Macworld Eve Rumor: Flash-Based iPod

Last-minute whispers also suggest a speed bump for the PowerBook and voice recognition for the iPod.

Apple Computer Inc., with its legendary secrecy around product plans, and the Mac-centric rumor Web sites, always sniffing for scoops, exist in a kind of asymmetric feedback loop: The tighter Apple clamps down on information, the more active the sites grow. On the eve of this years Macworld Expo San Francisco trade show, the two sides have worked each other into a froth.

With just hours to go until the keynote address by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, new information has surfaced. An Italian enthusiast reportedly snapped photos with his cell phone of an Apple banner, normally covered until Jobs speech, that promotes a flash memory-based iPod. Security officers allegedly tried to chase down onlookers who might have taken photos.

This new iPod, reportedly code-named Shuffle, is said to come with 1GB of memory, which should hold a few hundred songs in MP3 or AAC format. Previous rumors had speculated on a 2GB version as well. Pricing is anyones guess; the guess consensus is $149.

Also new on the rumor front is that Apples PowerBook line will receive a speed bump, but there is no word of an update to IBMs PowerPC 970 processor, also known as the G5. The new 15-inch PowerBooks should top out at 1.67GHz, reports say, with the 12-inch model coming in at 1.5GHz. The refreshes also include improved hard drives and video cards, support for Bluetooth 2.0, and SuperDrives that work with DVD+R media in addition to DVD-R.

One long-shot murmur is that a third-party developer will be adding voice recognition to the iPod. Which model, and whether it will be an add-on device or built-in, remains unknown—even more so than the degree that any rumor is an unknown.

No forensic evidence has yet surfaced to support the rumor of a $500-to-$600 Macintosh computer, sans monitor, yet this report has received the widest dissemination, perhaps due to the long-standing trope that Apples products are high-priced objects. Some rumor sites have suggested that the launch will some not at Macworld Expo but at a dedicated event later this year. Still others insist the new box will be announced tomorrow. The general feeling is that this is a done deal.

Apples ongoing feud with the news sites took a new turn last Tuesday when the company sued the Web site ThinkSecret for allegedly reporting trade secrets. ThinkSecrets disputed report also mentioned a FireWire breakout box for audio that connects musical instruments to Apples GarageBand application; updates to a musical track add-on for GarageBand; a new version of Apples presentation software, Keynote; iLife 05, which includes updates to most elements of Apples "digital lifestyle" suite; new features for Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger); and a new productivity suite called iWork. The latter may or may not be bundled with the new and inexpensive Mac, which also may or may not appear.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Apples suit against ThinkSecret.

And then there is the rumor from some sources that Apple itself is behind many, if not all, of these leaks. After all, the flap with ThinkSecret has fueled widespread press coverage of Macworld Expo and the products that may be revealed there. But such is the nature of Apple-centric Kremlinology.

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