Unlike most computer manufacturers, Apple shrouds its product plans in secrecy, often unveiling surprise announcements at its annual Macworld expo and usually leading to rampant speculation among the faithful beforehand.
But the run-up to this years San Francisco show, which begins Jan. 10, was a quiet one for the Mac-centric rumor Web sites—until last week.
Then, a spate of rumors—about a sub-$600 Macintosh desktop computer, an external audio connector for musical instruments, and a new or revamped productivity suite—suddenly sprung onto the scene.
And in response, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer Inc. filed suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court against three Web sites, citing inappropriate publication of what the company claimed were trade secrets.
The first rumor to surface was in October, when a Merrill Lynch analyst predicted a flash-based iPod, which would represent a smaller and cheaper alternative to Apples current iPod Mini.
In December, this was given more credence with news of Toshiba making relevant hardware for the prospective product.
Another rumor that has strong backing is that Apple is preparing to announce an inexpensive Macintosh desktop, without a monitor, that would retail for less than $500 or less than $600.
Originally broken by the Web site ThinkSecret, this report found backing in a report from sources close to the company, who said that such an item has been in development at Apple.
However, this product may not be announced at Macworld, but rather at a special event a few months after the trade show.
Perhaps most substantial was the rumor that Apple was preparing a FireWire-based audio interface for Apples GarageBand music creation application.
This product, allegedly code-named Asteroid and first mentioned Nov. 23 on the rumor Web site AppleInsider, was touted as allowing musicians to input their live music digitally into GarageBand.
Giving this rumor weight was that on Dec. 13, Apple filed suit for more than $25,000 in damages in the Superior Court of Santa Clara, Calif., against “Doe 1, and unknown individual, and Does 2-25, inclusive.”
The filing also asked for subpoenas against the sites ThinkSecret, AppleInsider and PowerPage.org, requiring them to produce documents and all information relating to the identity of anyone who has knowledge of the source of Asteroid-related stories and posts on message boards related to the sites.
Representatives of these sites declined to comment. However, eWEEK.com has learned that no information regarding Asteroid appeared on the ThinkSecret site. Instead, anonymous posters placed such information on message boards at the AppleNova domain, which is owned and operated by a separate individual than ThinkSecret. The only connection between the two is a hyperlink to AppleNova from the ThinkSecret home page.
The last noted court action on the case was dated Dec. 14. According to California statute, the plaintiff has up to 60 days to identify the anonymous parties and then is required to consult with the defendants legal representatives at least 30 days before April 19. Apple representatives could not be reached for comment.
Though software rumors are less heated, one notes a reported new productivity suite, which unconfirmed reports label iWork or iWork 05. This allegedly includes Keynote 2, an update to Apples presentation application, and Pages, a word processor.
This was first noted by ThinkSecret, which states that iWork should be bundled on all new Macintosh computers. Other sites note that IGG Software, which previously marketed a billing and invoicing application named iWork, has renamed the product to iBiz.
Less substantial are rumors of an Apple-branded cell phone. Some reports had the putative phone built upon the hardware of Apples iPod MP3 player.
However, there has been little basis for this, and perhaps it was based on Julys announcement from Motorola that the two companies have plans to enable Motorola phone users to transfer songs from Apples iTunes music software and play them on the next generation of Motorola phones.
Also related to the iPod were rumblings that Apple would team with satellite radio service Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. to make a satellite-enabled iPod. Both companies have denied this rumor.
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