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February 27, 2006
For Apple, There's No Business Like Show Business

Apple plans to announce something tomorrow, and the rumor mill is working overtime trying to guess what that announcement might be. Over the weekend, one possibility -- a big-screen video iPod -- was knocked out of contention after a hoaxter posted a step-by-step video about how he created the fake prototype photo everyone was buzzing about.

(I wrote a column in the Personal Tech Pipeline newsletter last week about the whole Apple prototype phenomenon, by the way. If you -- GASP! -- don't subscribe, I've pasted the column below for your reading enjoyment.)

Of course, Apple could still announce a big-screen video iPod, but the strength of the rumors until this weekend was fueled by the hoax photo.

Ironically, it appears more likely that Microsoft would launch a big-screen pocket media player than Apple.

No, the smart money, as of today, is that Apple will announce a full-length movie downloads service -- a kind of iTunes-meets-Netflix service.

San Jose Business Journal reports that Apple has purchased a huge data center in Cupertino that appears to be overkill for the company's current needs. The facility might be perfect for a high-bandwidth movie downloads service.

A related (and possibly complimentary) scenario would be a deal between Apple and Blockbuster whereby Blockbuster would become a retail outlet for the sale of video-capable iPods, and also offer discounted movies that could be downloaded in stores at special docking stations.

One way or the other, Apple will get into the movie business. Will it be tomorrow? We'll find out in less than 24 hours.

* * *

Here's the column I published in the Personal Tech Pipeline newsletter last week. If you like it, why not subscribe to the newsletter and get a column like this every week? Enjoy!

* * *

Apple Prototypes -- The Truth Is Out There

When I was a lad, people talked a lot more about "unidentified flying objects," or UFOs, than they do now.

In fact, there seemed to be a whole cottage industry around the sightings of mysterious flying saucers, alien abductions and little green men. Books, TV shows, magazine articles and water cooler chatter fed the cultural debate on whether or not we're "alone" in the universe. The craze was fueled by two bits of "evidence": low-quality photos and firsthand, eyewitness accounts.

You don't hear that much about UFOs anymore. I suspect the reason is that they have been replaced by something a bit more down to earth: Apple prototypes.

Like the UFO craze of the 70s, the Apple Prototype Industry is fueled by blurry, low quality pictures and firsthand, eyewitness accounts – generally posted on Apple fan message boards.

The Apple Prototype rumor mill has been extremely busy lately, speculating about what marvels Apple CEO Steve Jobs might unveil Tuesday, February 28, at an invitation-only press event. Nobody really knows what will be announced, but the invite promises products that are both "fun" and "new."

For example, everyone is buzzing about a sighting of what some say may be the new iPod Video -- a full-screen video unit with controls in software that are manipulated on the touch screen. I'm guessing this one is actually real.

Another low-quality mystery picture is what the rumor mongers say is an Apple "Media Cube" -- a kind of TiVo for downloading full-length movies from iTunes and watching them on your TV. I'm skeptical about this one. It looks to me like a cardboard box with the Apple logo on it, but I've been wrong before.

The rumor sites are also speculating about a "Mini-touch finger LCD" concept they say Apple is working on. The idea is programmable buttons that are actually mini LCD displays showing the keys' functions. I'm skeptical about this one, too, as it seem counter to Apple's hyper-simplicity ethos.

Sometimes sightings don't come in the form of bad photographs, but instead patent drawings and video.

Some Apple Prototype sightings from the past have turned out to be true, and others false.

For example, the iPod G5 prototype pic turned out to be perfectly accurate. But we've never seen the iWalk," for example, or the "Vingle." And we'll never see the purely fanciful creations of wishful thinking Photoshop artists.

Apple prototype watching is actually more fun than UFO gazing. Why? Because the UFO sightings are all hoaxes or optical illusions that will never be conclusively proved as such. But some of the Apple prototypes actually end up as real products we can buy and enjoy.

In the world of Apple prototype sightings, the truth really is out there.

PS: Like the Personal Tech Pipeline newsletter? Then you'll LOVE the blog. I also recommend that you subscribe to the blog's RSS feed and the RSS feed for the site.

Mike Elgan
Editor, Personal Tech Pipeline[PTP]-02-24-2006

Posted by Mike Elgan at 04:31 PM | Permalink

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