Blog Post

Take Rumors and Hype With a Grain of Salt

iPad with Dock

Apple plays the media game as well as anyone. There’s a rigorous cat and mouse game of filing patents, trademarks, and domain registrations, fake images, rumors, leaks, and misspoken (or are they?) comments in public forums. Each of these manage to whip the public into a frenzy of anticipation which can last for years. But add to this equation, the ravenous fans, bloggers, and tech pundits, who all keep the ball rolling, and it easily enters a completely new level of crazy.

Then the day of reckoning arrives (as it did Wednesday), and perhaps the stock dips and the feedback is mixed as many fans quickly turn on the company that they revere. I get it — we’re all so smitten with the genius of these products we use all the time, that we expect nothing but perfection from Apple. But as the anticipation builds, over time, the “requirements” of the consumer outpace what may be logical or even feasible. And then what happens when reality doesn’t live up to the expectations we’ve developed in our heads (and on our blogs)? An empty feeling of disappointment following Steve’s unveiling.

History has shown that these frustrations and feelings of discontent will generally dwindle with time. Sometimes it’s with the first hands-on experience, and sometimes it’s a slightly longer road as the new thing (the ‘MacBook’ name, for instance) becomes familiar and accepted. The problem as I see it, is that the more time we have on our hands to wonder, the more creative we (by ‘we’ of course, I mean the Internet) get with the things the mythical device might do.

Think about it, we didn’t even know if Apple was actually developing a tablet. For at least a couple years there’s been much talk and guessing that it would, but we really didn’t know for sure. So people start thinking about what an Apple tablet would look like, what it would do, and so on. From there, the creative juices start to flow, and the list of specs and possible technologies spin quickly out of control. Sure, I would’ve loved to have seen a camera on the iPad. It also would’ve been pretty neat if it had some sort of proximity awareness of other iPads. Or if it functioned in a way that brought my home media viewing system together — that would’ve been ideal.

But take a step back and consider what Apple did:┬áIt now offers a great middle device for doing the simple things that a majority of computer users need, for only $500! As an aside, some close friends pined for a MacBook to replace their aging iBook, but they couldn’t justify it because the iBook was nicknamed “The Email Checker.” Now for only $500 they could pick this up and browse the web casually, use Facebook, and do the simple tasks that their somewhat outdated (and slow) machine does for twice the price. I for one think that for what it is, the iPad is going to be spectacularly successful.

And then there was the lack of any mention of the iPhone SDK 4.0 availability, Aperture, iLife, and on and on. But think about what this event was — it was the release of a new product from Apple. It’s something never before seen by 99.999 percent of the world. Steve doesn’t want to take away from the hype with anything if it doesn’t directly impact his new offering. Perhaps we’ll see or hear evidence of some of the aforementioned software in coming weeks as the iPad buzz subsides, but yesterday’s event was not the forum for such things.

So a couple of days later, we’re beginning to come down from the Apple event. For some it’s been everything they were hoping for (and did I mention, for only $500?!). For others, frustration and disappointment. But listening to the rumor mill and pinning our hopes to those wild, and largely unfounded ideas is what made it hurt the most. Maybe we should stop that. I enjoy the rumors as much as the next guy. But perhaps it’s time to reign our technolust in just a skosh and enjoy the ride.

21 Responses to “Take Rumors and Hype With a Grain of Salt”

  1. They already make nice “email checker” computers in a small form factor with the same kind of battery life and integrated features at a lower price point with your choice of mobile or desktop OSes. The iPad is an iPod touch for the Jitterbug crowd.

  2. adamjackson

    It’s difficult to downplay rumors and hype when TAB is feeding into them.

    Sure, you’d be the only blog that didn’t participate in the BS hype machine but you’d earn a tremendous amount of respect from me in the process (yeah, I know I’m only one guy).

    It’s just that TAB is a great blog. You guys post informative posts and the 7×7 feature with pure speculation got very old. I subscribe to 15 tech RSS feeds. Searching for tablet in netnewswire yields 400 results from December 15th to january 27th.

    That’s 27 posts per blog in one month about a device before it had even come out!

    Most of the posts were wrong. Most of them I didn’t even bother reading and it’s hard to tell us to take these with a grain of salt when TAB contributed all of these tablet related posts.

    That’s a crap load of posts for a device that hadn’t even come out yet.

    • You’ve gotta remember that what makes TAB great is the fact that we’ve got two dozen writers who think for themselves. There’s no way on earth we can publish articles that will appeal to 100% of the Apple crowd. Even if you write for an extremely focused niche, you’ll still tick off people along the way. That’s life.

      While we’ve certainly got a nice percentage of readers who would be just fine if we never published anything rumor-related, there’s just as many (actually, quite a bit more) who do like to hear the rumors.

