In these difficult times, there are many troubling questions that need to be answered: Just how many Late Show crew members has David Letterman nailed? Is Jennifer Aniston's latest boyfriend really Mr. Right? Exactly what is the point of Heidi and Spencer from The Hills? And will Apple ever confirm its much-talked-about new touchscreen mini-laptop thingie?
It is a measure of how much the world has changed in the past 10 or 15 years that it's becoming increasingly hard to distinguish media coverage of real celebrities from that of inanimate objects (and no, we're not still talking about Heidi and Spencer here). Apple's electronic gizmos are well-built gadgets, granted, but the company's product announcements now attract the kind of feeding frenzy most Hollywood studios and record labels can only dream of. But, while others may gaze enviously on, celebrity status comes at a price.
There are the bitter rivalries that turn into spiteful public feuds (such as with Windows PCs and the Palm Pre). The cruel gossip (rake-thin Apple CEO Steve Jobs was said to have been struggling with everything from cancer to anorexia before news of his recent liver transplant was made public). The faked photographs (and the straight forward fakes). The sad celebrity hangers on: everyone from Eminem to Paul McCartney has tried to leverage a little of the iPod magic, and two-bit celebrities are forever cuddling up to their iPhones in public.
And then there is the idle speculation, the one part of Apple's rampaging media profile it has done the most to cultivate, but which now seems the most likely to hurt it. When a company is so secretive about its new products that it takes things to such a paranoid, Howard Hughes-like level, the celebrity gossip machine responds by filling any gaps with hearsay and guesses from "sources" real or imagined. How else are we supposed to know what Willy Wonka is working on behind the Cupertino company's exquisitely designed but firmly closed doors?
Take the aforementioned much-rumored iPad/mini-MacBook/big-iPhone tablet device. There has been talk of an Apple touchscreen laptop-type computer for years now and, despite a near-total lack of any official word other than denial, the chatter just seems to grow louder. It is going to be a Kindle killer, it may save the newspaper industry, or it could even change the world; it will have a 7-inch, 9-inch, or 10-inch screen; prices will start at $500, $600, or $800; it will be on sale in November, or February, no it's definitely May or June; or maybe it will never be released at all. The only thing that seems sure is that the gadget, if it ever does arrive, is going to have an increasingly hard time measuring up to the inflated expectations of over-excited bloggers, commentators, and fanboys.
And so it is with all of Apple's products these days. As the conjecture increases, so consumers are becoming increasingly wary of upgrading. For example, why buy an iPhone now when you can wait to maybe buy one that works on the Verizon network? This, ironically, is one of the reasons Apple employs such a strict embargo on news of product launches in the first place, even though this approach is becoming counterproductive.
At least we won't have to wait long for the Apple PR department to turn things around. Early buzz is that iMarketing 2.0 is going to be amazing.