Did Apple just confirm an iPod rumor?

Apple's legal department moves against sites that posted pictures depicting an iPod prototype. Does this mean the next iPod Nano will be fat?

Published August 23, 2007 4:49PM (EDT)

Yesterday the Apple rumor site 9to5mac posted a curious set of images of a device it claimed was the new iPod Nano. The pictures showed a more stout Nano than the present one -- outfitted with a wide screen on the top half, it looks a bit ... well, like the iPod that maybe gets a lot of compliments about how it has a great personality. Not such a looker, at least to go by a few spy shots, and you wished this was one of those numerous Apple rumors that remain that way.

But after Gizmodo picked up the news, Apple made a strange move -- its legal department asked both Gizmodo and 9to5mac to pull down the pictures, citing a violation of the company's intellectual property. Well then: "This pretty much confirms they belong to Apple, whether they are final or a prototype," Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz pointed out. Both sites complied, with Gizmodo putting up a pretty identical-looking Photoshop mock-up of the spy shots.

Apple's move is puzzling; though it has shown a taste for legal action against rumor sites, it has not recently moved in such a way to confirm rumors. When mock-ups of the iMac keyboard leaked a few months ago, the company didn't send out its legal department -- and when CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the computer, he even chuckled that "you may have seen pictures" of the keyboard on the Web.

My gut says this is a fake out: The pictures really are Apple's, but they don't represent the final design -- but Apple wants us to think so. Is that too wily? Hey, maybe it is. I wouldn't put any money on my guess. But Apple's nimble at managing expectations, and perhaps, when the pictures leaked, it saw an opportunity to play a little cat-and-mouse with those who would seek to unseal its secrets.

On the other hand, maybe the company is just a little miffed that people are calling its new toy ugly.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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