      I’m with you in that I was completely sick of the tablet rumors, but at the same time you’ve gotta remember that this is a product that has had people throwing rumors around about for years. Probably one of if not the most hyped product in Apple’s history.

      So, I say all of that as somewhat of an apology as I completely understand where you’re coming from, but also to try to give you some perspective of where we’re coming from and why we ended up publishing so much about a product that may not have even existed.

    • Agreed Adam. It’s actually something that we’ve discussed recently as a group, with our editor. But I think it’s 2 issues – propagating and getting all wrapped up in the rumors, and reporting new findings with analysis. I think we want to go more toward the latter.

      But let’s face it, Apple is a master of secrecy, and so rumors and assumptions and the lot make up for a large bit of what’s to talk about. I’m just saying, it’s all well and good to read and talk about this stuff, but recognize that it’s nothing but a bunch of geeky ‘what-ifs’, and hanging your hat on them may lessen the appeal one day when a device actually comes to light.

    • adamjackson

      Thanks Josh. Like I said, you’d be the only blog that didn’t post rumors. I’m not complaining and I’m far from giving up on TAB entirely because even WSJ and NYTIMES publishes tech rumors and they have journalistic standards far beyond the GigaOm network.

      so yeah, I’m not really complaining, just making a point. Thanks for the reply.

    • adamjackson

      Hey Nick. Trust me, I’ve been reading and clicking through to rumor posts for years! I know the numbers game. When I broke the news of Adobe CS4 on my old tech blog it was a huge day for readership but it’s kind of like a gossip magazine, your readership changes a bit into a fickle bunch and doing as and DaringFireball does and giving analysis and answer the “why & how” is much more enjoyable to the reader. It also means more rumor sites will link to you because you did the work.

      Normally, rumors don’t matter. I read them, laugh and comment then move on. The tablet fiasco just killed me. It made me rethink why I even read apple related blogs. I had rumor overload and didn’t like it.

      I think now that things are leveling out, it’s fine to go back to how things were (normal rumor coverage) but I hope the blogs won’t redo this kind of coverage ever again because tablet coverage got totally out of hand.

      iPhone coverage from January ’07 to June ’07 was similar. Every day speculating on pricing, plans, data coverage, battery life, the mysterious 11th application (turned out to be youtube) and more. Gizmodo’s coverage of the iPhone back then drove me to insanity and I didn’t think that level of coverage from apple blogs would ever be beat but the tablet brought on a wave of speculation.

      Again you guys do a great job. i’m still a fan.

  3. Please, do a bit of surfing, and read the reactions on all those blogs just after the launch of the iPod, and after the launch of the iPhone. Same words: no good, no this and that, uninteresting, Jobs missed it… Same blogs, that six months later were all over the moon. You know what? It’s happening again.
    The only thing I noticed: I heard colleagues, who know very little about computerstuff, talk about ‘this device they saw on tele’ (the iPad). One remark returned every time: I want one. I’m going to buy one. ‘Cause it fits my needs exactly’. People who don’t even understand the word ‘flash’.
    I’m buying one. So will they – people who never used a Mac before.
    And again: it’s about the software! Just keep an eye on those Developers. We will be amazed by the time the iPad arrives!

  4. Simon Kurt

    @Chris – a hype is ex definitionem out of control, otherwise it wouldn’t be a hype, right?
    In my opinion this device is going to fit perfectly in the annoying gap between iPhone, MacBook and iMac. Did you try showing some holiday pictures to your family and had to wait until they were all comfortably seated in front of your iMac? Horrible. Same with MacBook, don’t even dare to talk about the iPhone. However, I’m really looking forward to finally hold it in my hands, especially for going to university! It sucks to carry a 13″ MacBook with you all day long if you only have a few lectures of which you know that you won’t have to take notes like a fool. For students it’s going to be the perfect device, even more due to its pricing. Carrying the MacBook with me all day long? That’s gonna be past from then on. I just hope they’ll make some reasonable deals here in Switzerland.

    • I agree that hype by definition is out of control. I guess the correct way to express my view would be less to do with the hype itself than my disbelief at the number of people who come to expect all of it and more to actually happen. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Having realistic expectations by people following the hype is more the issue.

  5. I agree that the hype definitely gets way out of control. It’s fun to watch. It seems like many end up disappointed since they expect it to do everything they ever imagined and more. It’s happened with products many of us use today(iPod, iPhone, etc…). While I’m personally excited about the iPad and can definitely find uses for it, it’s not for everyone… yet. Even in it’s current form, I can see where it could become a main computer for many. I think the iPad (or machines similar) will become what most people use over time. It may have a hard time filling the needs of the heavy photo, video, developer, etc, but for a lot of people it will be more than enough. Even for those “serious” computer users, this can handle many of the tasks people do. Over time, it will just get better.

