Extrapolation vs Speculation

It seems like a good half of what I read in the Apple related press contains, what they’d call on an earnings call, forward looking statements. It is quite remarkable how each and every day one of the news sites finds some tidbit or rumor to write about. I suppose it is to be expected since their page-view driven business model demands a constant stream of visitors. Apple typically only has maybe 10 announcement days each year and so the remaining 355 days have to be filled with something.

Recently, however, I’ve started to draw a distinction between two distinct kinds of forward looking statements. There are those that are extrapolations and then there is idle speculation. I’ve started skipping over the later entirely and only reading things akin to the former.

I consider extrapolations to be those things that we might surmise based on a careful examination of Apple’s past actions. They are formed by tracing a line between past actions and then using those to predict what might come next. To make reasonable extrapolations you need to be well immersed in Apple’s history and concede that you may not be able to write bold, page-view grabbing headlines. This is more the work of a skilled tracker stalking in the wild. Picking up on all the little clues Apple leaves as it moves and combining them to predict their next move.

Speculation on the other hand is more the work of waving your hands and making wild guesses. It is easy to burn through dozens of articles essentially fabricating ideas and then running with them. Finding some random part in Vietnam and then building a whole story around it. I just don’t find this type of ‘news’ interesting anymore. It is useful for my business as an app developer to have some sense of what might be coming, but in order for that to be of any use the information needs to have some basis in reality.

A few examples of things that I would consider extrapolation at this point would include:

  • Apple will likely announce iOS 6 at WWDC. It will include a variety of new features and be given to developers as a beta.
  • Apple will likely announce the next generation of iPhone this September (likely named the new iPhone) which will be a more visual departure from the current model. This will launch with iOS 6.
  • Apple will likely announce the availability and release candidate builds of Mountain Lion at WWDC. This will include mostly what we have seen before but potentially include any new features that correspond with iOS 6 announcements.
  • Apple will likely announce evolutionary improvements to their iPod line-up this September.
  • Apple will likely announce their next generations of laptop/desktop computers sometime this summer. These will be based on the latest Intel architecture (Ivy Bridge). At some point these will include a Retina like display but the timing of that is entirely unknown.
  • Apple will likely announce their next version of the iPad next spring.

These are conclusions drawn from looking at recent history and then looking for patterns or clues in the evidence. They may not all be 100% accurate but if they aren’t it will be because they signal a break in pattern rather than a unreliable source or faulty imagination. When in doubt assume that Apple will do exactly what it did last year.

David Smith