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10 Biggest Apple Rumors (that never came true)

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With Apple rumors getting spread further around than ever (and regular coverage from national news media), it’s important to remember that many (most?) tend to be either completely untrue or so premature they never come true. So here’s a look back at 10 of the worst offenders.

1. Disney to buy Apple/Apple to buy Disney

Possibly the longest-running/reoccurring rumor relates to the Mouse-house. All the way back in February 1999, AppleInsider posted a detailed rumor that Disney was going to buy Apple and Pixar in a $12 billion stock swap and install Steve Jobs as the CEO of the triple-company. Many Mac fans liked the idea that Disney’s marketing strength and reach could help propel the long-suffering Mac into a new age of success, especially with families.

But the rumor wasn’t even new at that point. Gossip-news site Apple Recon said it had been shopped around to them for months and AppleInsider admitted rumors of an Apple-Disney partnership had circulated the Web for as long as they’d been publishing.

Four-and-a-half years later, Apple was succeeding with the iPod and iTunes, but still had three percent market share with the Mac. This prompted Wired to speculate that Apple should be acquired buy a larger company. Like, say, Disney (or Sony, yikes!).

With Jobs now the largest shareholder of Disney, the idea of him as a future Disney CEO seems even more possible. But strangely enough, the fortunes of the companies shifted so much since the late nineties that rumors started last year that Apple would make a bid to buyout Disney. Why the company would be interested in running resorts and theme parks is beyond me.

2. Apple Plasma TVs

Just prior to the January 2006 Macworld Expo, O’Grady’s PowerPage published an EXCLUSIVE that Apple was going to “announce two new widescreen HDTV plasma displays at Tuesday’s keynote address at Moscone.”

And they weren’t just any widescreen HDTV plasma displays. They were to be powered by Intel’s newly announced Viiv multimedia technology and run Mac OS 10.4.4 for x86.

Not enough packed in? How about built-in Bluetooth and Airport? How about a 12-button remote with LCD display? Pretty drool-worthy, right? Probably why the story garnered more than 1,100 diggs.

What was the source of this information? The post was written facetiously to hide the identity, but hinted at a tipster who “had a friend who had a friend who knew something about a new and special Apple announcement.”

Shockingly, this new product line from Apple didn’t appear at Macworld 2006. But that didn’t stop PBS’ Robert X. Cringley from predicting in September 2006 that Apple would eventually sell HDTVs with built-in iSight cameras (at the same time predicting Leopard would arrive in January).

3. iPods pre-loaded with music

First there were iPods with engraved signatures of Madonna, Tony Hawk, No Doubt and Beck. Then came the Special Edition U2 iPod. So it didn’t seem like too much of a stretch when rumors began in October 2005 that Madonna had been working with Apple on a pink-colored special edition iPod nano that would come preloaded with her entire music catalog. The rumors were picked up by the New York Daily News, and fansite “received confirmation that Madonna will indeed have her own iPod.”

It was expected to be introduced during an October 12 special event alongside fifth-generation iPods and several other product announcements. Of course, it would’ve made more sense for her to make the announcement the previous month, when she joined Apple Jobs over video-chat to announce she was making her entire music catalog available for download through the iTunes music store after previously refusing to place her songs online for legal download.

And then there’s the real issue of pre-loading iPods with music. Prior to the announcement of the U2 iPod, there were rumors it would be pre-loaded with U2’s entire catalog. But when the model was released (and re-released with color screen), it instead contained a $50 coupon off the $150 U2 digital boxed set. Even the latest fifth generation U2 iPod with video capability doesn’t come preloaded with U2 songs. Apple didn’t even support the idea of moving songs from an iPod to a computer until more recent versions of iTunes, which will copy purchased music from an iPod to authorized computers.

The rumor cropped up again in 2006 when Fortune “learned that iTunes is close to a deal to bring the Beatles catalog online” and there was a possibility “of the Beatles following U2’s example with a branded iPod.”

