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Apple's cubic Mac rumour resurfaces

Total flim-flam - or Apple's Net Appliance?

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Less than a week after Mac scuttlebutt site MacOS Rumors pulled a couple of stories about a new, cubic Mac enclosure, allegedly at the behest of Apple's legal department, rival rumour site AppleInsider has published a report that confirms - in part, at least - its rival's articles.

Come on, guys, this is getting silly...

The AppleInsider article even contains pics of the beast, based on "a couple of two dimensional sketches" from "an extremely small number of sources". That said, when we attempted to take a look at the site, we couldn't get the pics to load, so we'll have to take them on trust for now.

According to the AppleInsider report, the cube is a small, stackable 1ft x 1ft x 1ft unit capable of taking either a PowerPC 750 (G3) or PowerPC 7400 (G4) CPU. It has AGP 4x support but apparently lacks sound ports - possibly because Apple favours handling sound in and out through the machine's USB or FireWire ports - and PCI slots. Note that the original MacOS Rumors report suggested the cube might contain a third-party PCI enclosure.

The report also suggests that the cube isn't intended as the basis for Apple's multiprocessor Mac, codenamed Mystic. As the story puts it: "Apple Computer's Legal Department recently served AppleInsider.com with cease and desist orders demanding the site remove its sketches and information detailing Apple's forthcoming multiprocessor PowerMac G4s, codenamed Mystic, prior to word of the new cube-based machine."

AppleInsider is generally regarded as a better source of correct information than its rival, but both sites have got it wrong in the past, so it's possible that AppleInsider might have been taken in by the same prankster that hit MacOS Rumors. That seems unlikely given the furore generated by the latter site's claim that Apple forced it to pull the original cube stories - AppleInsider would surely be even more cautious about fresh cube rumours than it would otherwise be. Visit the site and judge for yourself.

So let's assume that AppleInsider (and presumably MacOS Rumors too) has had info, sparse thought it is, from reliable sources. The cube clearly doesn't fit in with Apple's simplified product strategy. The iMac and iBook fill the consumer desktop and notebook spaces; the Power Mac and the PowerBook do the same for the professional market.

AppleInsider speculates that there's a gap in the consumer arena for a machine that's less 'designy' than the iMac. We're not sure - the iMac has proved itself ably in this market, and there's always the Power Mac for buyers who want a solid desktop machine.

Instead, we recall comments made by a Wall Street analyst a couple of months ago that Apple has been considering an information appliance Net access device. Certainly the cube - as much as we know about it - fits the bill nicely. It's very compact. It lacks unnecessary expansion, but supports high-spec 3D graphics, seen as a pre-requisite for such systems. Unlike the iMac, it needs an external display device, suggesting it will be hooked up to a TV.

We've no basis for this speculation beyond what may (or may not) have been leaked to AppleInsider and MacOS Rumors, but the Net appliance claim and the cube rumours do seem to be pointing in the same direction.

And if nothing else, the rumours will certainly boost Mac users' enthusiasm to hear what Apple CEO Steve Jobs has to say next week during his MacWorld Expo keynote.

Hey, perhaps Jobs' own spin doctors arranged the leaks for just that reason... ®

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AppleInsider's cube story

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