Making bold predictions regarding Rumor #3 is a game of inches

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Unless an amazing half-court shot goes in, I’m within a couple of days of air-balling on my “guessay” prediction that Apple will announce a larger format iPod Touch by May 1.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I’ve been making this prediction since 2006, so missing the date is nothing new to me. In fact, since September of 2006 when I listed the device as Rumor #3 on my list of perpetual Apple rumors, I’ve been writing a steady (some have said, “obsessive”) stream of posts about a device that would make Rumor #3 a reality.

So, yes, I’m amused whenever I see such a device described as “something new” but I hope it’s apparent that I enjoy each and every new wave of rumors that comes along predicting it. So here’s the latest:

Late yesterday, a story by Spencer Ante and Arik Hasseldahl appeared on BusinessWeek.com claiming that Apple is in talks with Verizon Wireless* about introducing two iPhone devices – a smaller version of the current iPhone and a larger “media pad.”

A “media pad”? A new term, but a familiar rumor.

According to BusinessWeek:

“The media pad is smaller than an Amazon Kindle electronic reader, but its touchscreen is bigger than the Kindle’s, says the person who has seen it…”The media pad category might go to Verizon,” said the person who has seen the device. “We are talking about a device where people will say, ‘Damn, why didn’t we do this?’ Apple is probably going to define the damn category.”

Good rumor-relaying BusinessWeek, but as a long-time monger of this rumor, I will make the following rumor analyguesses:

1. No way, no how, will Apple introduce a “media pad” that is exclusively a Verizon Wireless device, as in, the owner will have to go set up a monthly deal with Verizon. Did I say “no way”? Apple is the master and commander of “fan-boy marketing,” a strategy that depends on re-selling early adopters the next version of an existing device. The fan-boy nation has already moved to AT&T because of the iPhone, so Apple will not (despite those who believe Apple could do anything) cut itself off from the predictable early adopters. However, if you embed the Verizon connectivity in the device the way Amazon embeds Sprint EVDO in the Kindle (i.e., the user doesn’t need to change carriers), then such a barrier won’t exist.

2. While there may be talks with Verizon (and likely AT&T) about a “media pad,” such a device is not dependent upon connectivity to a cellular network. It’s a wifi device. Just like the iPod Touch is an iPhone without the phone, there is nothing about a Rumor #3 device that causes it to need phone coverage. Indeed, its size makes it a rather awkward phone device. I don’t know about you, but my iPhone goes in my pocket and the Kindle goes in my computer case/bag. I think a “media pad” would work the same way. In other words, I think there are two rumors swirling — the iPhone lite and the media pad — that are getting mashed up. That’s not to say, a “media pad” with cellular connectivity wouldn’t be a nice option — I have an AT&T cellular modem for my MacBook Air for convenience. Also, why wouldn’t Apple simply offer existing iPhone owners the ability to tether such a device to the iPhone for such connectivity? (Again, a rhetorical question.) That could certainly bring joy to the fan boy nation.

Bottomline: While I’m likely wrong on the date and we’re apparently going into overtime, I think the buzzer is about to end this game of Rumor #3 posts.

*Apple’s exclusive iPhone deal with AT&T ends next year — but there’s a debate among Apple analysts between those who believe it will be extended and those who believe Apple will strike deals with other carriers.

  • Jeff Carroll

    For the Kindle, EV-DO is just a delivery mechanism. You order a book, Amazon delivers it to you, only over-the-air instead of UPS. Amazon doesn’t mind eating the cost of bandwidth; they just pass it on to the customer.

    Apple could try to adopt a similar model, bundling connectivity with mobileMe, but they aren’t going to eat the cost of bandwidth for connectivity to the rest of the web, for which there’s no revenue stream. The outrageously overpriced mobileMe has long angered power users anyway.

    Even if they were to effectively set up their own virtual mobile network, they’d more likely go with Sprint than Verizon anyway, since Sprint has the lion’s share of the MVNO market.

  • Hudge