And when the Apple Corps settled their legal dispute with Apple Computer in 2007, Wired’s Leander Kahney noted that the prohibitions from their previous legal arrangement preventing Apple Computer from distributing music were now lifted. This meant to him that Apple would soon sell iPods loaded with music. “First up will likely be the widely rumored Beatles special-edition Yellow Submarine iPod,” he wrote. “Tipped to be released in just over a week on Valentine’s Day.”

But after Apple picked up rights to air an ad during the 2007 Super Bowl, Merlin Mann and Leo Laporte predicted Apple would announce a Beatles edition iPod on Super Bowl Sunday on MacBreak Weekly and GeekBrief TV, respectively.

It’s still quite possible that the Beatles catalog will show up on the iTunes Store and that there will be a special Beatles edition of the iPod. But as far as pre-loading iPods with entire catalogs… well, we’ve been hearing that rumor for years now and Apple has yet to pre-load a single track.

4. Apple to buy record label Universal Music Group

Before Apple launched the iTunes Music Store, there were rumors the iPod maker would develop its own digital music service. But the strangest rumor at that time started when the Los Angeles Times reported that Apple was planning to buy Universal Music Group (the largest of the five major record companies at the time) from its parent company, Vivendi Universal, for as much as $6 billion.

The idea didn’t make much sense at the time considering that the record companies were seeing a worldwide slump and weren’t expected to recover anytime soon due to the transition to digital consumption (sound familiar?). After reports appeared in Forbes, Fortune, Reuters, Billboard, the Wall Street Journal, and just about every other major news outlet, Apple’s share price dropped to a five-year low, prompting the company to break its policy of not commenting on rumors. Just prior to the company’s Q2 conference call, Jobs publicly stated that “Apple has never made any offer to invest in or acquire a major music company.”

It didn’t stop some from parsing the statement to note it didn’t preclude any future investments or acquisitions. But it’s a statement Jobs still hasn’t contradicted.

5. Justin Long no longer doing Mac ads

Apple’s current ‘I’m a Mac. I’m a PC’ ad campaign was the first in years to tout the Mac’s superiority over Windows. Not too surprisingly it didn’t rub some computer users the right way. In another EXCLUSIVE, Radar magazine claimed Justin Long, who plays the Mac, would no longer appear in the ads. A whole new batch of commercials were being prepared without Long because “virtually everyone who watches it comes away liking the ‘PC guy’ while wanting to push the ‘Mac guy’ under a bus.” Even a rep for Long noted that “Justin’s a movie star, not a commercial guy.”

The problem with this exclusive? Justin posted on his own web site that “I’m literally setting my alarm right now to wake up for a Mac shoot tomorrow -we’re doing some holiday spots now which I think will be pretty funny.”

Oh, but what about after the holiday spots? Surely that was the last batch of ads with Long, right? Well, it turns out there’s been about 10 more since then… But hey, this rumor could still come true when the ad campaign ends, right?

6. Apple PDA

Ever since the demise of the Newton (and the rise of Palm), many Apple fans have hoped for a re-entry into the Personal Digital Assistant market. And just prior to Macworld Expo 2002 (notice a trend?) pictures and videos of a new Apple device called the iWalk appeared at SpyMac. The silver, palm-sized device had a jog-dial controller similar to the iPod and appeared to have handwriting recognition.

The first problem with this supposed scoop? SpyMac had posted photos of a different-looking product dubbed the iWalk the previous fall just prior to the introduction of what Apple said would be a “breakthrough digital device.” After Apple announced the iPod, SpyMac claimed it had been the victim of a hoax.

The addition of Inkwell technology to Jaguar later in 2002 ‘proved the existence of an Apple PDA’ to many. And iCal signaled Apple’s return to the PDA market to the San Jose Mercury News’ Dan Gillmor, who said the calendar application was evidence of “Apple’s now-obvious PDA ambitions.” But Macworld Expo 2003 came and went without the “obvious” PDA.

