Consternation! Uproar! If you've been following the rumoric saga of the miniPod, you may be both intrigued and chagrined to hear that a site called PocketFactory now features this headline: "Mini iPods NOT Hard Drive Based." Yes, folks, PocketFactory has reliable word that the miniPods "will NOT feature built-in Toshiba hard drives, but will in fact be Flash memory-based." And from whence does this reliable word originate? Well, therein lies the story. Let's follow the trail, shall we?
PocketFactory cites an AudioRevolution article as its source, claiming that AudioRevolution heard the Flash RAM info from "an Apple Retailer." Of course, if you actually read the AudioRevolution article, it doesn't really say that at all; it states that "sources at an Apple retailer in Los Angeles tell AudioRevolution.com that the rumors of the new budget priced iPod are completely true." In other words, a retailer confirms that miniPods exist, but as far as we can tell, said retailer had nothing to do with AudioRevolution's statement in a separate paragraph that "the budget-priced iPods are expected to be Flash Memory based"-- for the origin of that assertion, check out the sources listed at the end of the article: "CBS MarketWatch, MacNN.com, AppleInsider.com."
Now, at the time this article was published we're pretty certain that AppleInsider hadn't said anything about miniPods being Flash-based; the first mention of Flash RAM in miniPods from AppleInsider appears to have arrived when the site quoted-- ready for this?-- the very AudioRevolution article that cited it as a source. (Wheeeee, circles are fun! Pass the Dramamine!) So since AudioRevolution didn't get its Flash info from AppleInsider, we took a poke around at MacNN and found this piece, which mentions miniPods but not Flash RAM. However, it does contain a link to a Reuters report at-- ta daaa!-- CBS MarketWatch, AudioRevolution's third listed source and presumably the origin of the Flash RAM information.
Well, CBS Marketwatch won't let you see the article anymore unless you sign up to be a member; it's free but a hassle, and why bother? Since the article's from Reuters, it's syndicated all over the 'net like a rash. Indeed, we already mentioned it back on Christmas Eve, and our link to it at CNN/Money still works. Guess what? It's the Reuters article in which analyst Rob "Guess Which Orifice I'm Speaking From" Enderle states his opinion that "odds are it's a flash-memory-based player, something to position Apple against the low-cost offerings from Creative and Rio." Notice the presence of the words "odds are." Notice, also, that these words are coming from a man who, we can only infer, lacks most higher brain functions (but looks fabulous in an expensive suit).
Once again, we really want to reiterate that we're not saying that the miniPod won't be Flash-based; personally, we don't think it will, mostly because Flash RAM is so freakin' expensive, but that's just our gut feeling. We just wanted to illustrate how a single analyst's prediction (and we all know how good Enderle's predictions are when it comes to Apple) can turn into a sound bite for a syndicated article which is then cited as cold, hard fact by third- and fourth-hand news reports. The Flash thing went from Enderle's mouth (or something) to Reuters to MacNN to AudioRevolution to PocketFactory, picking up a little more unwarranted credibility each step of the way-- and thus is born a "fact" from the apparently drug-addled ramblings of an analyst who also predicted that iTunes for Windows would flop and Apple would have to switch to Intel chips by the end of 2003.
Okay, granted, there's still a day or so left for that second prediction to come true, but we're not betting the mortgage on it...