John Gruber the fortune teller

Most of the media is expecting an iPhone hardware refresh to be announced at this year’s WWDC, coming up on June 8. Apple has not yet announced new iPhone hardware, but they have released a new iPhone in the summer for the last two years, and they typically stick to hardware release schedules. Additionally, the rumor mill tends to pick up enough speed on some things that they become almost certain. This week, John Gruber posted about the upcoming iPhone refresh, and I think there are a few points worth making about what he said.

Apple has been known for keeping good secrets, but in the last few years things have been leaked more often. If this is due to the higher profile they have these days, less effort to keep things under wraps, or simply intentional leaks for marketing is unknown. John Gruber has been one of the better sources for correct “predictions.” Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog started with a primary purpose of Apple coverage in late 2002. He often offers links and even commentary on other things, but his primary focus still seems to be Apple. He has almost always written competent commentary about Apple, and his predictions have generally been good. However for the last year or so, things have been a little different. He has many more specifics in his articles, and some predictions have been dead on.

Let’s take a brief look at his scorecard. I’ll start with WWDC last year. One of the major bits of news was Snow Leopard. Prior to the event rumors started that a new OS version was coming, and wouldn’t be a huge jump. Gruber came out 4 days prior to the keynote and wrote that in spite of initial skepticism, he thought the report from TUAW he cited was correct. It turned out to be true. This was more of a confirmation of an existing rumor than issuing raw information, but Gruber nailed something that seemed a little off. Additionally, his MobileMe prediction was spot on. The name was probably the biggest question (there were reports of “MobileMe,” but a lot of people found that to be very un-Apple), but he also predicted that the service would allow over the air syncing like the new Exchange support.

Next up is the October MacBook announcement. This was the first time it became apparent Gruber now has an inside connection at Apple. After the “Let’s Rock” iPod event (where some people were wrongly calling for new Macs) Gruber slid in a comment in his follow up on the event that people “holding out for a new lineup of MacBooks will have to wait until October 14, according to sources who, as they say, are familiar with Apple’s hardware plans.” It wasn’t the focus of the article, it seemed almost like an off-hand comment. But a few sources picked up on it, and it was one of the first leaks about that October 14 event.

Prior to the October 14 MacBook event Gruber pointed out a number of false rumors. One example is this comment from his “Linked List” that there would be no updates to iLife or iWork at the event. He summed up some of the bad rumors in his Claim Chowder article.

The last real big event from Apple was MacWorld 2009. Rumors of a tablet or netbook from Apple have been rampant for a couple of years now. The less reliable rumor mongers and even mainstream media and market fortune tellers keep promising it. Gruber has consistently said these rumors were wrong. One such post was this one published prior to MacWorld 2009.

He did miss quite a few predictions about this recent MacWorld. He published a full list, which he then scored after the event. Gruber probably came out close to 50/50. The MacWorld keynote, however, was pretty much a shocker. Apple has treated the MacWorld keynote as their biggest consumer announcement platform since Steve Jobs return. And one point to remember is that many of his predictions that weren’t true at MacWorld, have turned up in the first few months of the year.

Finally, and probably the reason I felt this article needed to be written, was his very odd prediction about the new shuffle. In fact, it was not even a prediction, it was a request. There had been little to no media speculation about an iPod Shuffle with voice over, but on February 28, Gruber called it. Within 2 weeks the product was announced. My guess is that his source (or sources) told him not to issue this as a prediction.

The point is that John Gruber’s Apple predictions are worth listening to. He has been following Apple as a fan and journalist for years. He draws intelligent, realistic conclusions, and recently seems to have gained a bit more divining power from an inside source. The fact that he doesn’t brag about having a great source like so many Mac rumor publishers do indicates that he might have a good one. One high up not worth losing.

Photo from Beale / Laughing Squid

I am a software developer, photographer, musician, and new father. I plan to write some useful real life tips and tricks, along with commentary on Apple.