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LowEndMac: The Great Asteroid Hoax?

The problem with conspiracy theories – even ones intended as jokes – is that people often believe them. After all, according to a marvellous book that I’m just reading, something like 50% of the population of the US believe that the government is keeping secret the existence of aliens (extra-terrestrial, not illegal).

So when I read LowEndMac’s piece on “the great Asteroid hoax”, I didn’t know quite how to take it. On the one hand, it could simply be parody. On the other hand, it doesn’t read as being particularly funny. And on the third hand (damn, now I’ve revealed that I’m the alien) I’ve heard the same thing repeated before on message boards.

As someone who loves debunking, I thought it might be worth taking a more detailed look at this one, before the idea gets too much of a grip on the minds of what Bynk calls “the MacMacs”. LEM’s argument is simple: Apple has not released Asteroid, therefore Asteroid was not a viable product, therefore it was all a ruse to entrap the rumour sites and get them into court. As the author puts it:

“I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but the scenario of Apple using Trade Secret law, a dummy project, and its own mole to take out the rumor sites is every bit as feasible as Asteroid being important enough for Apple to sue over the leaks yet unimportant enough that the product never see the light of day.”

It’s actually fairly tricky to know where to start with this one. First of all, Asteroid was certainly a real project to the product team working on it. The documentation on the project is all there, and was shown to the trial judge. If Apple were found to have been attempting to pervert the course of justice by creating a project simply for the purposes of entrapment, it would be in SERIOUS trouble legally – and all it would take would be one disgruntled whistleblower to make that happen.

Even leaving this aside, the argument LEM puts forward makes no sense. Take this section:

“If this was an important project, you’d think Apple would have gone ahead with it even after the ”trade secret“ of its existence was made known. You’d think they would have rushed to market to take advantage of the buzz. If Asteroid were a viable product, you’d think Apple would at the very least want to get it out the door before a competitor – now fully aware for Apple’s planned GarageBand breakout box – would beat them to the punch.”

Rushing a product to market to “take advantage of the buzz”? For products that need to be manufactured, you can’t do this: You can’t simply call up your suppliers and say “Oh, by the way, we’d like to rush the product to market because someone’s put some stuff on a web site, so could you deliver our component orders to the factory tomorrow please?” Your suppliers, who also supply every other company around, won’t be able to do it.

Next, up, there’s that “before a competitor” bit. If the author had actually read the trial judge’s comments, instead of relying on third-hand reports (it’s public, man – read it!) he’d know that there were already competing products out there. Apple gave the trial judge an “in camera” look at its product documentation, which detailed existing competitive products. In fact, this was a key part of the case: Asteroid contained no new technology, which is one of the reasons why this “trade secret” was nothing of the sort.

“After all, Apple wouldn’t have to make any attempt to determine the identity of the leaker if it were a plant. All they’d have to do is prove that Apple Insider, PowerPage, and the rest had received their information from this individual – and that’s why they needed to subpoena email records.”

Apple would need to state that this was the reason it required the subpoena, or it would be obtaining a subpoena under false pretences. Not only would Apple would be opening itself up to the kind of law suit that would cost it many, many millions of dollars, but it’s lawyers would be disbarred and its executives would be liable of a slew of Enron-esque suits.

How can anyone publish this stuff without the slightest knowledge of how the law works, or how companies work, or how product development works? I don’t care if this is parody: some idiots are going to believe it, and that makes it stupid to publish this kind of bull.

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  • http://husk.org/blog/ Paul Mison

    “Anne Onymus” stories on Low End Mac are always parodies. I mean, just look at that index page and header graphic.

    “I don’t care if this is parody: some idiots are going to believe it.” I’d hate to live in your world, where Spitting Image and Private Eye don’t exist. Or perhaps they do, but come in big brown paper bags with SOME CONTENTS MAY BE PARODY on them? I suppose that’s a tiny bit better. On the third hand, maybe you’re just admitting you’re an idiot. (Not only aliens have gripping hands, you know.)

    Please insert any appropriate smileys and disambiguation ASCII here.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Paul, if it’s parody, it’s pretty poor parody. The Onion does parody: this is just a news story where, when people take it seriously, they’ll go “ha ha it’s a joke d00dz!” at the end. There’s a difference.