Backstage: Why iLounge doesn’t run rumors

picRumors. Even though they’re occasionally exciting and could generate even more traffic for the site, we have steadfastly refused to cover them on iLounge. We didn’t make this decision to curry favor with Apple, but rather because rumors are so notoriously unreliable, especially when Apple products are involved.

After all, Apple has a history of cancelling completed projects at the very last moment, so even something that was tantalizingly close to being true (post-Newton PDA, anyone?) can become false via last-minute cancellation. And then there’s the iPod mini, which was vaguely “known” to exist a bit before the official announcement, just at the completely wrong price ($99? $199?) and specifications (2GB).

Sure, it’s tempting to at least put up news stories mentioning the rumors, especially when everyone “just knows” that a new iPod must be coming soon (many people have been predicting an announcement each month for six months now) and since so many of the rumors were supposedly “confirmed by reliable sources.” …

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A few months ago, prevailing rumors focused on new iPods with color screens, digital photo playback, and possibly limited video features. These rumors were fueled by knowledge that such features are supported by a more recent chipset made by current iPod chip supplier PortalPlayer. They were given faux additional credence when Sony introduced a similarly featured device called the VAIO Pocket, which confirmed that such a package was feasible. And the rumors were only half squashed by Steve Jobs’ public comments that audio, not video, is what people want to carry around. After all, he didn’t rule out digital pictures, and Belkin’s current iPod accessories do the same general thing, right?

Those rumors have since disappeared, replaced by new ones. The latest rumored iPods are halfway between 3G iPods and minis in physical size, designed to replace 3G iPods with similar and even larger storage capacities, and featuring new colored shells (purple, yellow, and orange) apparently designed to appeal to… well, the French, and Dennis. And the supposed announcement date of these iPods: early August. Which is to say, just enough after my birthday not to qualify as a potential gift. But oh how convenient for the holidays.

Are any of these rumors actually true? No one outside of Apple really knows, and again, even if they’re right today, they could be wrong tomorrow. That fact is the reason Apple hates rumor reporting so much: you or I might delay today’s new iPod purchase in order to wait for something that we hear is coming out, yet may never actually be released.

Apple probably has between five and ten different prototype iPods in testing right now, some with current 3G iPod cases, better battery life, and wireless capabilities, others with smaller cases and fewer parts, and some with color screens and photo/video playback capabilities. Any one could become the next iPod, or a totally different Apple product, or never be shown to the public at all. Fact is, not one of these possibilities really matters until we can try it and possibly buy it.

Instead of reporting on and lending credence to rumors, we figured that better avenues for iLoungers’ (and our) imaginations are “we wish” editorials/articles like Future Pods and the ever-popular iPod Concepts gallery. There sorts of formats let iPod lovers explore their fantasies without any suggestion that they’re necessarily going to happen… as much as we might all hope that they would.

What do you think Apple will do with the next iPod to be unveiled? Will it be this year? Next year? A radical improvement on current iPod features, or a compromise between existing iPod designs? Your comments, as always, are welcomed.

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