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Rumor Roundup, Episode 8: Post WWDC edition

Now that the WWDC keynote has taken place, let's look back at the past couple months of wild-eyed speculation surrounding what Apple was supposed to have announced at the event. We know already what new stuff Apple actually announced at WWDC... or launched the same day without fanfare.

Hardware

  • Spec bumps on the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro
  • A new 15-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina Display
  • A new AirPort Express
  • A new Smart Case for the iPad
  • Thunderbolt adapters for both Firewire 800 and Ethernet
  • A new MagSafe adapter
  • An extremely minor refresh of the Mac Pro, not mentioned in the keynote (and lambasted by Apple legend Andy Hertzfeld)

Software

  • Dictation support in Mountain Lion
  • US$19.99 price and July launch for Mountain Lion
  • Expanded language and nation support for Siri in iOS 6
  • Siri on the new iPad
  • New Maps application in iOS 6
  • Facebook integration in iOS 6

There were many more things hauled out before the keynote crowd at WWDC and onto the Apple Store, but those were arguably the biggest new things announced. Let's see what the various rumor sites got right.

MacRumors and its sources made the following correct predictions:

  • 17-inch MacBook Pro discontinued
  • Unreleased MacBook Pros showing up in benchmarks
  • Leaked 13" MacBook Pro specs suggest only minor changes
  • iOS 6 drops support for iPad and third-gen iPod touch

AppleInsider's sources got a total of two things right -- oddly enough, both sources are infamous for being wrong much of the time.

  • Gene Munster expected a Mac refresh in June
  • DigiTimes finally got one right when it predicted the same thing

BGR managed to get exactly one of its "breaking exclusives" correct when it showed leaked photos and mockups of the new Maps app for iOS 6. Meanwhile, MG Siegler correctly reported wide-ranging Facebook integration in iOS 6.

9to5 Mac's wait-and-see approach gained it the highest number of accurate rumors by far; several accurate rumors came out within the past week, and most of them within the past couple of days. The site's only long-term rumor that eventually paid off was the 15" Retina Display MacBook Pro; advance detail about a full refresh of the Mac line didn't pan out.

  • Correctly predicted 15" Retina Display MacBook Pro with impressive accuracy
  • Siri for iPad 3 in iOS 6
  • Do Not Disturb, Safari iCloud Tabs, and Mail VIPs in iOS 6
  • Evidence for Facebook integration in iOS 6
  • iPad Smart Case
  • MacBook Pro Retina Display hardware specs
  • MacBook Air hardware specs

Now let's take a look at the list of things people got wrong.

First, a few rumors that were sort of right in the end:

AppleInsider cited an analyst predicting the demise of the 17-inch MacBook Pro. Unfortunately for the site's already shaky accuracy, that same analyst predicted a 13-inch Retina Display MacBook would launch. Another of AppleInsider's favorite analysts was one for three on his predictions; Apple did indeed launch its own Maps app, but analyst predictions of upgraded Camera and Photos apps failed to pay off.

The Wall Street Journal, like many other sources, expected far more extensive Mac updates than actually took place today. Notably, its sources claimed new iMacs were launching at WWDC. That didn't happen.

9to5 Mac expected Mac Pro updates alongside spec-bumped MacBook Pros, a new AirPort Express, and a new USB SuperDrive. All of that happened, but the Mac Pro received an extremely modest refresh; when it posted the Mac Pro new part numbers (which were spot-on) 9to5 speculated that the new Mac Pro would be "an incredible update over the nearly two-year-old model." Wishful thinking, and we're not immune either, but that's not how the cookie crumbled. The site also predicted redesigns for the iTunes Store and App Store on iOS, but its predictions of a redesigned iBookstore did not pan out.

Now it's time for the lengthy list of rumors that were just flat-out wrong.

BGR

  • Redesigned Liquidmetal iPhone debuts at WWDC
  • Foxconn taking orders for Apple TV
  • Apple to demo new TV OS at WWDC
  • Apple "iTV" intro set for WWDC
  • Apple to introduce TV SDK at WWDC

No one in their right mind expected new iPhones at WWDC this year, and not one of BGR's claims about the Apple HDTV came remotely close to coming true.

AppleInsider

  • AppleCare training points to June Mountain Lion Launch
  • Apple plans to launch $799 MacBook Air
  • Apple manufacturing first batch of HDTVs
  • Apple to unveil entirely new MacBook series at WWDC
  • Apple to refresh most of its Mac lineup at WWDC

AppleInsider's habit of citing analysts and DigiTimes as legitimate sources didn't do the site's credibility any favors. All of these analysts' predictions were wildly off the mark; DigiTimes was, as usual, laughably wrong.

9to5 Mac

  • Apple to update almost all of its Mac lineup at WWDC
  • Apple to finally revamp Mac Pro (was a speed bump)
  • Unlikely new MacBook Pro specs label surfaces (entirely faked)

9to5 was fairly well convinced that all, or nearly all, of the Mac lineup would be refreshed at WWDC; the potential Mac mini refresh and the iMac worked their way out of the coverage over the course of the week before the conference. The site also echoed claims of a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina Display.

Verdict

Over the past couple of months, a massive influx of rumors surrounding supposed software and hardware updates at WWDC swirled through the echo chambers of the Apple rumor sites. However, with vanishingly few exceptions, only the tiniest percentage of rumors that came out more than a week before WWDC turned out to be true.

BGR had the worst record by a wide margin, with only a single accurately-sourced story relating to WWDC. None of its predictions about the Apple HDTV came true; keep that in mind the next time the site writes about the product.

AppleInsider's over-reliance on industry analysts (which the site now daftly calls "insiders") and its insistence on continuing to take DigiTimes seriously renders the site's track record as poor at best.

MacRumors, to its credit, has stopped citing DigiTimes as far as I can tell. The site still sources from most of the same analysts as everyone else, however, making its overall track record only marginally better than the already low average.

9to5 Mac does appear to have well-placed sources feeding it information on iOS features and hardware specs. The high accuracy of the rumors 9to5 Mac does get right strongly suggests its sources work within Apple. If Tim Cook follows through on his promise to "double down" on secrecy, that may create some challenges.

The lessons from the past couple months of rumors are obvious.

  • The farther out from the event, the less likely the rumor is to be true.
  • Analysts have no idea what they're talking about when it comes to Apple, and they are not worth sourcing for stories. That goes double for publications like DigiTimes and "sources in the Asian supply chain."
  • The closer we get to an Apple event, the higher the number of rumors overall, and the higher the chances some of them will be true.
  • The most accurate leaks are likely coming from within Apple itself.
  • The Apple HDTV does not exist. Give up the hunt, Ahab.

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