That didn’t stop MacNET V2 from playing up the idea again in 2004, with the typical kitchen sink of features:

It will use an OS X-like OS, having full integration with iCal, Mail, Address Book, iSync, etc. It will be QuickTime driven, with support for the new codec’s, including Mpeg-4. The display will offer 65k colors and will be as large as the largest Sony Clie (there’s that Clie thing again). The screen will be touch-sensitive, using Ink as the input software. Just imagine the latest Clie (!) with an Apple twist, meaning a whole new design concept, a flip screen, and a keyboard, FireWire, USB and Bluetooth. And it will be hard-drive based, using the same hard drive in that the new iPod mini uses, but I’m told the drive will be bigger. I have no idea what the cost will be, nor do I have any information about the processor, RAM, or anything else. However, it won’t matter if you have a Mac or PC, it supposedly works with both platforms through the introduction of iSync with Windows and an arrangement with Microsoft.

That June, Jobs admitted that Apple had developed, but not shipped, an Apple PDA, and he was proud they didn’t. Of course that didn’t stop some sites from propagating mockups of the iNote nearly a year later. But now that the iPhone is coming, this one can finally die, right? Please?!

7. Tablet Mac

Next to the Apple PDA, the Tablet Mac is one of the longer-running rumor/wish for Mac fans. Jaguar’s Inkwell technology helped feed both, and in November 2002, eWeek’s Matthew Rothenberg posited that “although many InkWell features made it into the recent Jaguar release of Mac OS X, the software’s full potential has yet to be realized on a system actually designed around pen input.” He went on to speculate that in response to Tablet PCs, “prototype Mac tablets are already making the rounds among select developers” and they’d launch in January 2004.

But it wasn’t until August 2004 that a tablet Mac seemed like a reality, as The Register revealed that Apple had filed for a European design trademark in May for a “handheld computer” and included sketches of what looked like an iBook screen minus the body of the computer.

The patent was granted in May 2005 (and what do those images remind you of now?)

Back in 2002, when tablet PCs were being introduced, Steve said “We’re not sure the tablet PC will be successful. It’s turned into a notebook that you can write on. Do you want to handwrite all your e-mail? We have all the technology ourselves to do that – we just don’t know whether it will be successful”

Of course, during the same interview, when asked “Will there be an iPhone?” he responded “One never knows. We don’t usually discuss products we haven’t announced.”

So if you’re still hoping for a tablet Mac, wait until Jobs says “One never knows” and add five years. Or just go get the ModBook from Axiotron already.

8. iHome Media Center/DVR

As with the Tablet Mac, many Mac users wanted to see Apple enter the arena of the Media Center PC. The concept of a small Macintosh that could be hooked up to a home media center and used to record television and play other content was bandied about for a while, but the buzz reached a fever pitch prior to 2004’s Macworld Expo. Because it was the 20th anniversary of the Macintosh, many expected Apple to announce a special anniversary Mac that would have DVR functionality and be a “TiVo-killer.”

The first problem with that expectation was that Apple already released a 20th Anniversary Macintosh back in 1997 (to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Apple Computer). The second was that (with the exception of the aforementioned TAM) Apple rarely celebrates its history and prefers to look ahead to the future. So unfortunately for those holding out with bated breath, Steve said as much during the keynote and proceded to provide them with free posters of an updated ‘1984’ commercial with digitally-added iPod and earbuds. And Steve had pooh-poohed the concept of linking computers with televisions.

But in January 2005 (just before Macworld Expo!) pictures and a video surfaced of the Apple “iHome” being unboxed in an elevator at the Moscone Center. The typical dislaimer was made of ‘Sorry about the quality, these were taken with my cell phone.’ And even ThinkSecret noted “come on, it’s an iBook box and the font is incorrect.” Also helping not convince: Media Center was spelled Media Centre.

