Apple cut through all the hype and speculation about its tablet computer device this week when CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the long-and-eagerly-awaited iPad. Here are six of the silliest rumors that swirled in the months and weeks leading up to Apple's announcement.
Rumor No. 1: Transparent solar panels will help the iPad stay juiced
With an impressive 10 hours of battery life announced for the iPad — enough to watch movies during the entirety of a trans-Pacific flight, Jobs commented — Apple had little interest in tricking out its new product with eco-friendly solar panels. However silly that might sound, it's not that Apple isn’t interested in such greenness for its media players down the road. The Patently Apple blog pointed out just days ago that the Cupertino, Calif. company has filed patents for "transparent solar panels" that could power future devices. Since a transparent solar cell kind of defeats the purpose of harvesting as much sunlight as possible (that's why solar cells are black), the far more likely and physics-friendly scenario would be making the device casing itself transparent, with solar cells safely tucked underneath.
Rumor No. 2: The iPad will be available in multiple screen sizes, including 10, 13 and 15 inches
The true diagonal length of 9.7 inches rendered moot the myriad reports that Apple had opted for a 10.1-inch screen for its iPad. Early iPad gossip from late summer 2009, however, courtesy of Gizmodo suggested that Apple might release three differently sized iPads, perhaps even with different operating systems pegged to tablet size. This malarkey soon faded, and for good reason, as such a product line would be a pain from an engineering and manufacturing perspective and could confuse the customer.
"Something that Apple is really good at, especially when introducing new products or entering new product categories, is reducing clutter and making it simple for customers, and you can't make it any simpler than having only one to choose from," said Charles Golvin, an analyst with the tech analysis firm Forrester.
Plus, with just one-sized iPad, Apple "can put all their marketing muscle behind one product," Golvin said. In an attempt to better meet client demands — and perhaps rake in a little extra cash — Apple does offer three memory options (16, 32, and 64 gigabytes) and either Wi-Fi or WiFi + 3G for the iPad. Accessories, such as a camera connection kit and a stand, are now on display at Apple's Web site. Overall, with the iPad, Apple appears to have kept things easy for their customers as usual, Golvin said.
Rumor No. 3: A built-in camera will recognize users by their faces
This rumor went out the window real quick when it was revealed the iPad will not have a built-in camera at all. Such a feature, the rumor went, would let families share the gadget because it could discern individual members of a household and be customized to their wants and needs. The Wall Street Journal originally got this hooey going in a Jan. 22 story. Though the article's authors buried the facial-recognition whopper way down and noted that this feature may not be available when the iPad launches, the buzz could not be ignored. While the technology for facial recognition is available, said Golvin, this level of complexity was probably rather low on the priority list for iPad designers. Accordingly, this cutting-edge user identification and even perhaps login method proved too great a leap — for the first-generation iPad, at least.
Rumor No. 4: A new user interface with 3-D graphics
Rather than touching icons in the flat, two-dimensional interface found on the iPhone and iPod touch — similar to the typical point-and-click computer desktops we're used to — hearsay had it that Apple would unveil a new 3-D graphical interface for the iPad. The genesis of this scuttlebutt might well be comments posted by former Google China president Kai-Fu Lee on a Chinese blog and later picked up in a December 2009 PCWorld article. Apparently, Lee, who worked for Apple a decade ago, claimed insider info about the iPad from a knowledgeable friend. The rumor really got legs due to some sleuthing by Baltimore Sun tech blogger Gus Sentementes who uncovered recently filed patents linked to Apple that detail a "touch screen device, method and graphical user interface for manipulating three-dimensional virtual objects."
However, rolling out a new, perhaps bewildering-at-first user interface for the iPad was a long shot, Golvin said. With the iPad that Apple revealed Jan. 27, the company was leveraging the great touch-screen innovation it had already developed for iPhone and iPod touch. "[Steve Jobs] made an excellent point when he said we have 75 million customers out there who know how to use" the iPad device, Golvin told TechDailyNews. Clearly, that's a good customer base to build on. Notably, the new iBooks feature for the iPad does have a 3-D virtual bookshelf that displays a user's library. It's likely that Apple will graphically design other such "eye candy," Golvin said.
Rumor No. 5: A new operating system for the iPad is called Clouded Leopard
Apple has a well-known practice of nicknaming versions of its Mac OS X after big cats, such as cheetah, puma, jaguar, panther, tiger, leopard and snow leopard. (Perhaps wisely, given other definitions, Apple has not gone with "cougar" yet, or ever.) Many technophiles read whatever tea leaves they could to portend what operating system the 'tweener' iPad may use, whether from the bigger Mac or from the smaller iPhone (the latter, as it turns out). Despite what people heard on the grapevine, Apple did not create its latest feline-monikered OS for the iPad, so "clouded leopard" it is not.
All roads lead to the source of this specious bit of drivel being an article on phoneArena.com claiming to have received "internal Apple documents" from an "anonymous tipster." The blogosphere roundly rejected the documents as fakes, but entertaining ones at that, complete with a watermark and likely fabricated by a geek to titillate other geeks until the real iPad specs came out. Among other details in the leaked memo: That the tablet would be called the iSlate and have an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.26 GHz processor (wrong on both counts). For the record, the clouded leopard is a real animal and might indeed be an attractive option for Apple at some point as so-called cloud computing really takes off.
Rumor No. 6: The iPad will cost $1,000
Most prognostications swirling in the rumor mill regarding the iPad's price placed it under a grand. But the Wall Street Journal, citing sources "briefed by the company," said in early January that the iPad would retail for $1,000 and be available in March (the second half of this statement is true). Intriguingly, Apple did not announce the actual price of the iPad until 80 minutes into the approximately 95-minute-long event Jan. 27. And when Jobs, amidst anxious whispers about what the price would turn out to be, flashed the $499 price on the big screen, pretty much everyone live-blogging and Twittering from the event was floored. Might this have been an example of an intentional leak from Apple to set cost expectations high and then summarily slash the figure in half? We may never know. Regardless, the prospect of Apple asking for four figures for what some are deriding as little more than a $99 iPhone or $199 iPod touch on steroids doesn't seem too market-savvy. As is, the base model iPad will sell for $499 with 16 GB and basic Wi-Fi, while the Cadillac iPad model will sell for $829 with 64 GB and 3G mobile coverage.