Apple 5K Thunderbolt Display: Rumor and Speculation aren't Facts

First we get the news that Apple is finally updating the 27-inch Thunderbolt display at WWDC, and it's going to be totally awesome with 5K resolution, Thunderbolt 3 support, and a built-in graphics card so Macs with less powerful GPUs can get in on the super sharp goodness, too. Then the next day we get the news that Apple isn't updating its practically ancient display. Welcome to the world of Apple rumors.

When is the Thunderbolt display getting a refresh? Who knows?When is the Thunderbolt display getting a refresh? Who knows?

MacRumors noted Thunderbolt displays are in short supply and Apple's retail stores aren't getting inventory replenishment. That, coupled with the Worldwide Developer Conference keynote set for June 13, is typically a good sign product refreshes are on the way.

Follow that up with John Gruber from Daring Fireball noting a Tweet from Stephen Foskett at Tech Field Day speculating that Apple could put a powerful GPU in the display. His comment: "I'd bet on this." Add to that 9to5Mac saying it "heard rumblings" about the display's new features, and everyone was off to the races with the news that Apple would probably refresh the Thunderbolt display at WWDC.

Then, less than 24 hours later, 9to5Mac says Apple won't unveil a new Thunderbolt display at WWDC and the keynote event will focus instead on software. Anyone hoping for a new Thunderbolt display, and the Mac Pro refresh we speculated could come along with it (check out the June 2nd TMO Daily Observations podcast), is most likely about to experience the bitter taste of disappointment.

That doesn't mean Apple won't ever update the Thunderbolt display or the Mac Pro. Instead, it means we shouldn't expect to see those refreshes in a week and a half at WWDC.

Considering how much information about the rumored display dumped all at once, one of two things happened: either the display is coming at some point and everyone jumped to what seemed like a logical conclusion on its timeframe, or a little bit of speculation mixed with a low inventory problem conflated into the "news" that the new display announcement is coming at WWDC.

Herein lies the problem: the media, bloggers, and podcasters are continually trying to weave tapestries out of the threads gleaned from Apple rumors. Apple is notoriously tight-lipped, despite its ongoing problem with leaks, and that leaves everyone trying to guess at the company's plans without having any real information from which to work.

All aboard the rumor train

The fact we all jumped on the report so quickly—adding in qualifiers like "possibly," and "likely"—is a sign of just how frustrated Apple's users are that it's been five years since the Thunderbolt display was updated, and by extension, that the Mac Pro hasn't seen a refresh in three years. Both are years-old technology at today's prices and it's surprising Apple can sell them at all considering more powerful devices are on the market at a lower cost.

Unless Apple is quietly bowing out of the display market, we'll see a Thunderbolt display refresh at some point. Maybe Apple is waiting until it has Thunderbolt 3-capable Macs ready to ship, and maybe OS X 10.12 plays a part in this, too. If so, the next most likely announcement window comes this fall when Apple historically releases major upgrades for its desktop and mobile operating systems. It's also when the next big MacBook Pro redesign is rumored to ship.

When everything is said and done, we don't know anything more about what Apple will announce on June 13th at WWDC. The 5K Thunderbolt display news is also a great reminder that not everything we read online is fact, and that questioning the validity of rumors and speculation is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

That means pundit and analyst complaints that Apple can't innovate and is falling behind its competitors won't end any time soon, and come June 13th the company is going to get bashed for failing to announce each and every thing people want, regardless of how practical those products would be—just like they do after every Apple keynote and media event.