Rumours, leaks and launches: why do we do it?

Rumours, leaks and launches: why do we do it?With Apple finally having come clean on the official launch of the iPad 2 next week, we're finally reaching the home stretch ahead of the grand unveiling.

To the everyday consumer only interested in the purchasing and using of the latest tech, it's quite likely the first time they will have any serious engagement with the concept of the iPad 2. But for anyone who follows the mobile industry closely, the iPad 2 is already an old friend, pawed and pored over in a hundred ways over and over. It begs the question: just why do we do it?

It's become standard practice ahead of a new product's unveiling to speculate on what it's got under the bonnet. A large part of it is the media's fault. Being the website, blog or even private individual to break a crucial piece of news carries its own prestige, as does showing your industry clout by nabbing a hitherto unvoiced comment from a company insider, or the dreaded “source familiar with the matter”.

But it's a simple rule that we wouldn't be doing it if nobody was reading the stories. Why do so many Apple rumours do the rounds? The answer, and the only answer, is because people like reading about Apple rumours. Or, as a former news editor of mine put it, “if it's about Apple, you write it”.

Doesn't matter what. You could write a story entitled “No new Apple rumours today” and chances are it would get more traffic than 80% of everything else you do that day.

It's spawned a whole industry of amateur pundits, while leakomania has taken such hold that we're pretty sure all the leading mobile manufacturers have an early-days 1MP digital camera in a drawer somewhere that gets pulled out and used to snap every new handset a couple of months ahead of release, with the resultant shots then farmed out anonymously to some enthusiast blogger chosen at random.

So why is it so important that we know about all the rumours? Bearing in mind that if the aforementioned everyday consumer reads a few decent reports once the iPad 2 is announced next Wednesday he'll know just as much about the real deal as the enthusiast who's been poring over every snippet of a rumour for months on end.

Is it boredom, or perhaps obsession – as some people have suggested in relation to Apple rumours? Are we so besotted with Apple the brand that we'll ooh and ah over even the tiniest, most irrelevant of details relating to any of its products?

Or maybe it's a genuine passion for the technical and the direction that the greater mobile industry is taking. For a good few people this is no doubt true. Whether Samsung goes with SuperLCD or AMOLED means something in the greater scheme of things, and iOS choosing not to implement those new multitouch gestures in iOS 4.3 impacts on the industry down the line.

But for most of us, I fear, it's simply the thrill of the chase. We know the iPad 2 will launch sooner or later, but having that new snippet of info someone else doesn't, and slowly piecing together its vital statistics, imagining you're doing so just a couple of short steps behind Apple itself, comes with its own rewards.

In the end the actual product almost doesn't matter, though that's not to say we won't put our consumer cap on and fork over our hard-earned cash in our thousands for Apple's new toy. But the thrill will be over, the chase finished. And our attention will already be on the iPhone 5 that'll be appearing just a couple of months down the road.

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JanSt / MOD  Feb. 25, 2011 at 07:37

you missed a point: the 'alternative' media - ie the internet is to a large degree engaged in rumouring about the future. It's not just the tech sector. Read alternative news and you think they are all hosted by Nostradamus ISP - specultions. sources close to sources' unnamed cats...the new Iraq, another 9/11, the white iPad3...
It is easier to plausibly speculate about a possible future than to actually 'know', than to actually analyse what was. Plus: much of the mainstream established media may be crap at doing that web thing, but they have often better sources, better connections. Be it a political aide or that HTC PR dude. Guess who gets the free review handset first: one of the bloggers who know what they're talking about or the assigned Daily Mail tech 'blogger' on duty?
So, have you heard about the Nokia E10?


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