled hockey puck rat shipped with the iMac and G4. Perhaps an optically tracking iMouse is really in the works for this year, it may even be wireless. Why Apple waited this long no one knows. If Apple has a new mouse they better not act like it's a big deal, because as far as the consumer is concerned it's merely a long overdue hardware "patch" that won't satiate the desire for something really new and innovative.

But get a load of the goofy design that those dolts at AppleInsider have been duped into posting! I'm not sure whether it goes on the table top or the floor.

Form may follow function, but this thing is as god-awful ugly as a used Dr. Scholl's insole. It's difficult to believe that the world-class designers of the iMac and iBook have anything so awkward in mind.

In fact, the last time I saw a hardware design this unappealing it came from those bean counters over at Dell. Remember the WebPC? The purple stump which broke new design ground by hardwiring a Freudian slip right into the PC? (BTW, the WebPC failed miserably to emulate the iMac's success.)

If AppleInsider scooped the rest of the Mac web on Apple's new mouse, then I must have the inside scoop on the technical details. My source wishes to remain obscure. I quote, " Using soon to be patent pending technology, the BioMouse will mimic cells in the hand and enjoin itself to the user's fingers via biologically harvested nanobots. While comfort, ease of use and 'seat of the pants' control have been reported in the beta version, the BioMouse nanobots still show a dislike from releasing the user's hand back to the user…" I could be wrong but if I'm not, you heard it here first!

The same source rambled on about mini-Mac prosthesis devices and a subcutaneous AirPort module which "uses the body's own electrochemical communications protocol to send and receive wireless IP packets." However, IMHO I don't believe these paradigm-shifting innovations will be ready till MACWORLD in San Francisco this winter.

Multiprocessor iMacs, Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

Can you believe there are rampant rumors of a multiprocessor iMac? Forget the fact that a multiprocessor iMac is an oxymoron, or that iMacs have no fans, or that newbies (30% of the iMac market) don't know the hard drive from the CPU and certainly don't need parallel processing power. It's a stupid idea. It violates the whole concept of the four-corner hardware scheme and would never sell to the graphic pros and researchers who never asked for or wanted an all-in-one design. But that hasn't stopped the MP iMac from appearing in serious editorials about MACWORLD, and from there winding its ridiculous way to newsgroups and stock boards.

The Cube?

Mac OS Rumors started this one. It goes something like this: Apple has a 14"x14"x14" scalable multiprocessor PowerMac ready for Macworld. By scalable, they mean that more processors can be added to the cube until all its PCI slots are full and then more cubes can be daisy chained endlessly to create as powerful a supercomputer as one can afford. The cube as revealed is completely featureless with no signs of I/O or media ports, restart button or power light. Since OS X is multithreaded, memory protected and will allow true symmetrical multiprocessing, a multiprocessor super-Mac is indeed very possible. But the form factor proposed seems more a figment of an underactive imagination then an inside tip. Maybe the featureless cube is really the box the machine comes in, rather than the machine itself?

In fact, both the cube concept and the insole mouse design seem too contrived to be real products. A more likely explanation is that Apple's gestapo planted these silly rumors to hunt down suspected deep throats in the Apple organization. By now the informers have been round up, debriefed and executed. Or maybe, the rumor Web sites having no rumors this year due Apple's diligent security, invented some content to fill the demand. The fact that Mac OS Rumors had to pull the Cube story due to Apple's legal threats doesn't necessarily mean that the story is true.

The Sphere!

Perhaps posted as a cure for encephalitic cubitis, I found this authentic rumor (you can tell by the hip techno-jargon) on the Raging Bull AAPL message board: "…I saw what could be a prototype of the upcoming iMac, or possibly MP Pro Macintosh line. This is not completely confirmed, but it appeared to be a mostly featureless 8" diameter sphere in brown translucent plastic. This might not be the final color. The only interface was on the top, and there didn't appear to be any accommodation for PCI cards or even firewire. It does seem to hold quite a bit of cheap beer, and it goes by the codename 'Beerball' though some testers call them 'Partyballs'. This iMac seems clearly aimed the teenage loser market…" Personally, I believe a partyball MP Mac would be targeting college bound or grad school losers rather than the run-of-the-mill high school loser most of which already have iMacs and are gainfully employed by the Mac Web as writers.

The Disney joke bamboozles the Drudge report

Hyped as a "world exclusive" the Drudge Report claimed yesterday that, "There are preliminary discussions of a three way merger between Disney, Apple and Pixar." As I noted a few weeks ago, this rumor rears its well-worn head once a year with or without the late Don Crabb. Apparently poor Matt Drudge, obviously a clueless Wintel borg, has fallen victim to one of the many urban-legends that populate the Mac Web. Too bad he didn't do his homework or he would have found hundreds of articles going back years touting his so-called world exclusive poop.

Apple's Retail Boutiques

Haven't heard much about this rumor since it was first articulated so convincingly last summer by Eric Yang and Jeff Valvano. But I fell for it hook, line and sinker at the time. Apple Insider still has a link to the story posted on their front page like leftover pizza. This MACWORLD presents one slim last chance at vindication for the boutique theory. However, as reported in the Wall Street Journal last week, it appears that Apple has something a bit more modest planned for their retail strategy rather than super stores a la Gateway. Too bad! But as they say, fiction is always stranger than fact, or is it the other way around?

Have a happy Macworld and bring me back an MP iMac t-shirt!

PS, I'd like to thank all the intelligent rabble rousers on the AAPL board at Raging Bull for making this article possible.


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Wes George writes about the financial side of being a Mac nut. Wes has followed Apple's finances for the last 7 years and comes to The Mac Observer every Monday to tell all about his opinions. He is, in his own words, "inordinately fond of money." If you would like to write Wes, make it nice. Someday you might own a company that has something to do with Apple, and Wes will probably still be writing for The Mac Observer...... On the other hand, Mr. George is known to love a rousing, hair-raising debate, so send him your worst!

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