Even after the Mac mini was introduced instead, the iHome media center/DVR rumors and leaked mock-ups continued, including this $1,500 version that included a 450GB hard drive; 1.5 GHz G5; 2GB of RAM (upgradeable to 6GB); SuperDrive (can burn DVD’s in real time); Component, composite, S-Video, DVI, and HDMI inputs and outputs; 5.1 Digital audio output; Firewire; USB 2; Airport Extreme; and the always necessary AM/FM tuner.

Apple did finally release a media center Mac, but it’s not called iHome, isn’t called a Mac, doesn’t record video, isn’t a “TiVo-killer,” and doesn’t generally resemble any of the mockups. So how true, exactly, were all those rumors?

9. $100 Striped, Mini iPods

ThinkSecret seemed to have a major scoop in December 2003, saying it had confirmed that “Apple will announce the new pocket-size iPods in a number of capacities and in various colors, including stripes. Capacities will be 2 and 4GB — meaning users could store some 400 and 800 songs, respectively. Prices will start at around $100US.”

With iPods normally priced at $300, the addition of a $100 iPod was a major shift and one that many were looking forward to. So maybe you can understand the disappointment when Jobs instead announced that the new, colored 4GB iPod mini would cost $250 — only $50 cheaper for less than a third of the storage space.

Although the iPod mini became an extremely popular item and saw limited availability due to high demand, the immediate reaction was largely disappointment and anger due to ThinkSecret’s misleading information. Although I don’t think anyone was too disappointed about the lack of stripes, which still have yet to appear. Also yet to appear: a $100 iPod.

10. Piles

In a 2000 essay titled Apple Squandering the Advantage, noted interface critic Bruce Tognazzini described the concept of piles:

“Its visual representation is an overlay of all the documents within the pile, one on top of the other, rotated to varying degrees. In other words, a pile on the desktop looked just like a pile on your real desktop.

To view the documents within the pile, you clicked on the top of the pile and drew the mouse up the screen. As you did so, one document after another would appear as a thumbnail next to the pile. When you found the one you were looking for, you would release the mouse and the current document would open.

Piles, unlike today’s folders, gave you a lot of hints as to their contents. You could judge the number of documents in the pile by its height. You could judge its composition very rapidly by pulling through it.”

Apple had a patent on the feature, which was developed more than a decade ago. And when Panther was under development in 2003, MacEdition claimed the upcoming revision to OS X would have piles. Of course, it’s hard to believe that Apple would ever say its operating system ‘has piles’ unless maybe it was more of a feature for developers to utilize and not be mentioned in general consumer promotion. But most developers were less interested in bizarre new/old UI designs than they were about the loads of bugs still in OS X at that time.

Nonetheless, eWeek picked up on the feature and said it was one way Apple was “planning to put the user at the center of its next major release.” Of course, in the very same article, eWeek noted that Microsoft was “also trying to implement more-intuitive features for information storage and retrieval by the time it delivers Longhorn. Sources said Longhorn should reach users by early 2005.” Wow, speaking of piles…

58 Responses to “10 Biggest Apple Rumors (that never came true)”

  1. Conor H

    The Guardian, a british paper, published a story in their technology section pre-macworld’07 witten by ex-federal sales manager David Sobotta.It’s about the tablet and “iPhone” rumors. he recalls a meeting in 2002 where Jobs said that Apple had no interest in the tablet area of the market. He then gives good reasons why Apple won’t ever build a tablet PC.,,1981815,00.html


