I opened up Google Reader this morning and found major rumors from our favorite corporate rivals Apple and Microsoft. For Apple it is the oft cited iTablet. For Microsoft, it's a supposed iPod Touch clone. I try not to give too much credence to rumors (as I wrote in It's Time we Learned to Dismiss Apple Rumors), especially when one of them involves the Zune, which is hardly a rival to the iPod at all (as I wrote in Zune and iPod : A Tale of Two MP3 Players), but the juxtaposition was just too hard to ignore, so let's take a closer look and see what we've got.
The iTablet Rumors Won't Go Away
This rumor has been circulating for the better part of a year it seems. Think of the iPhone or iPod Touch with a larger screen. It could be Apple's answer to the Kindle, and because it's a full fledged OS, if it came to pass and the price were right--two things that are not clear as of now--it could blow the Kindle out of the water. Usability expert Jakob Nielsen gushed about the Kindle when it came to books, but for anything else he gave it low grades. It just doesn't fly right now as a portable internet device and an iPod tablet computer would certainly fill that void.
Adding fuel to the fire of speculation, the Wall Street Journal weighed in the other day in a story called Jobs Maintains Grip at Apple, suggesting that while Jobs may be on sick leave, he is driving the development of this new tablet. Of course, there are no named sources, just "people privy the company's strategy." That's not very definitive, but it didn't stop the rumor machine from going full bore. If people privy to the company's strategy (a nice turn of phrase you have to admit) are saying Jobs is working on it, it must be true right?
The Touchable Zune
As Microsoft's latest series of ads suggest, the Redmond behemoth cannot seem to get over its clear case of Apple envy. So when a marketing graphic leaked of a possible touch MP3 player, of course the rumor blogs like Apple Insider (which I read religiously by the way) and Engadget had to go to press with it. A marketing graphic is hardly definitive proof of anything. It could be a bored graphic artist fooling around on his or her lunch hour, but it's enough to get us talking and here we are.
Of course, what's completely laughable about this is the fact that nobody would buy such a player anyway. It could be a great little device if it ever came to pass, but why would you buy the poor step child when you can buy the real deal. If Microsoft were really smart about this, they would simply get out of the MP3 hardware business. They are never going to catch Apple. In fact, they will never even put a scratch in its dominant market share. Their resources would be better spent on more viable projects.
Apple and Microsoft, two companies that just can't seem to get out of each other's way, even when it comes to dueling rumors.