Pulling the story of Apple's new laptop out of thin 'Air'

Bloggers, rumor-mongers and Web sleuths pieced together the story before Macworld

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Later that same day, it was revealed that Macrumors had registered the domain name macbookair.com on Jan. 11, when they had made the correlation between the tips and the sign. This may well have pushed Apple to scoop up the rest of the macbookair domains. That move alone basically sealed the deal on the name of the laptop for many folks watching the story unfold on message boards and blogs.

The icing on the cake came when Wired Gadget Lab, 12 hours or so before Jobs' speech was to begin at 9 a.m. PST. Gadget Lab posted some mock-ups of the device that were mostly accurate. Although they didn't include specs, the renderings showed 2 USB slots exactly where they would be shown on the real thing the next day -- although one USB slot was actually a similar looking micro DVIport. Clearly, someone had seen the device.

This corroborated the many rumors from around the Web over the past year about Apple's development efforts for this product.

At the Jan. 15 Macworld launch, as excited Mac fans crowded into the hall for the Jobsnote, anyone in the Macintosh community who had been paying attention knew that the poster slogan "2008: Something's in the Air" meant MacBook Air. Even the musical guest, Randy Newman, and Sinbad had heard the news that a thin laptop was coming. And so it did.

Remember the sturm und drang that erupted after Think Secret revealed the coming of the Mac Mini, prompting Apple to take legal action to silence Think Secret? Is Apple off its game on keeping secrets now? Why was this year's secret leak different?

In a word: teamwork.

"It's the first time that some of the insider news publications made a concerted effort to share tips amongst one another in order to weed through the mounds of falsified information that historically precedes an Apple announcement. And I think it worked out for the greater good of the Mac community as a whole," said Kasper Jade, publisher of AppleInsider.com.

It seems the Macintosh rumor community is just getting better at learning how to piece things together collectively. While mistakes are still made, it shows how a lot of people online, acting like they're part of CSI, can put together lots of little clues to come up with the big picture.

Although most people think the pre-Macworld rumor-mongering adds to the hype and generates tons of free marketing for Apple, some miss being in the dark about what's coming next from Apple. Gizmodo's admittedly hypocritical editor Brian Lam, noted that he was sad that he knew what iPods were going to be released before that announcement last September. That, however, didn't stop the site from accurately posting some of the iPod rumors that came true when the new music devices were unveiled.

It is hard not to get caught up in the fun.

That being said, have you heard the one about the next-gen Macbook Pros? The ones with Penryn updates and styling enhancements that take cues from the Macbook Air -- including a bigger multitouch trackpad? Time to put the investigator's hat back on.

Seth Weintraub is a global IT management consultant specializing in the technology needs of creative organizations, including The Paris Times, Omnicom and WPP Group. He has set up and managed cross-platform networks on four continents and is an expert in Active Directory/Open Directory PC and Macintosh integration.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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