  2. Christopher Drum

    I don’t think we’ll ever see iPods pre-loaded with music. There would be nothing to link your purchased music that came pre-loaded on the iPod with your user account at iTunes. So, if you had to redownload that music, how would you otherwise prove that it was your iPod for your iTunes account? The authorization needs to start at the ITunes Store level, not the iPod level, it seems to me. I’m not saying it’s an insurmountable problem, just that it would require extra steps on Apple’s part. It would probably also require extra software development on the iPod to tell iTunes, “This is the first time I’ve ever been plugged into a computer. I have x number of pre-loaded songs. I need you to get authorization to link me up to you and grab the songs I have. Let me know when you’re done and I’ll stop harassing the user about the issue.” iTunes would of course have to have a small piece of software developed to understand the concept of a pre-loaded iPod and how to deal with it. It’s trivial software in the scheme of things, but still represents development time for a problem that already has a perfectly fine solution in the form of Apple Store credit.

  3. Andrew E. Clark

    Most of these have allready happened in one form or another. This is just an attempt to get fools like me to visit this website.

  4. Kendall Tawes

    Great article, but I think you did forget to mention the widescreen video ipod. That rumour keeps popping up every two weeks. And no the iPhone doesn’t count (it’s not even true widescreen).

  5. did anyone else notice after the last rumor it says, “speaking of piles…” and then there’s the ad for the Nissan which is a sponsor to the site (i’m assuming), i thought it was pretty funny

  6. MacMan

    the iHome unboxing photos are soo fake. the device is cardboard, like the iPohne fakes, and it has the ports lineup thats on the iBook im typing thus with. exactly the same…even the display port. the texture on the device is that of a piece of paper, you can see creases and you can also see the line where the paper was glued to the box that once was an iBook box. it also matches the inside of the iBook box that is undeer my desk.

    sorry for the typos.. slow computer..the typing lags.


  7. I think an apple tablet would be eminently useful in a way that windows can’t hope to match – but that’s because I love OSX. Frankly, I want a tablet for drawing, pure and simple; a display with built-in pen access (Cintique?) is nearly as much as a macbook pro! I mean, taking notes by pencil would be cool sometimes, but mostly, I wanna draw pictures. :D (I hear it also works well with many DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) programs.

  8. Mariana

    I agree with Daren Wang, about the Leopard release tagline.
    I’ll dig into it right now, but I’m also pretty sure that was it.

  9. Daren Wang

    Hey C-Dog,

    “Leopard to be released in the Spring.” doesn’t really qualify as a rumor–it was the official company line for several months. It was Apple being wrong, plain and simple.

  10. Yeah, I guess the iPod shuffle is not really an iPod because it is so inexpensive. I wonder when they will actually come out with a sub $99 iPod that isn’t so inexpensive.

  11. Peter da Silva

    I thought I was doing a bad job when I predicted Apple wouldn’t release a low end headless Mac a week before Apple released the Mac Mini, but predicting something would never happen that happened years ago makes me look like a piker.

    “Also yet to appear: a $100 iPod.”

    It’s $79 now.

  12. Here’s a link – an official offer was made to the board and rejected but as noted, it was BELOW the publically traded price which of course something that would never fly. Though technically, I think when Sun proposed it to the board, it was only a few dollars below the public price but as word leaked …

    You can also read why Apple survived the 1990’s because it didn’t license and no one thought they had a future …

  13. Most of these did come true in some way … rumors are sometimes third or fourth hand.

    Also, I would say Apple buying Sun was a rumor that never came true that was certainly a plausible possibility.

    You missed the PowerBook G5.

    Also of note – the majority of those bad rumors were propogated by Think Secret.

  14. Frodo

    That Sun thing wasn’t a rumor, Sun did attempt to buy Apple circa 1996/1997 — they offered *less* than the already low market value. It was as if they were making fun of Apple, or thought Apple was desperate. Apple’s board of directors (the same morons who ousted Jobs in 1985) at that time might have actually approved it if Sun had offered a fair price.

  15. Some of the others I remember include the rumors that Sun would buy Apple, that Larry Ellison would lead a takeover of Apple, and AppleInsider’s prediction that we would see strawberry G4 desktops, alongside blueberry, for the ladies.