    • Your 100% correct.

      There is no need to have EVERY bell and whistle on it if the competition has not even left the starting gate!

      All the naysayers wanted it priced around 1000 bucks.
      They were totally bummed to see the final price!

  6. The iPad is the solution to my travel needs. My 13in iBook is too bulky and heavy to lug everywhere, the iPod Touch is too small for me to use for any length of time. With the 3G option it becomes just what I need to keep in touch, surf the Web and process photos from my camera. I’m looking forward to getting my hand on one at the Apple Store… sav’n my pennies!

  7. I agree. It was a great introduction. When the tech geeks are trawling through the specs of the product and discussing what is missing and those items are limited to things like “no-flash”, “no-camera”, “no-USB”, “no multi-tasking” they don’t realize that they are implicitly endorsing the underlying acceptability of the product – none of those “complaints” are really that significant in a first generation product launch. I have a camera already (heck I have about 5 and I don’t want to iChat on this with it looking up my nose). Flash based websites are mostly annoying as they have awful navigation. Flash movies will eventually be replaced and if you really must see it I bet it’s out there on YouTube somewhere so you go to the YouTube app and search it out. It was interesting that the New York Times website didn’t display video but their iPad App did. They made a point of showing this – how long before the NYT ditches flash based content as a thank you to Jobs for helping them move to a pay-for-content business model? Seems like the flash followers expect the free content bandwagon to continue.

    Most “unsophisticated” users will love this, I will be getting one because the unlimited data plan savings over my verizon card will pay for itself in 10 months. For 95% of my personal and business trips there is already nothing that the iPad can’t do for me that I do on my MacBook Pro when traveling (and that is without unleashing app developers). Now I can leave the Pro at home and take the iPad. I don’t need such heavy lifting when on the road and the tablet would appear to be exceptionally user friendly when actually ‘in-your-hands”. One of the reasons Jobs spent so much time at the launch sitting down and playing on the iPad was to emphasize that this is probably a device where the “WOW” moment comes when you hold it and play with it. I browse the web and read books on my iPhone. Jobs is right, the iPad needs to be better than the iPhone at some things and for both those things this will do it. Especially in home. Browsing the web on my MacBook Pro is a pain when seated anywhere other than at the desk or counter top. I suspect the iPad will become my DEFAULT web browser for daily newspaper, website checking and my book reader (I can read it at night or on an airplane without any lights on). The iPad will actually make browsing the web a pleasure.

    I very much doubt that I will give up my MacBook Pro or my iPhone. For me, Jobs has nailed the space in the middle where I have gotten so used to compromising in certain things that I though all was well but in reality the iPad has already demonstrated it can fulfill a need I wasn’t sure I had but now know that I do… and at those prices it is a no-brainer.

    • Excellent post. Exactly how I feel. You’ll have two of three – iPod touch, iPhone and iPad. The phone is the only place where one might buy a product other than Apple.

      You will also have a “big” computer at home to do stuff that the “little guys” can’t. That might be Apple or other, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there are going to be some really neat things that are “Apple only”.

  8. I think building your hopes up and then being disappointed isn’t really the scary thing. That’s just being human. The scary thing is when a product is genuinely, objectively uninteresting, like the new iPad, and not seeing that. Since Wednesday, this blog has sounded like an echo of Steve Jobs (“amazing” this, “incredible” that). The iPad is beautiful, of course, like all Apple products. But you know it’s a stretch when one of the things highlighted in all the promotional material is “It has an amazing address book app” and “There’s no top or bottom, you can turn it whichever way”. In other words, I don’t see a single innovative idea behind this product, other than the size. That’s not being sour, that’s just the truth.

    • I think it comes down to perspective. We aren’t “echoing” Steve Jobs just because it’s Jobs. I’m genuinely excited about the iPad. I think it will be the perfect device for casual computing around our home and fits a niche that a lot of people were looking to have filled. Is it a “must have” device? Of course not. Completely disposable. But if you’ve got the money and want something easily sharable between family members for, again, casual computing around the house…then there’s not a better device on the market for that right now.

  9. Tommy T.

    I hear what you’re saying…but come on, is it too much to expect “the best device for surfing the web” to include flash support!? Jobs is wrong; the iPad is not “way better” than surfing on my macbook…not even better…not even close!

    • I think you’re assuming _everyone_ uses sites that require flash. The only flash I encounter on a regular basis is in advertisements on sites and when watching video…most of which is on YouTube. So with the iPad, I get advertisements mostly blocked, and YouTube is built in…sounds like a win-win to me.

    • I’m inclined to say you’re not wrong – yet. As I mentioned in the post, once I get my hands on it, all bets are off. I may realize, ‘no, this isn’t something I care about owning right now’, or I may start drooling on the floor model. Time will tell.