Plugged Leaks

The tweaked iPod line-up unveiled Tuesday completely escaped attention from the rumor mill. Note to crackpots: this is not a “chilling effect” of Apple’s lawsuits; to say so implies the rumor sites had information, but were intimidated from publishing it. That’s not the case — Apple Insider, for example, continues to publish whatever it can get its hands on, including goofy-looking mock-ups of an Xbox-y looking phone it claims is the Motorola “iTunes phone”. (I don’t like linking to Apple Insider, or any other site that serves pop-up ads.)

This is, simply, the result of good old-fashioned leak-plugging. The rumor sites didn’t have information about the new iPods because no one blabbed about them.

Comically, Think Secret was reduced to this after-the-fact report:

Apple tweaked its iPod line-up Tuesday, eliminating the remaining monochrome iPod models in a move that Think Secret foretold in February.

The consolidation of Apple’s iPod line resulted in both the standard 20GB iPod and 20GB U2 Edition iPod being upgraded to color screens with photo support. The 20GB remains priced at $299, while the U2 Edition saw a $20 reduction to $329.

What’s funny is that if you follow the link to see exactly what it is they “foretold”, you get a report from February 18, claiming:

Within the next two weeks Apple will announce an updated iPod mini with a color screen and higher capacity hard drive, Think Secret has learned.

Highly reliable sources have confirmed that the next iPod mini will gain a full-color active-matrix TFT screen while the form factor will remain largely unchanged. The color screen will be able to display colors clearly and brightly regardless of ambient lighting, even outdoors in direct sunlight. The new screen will be about the same size as the current iPod mini display and will sport a 176x132 resolution.

Apple’s move to a color screen on the iPod mini is part of the company’s shift away from monochrome displays, sources said. Standard iPods will also gain color screens across the board with the next update later this year.

I mean, the headline of the article is “iPod mini moves to color screen with pending update”. In Think Secret’s world, this story qualifies as accurate.

Keeping these minor iPod updates out of the rumor mill pales in comparison to the nearly airtight lid Apple kept on the news regarding their upcoming switch to Intel processors for all Macs. This was quite probably the biggest Mac news in 10 years, and the Mac rumor sites had nothing.

In fact, until the Wall Street Journal broke the story two weeks prior to the announcement, the only person who had anything about it was, of all people, Paul Thurrott. Yes, the same Paul Thurrott whom I’ve long-berated as being always wrong regarding all things Apple. Except, this time, he was right. (And I was wrong.)

On April 26, about a month before The Wall Street Journal broke the story wide, Thurrott wrote the following two-sentence entry in his daily journal of the WinHEC 2005 conference:

This one’s bizarre, but we heard at lunch today that Apple is unhappy with the PowerPC production at IBM and will be switching to Intel-compatible chips this very year. Yeah, seriously.

That’s it, that’s all he wrote, but it’s pretty much spot-on. What’s interesting about it is that he tossed it out as little more than an aside, just something he overheard at lunch during a conference where Apple and Mac OS X had pretty much zero presence.

The entire Mac community was genuinely in the dark about this. Not just the rumor sites, but the developers, too — there were literally gasps at the WWDC keynote when Jobs unveiled the slide that said, “It’s true.” But at least in some small circles that don’t (or didn’t) intersect with the Mac universe, it was an open secret. I assume Thurrott’s source was either from Intel, or a second-hand source who heard it from someone at Intel. Regardless, it was a scoop, and Thurrott deserves credit for it.