When it comes to writing about Apple, deciding what you should and should not cover can be tricky.
You can take the machine gun approach: Anything said, written, rumored, or signaled via smoke should be dutifully blogged with a hint of snark and just enough insight to make readers think, "Heeeeeeey, that fella must know the inside dope." This, unfortunately, is what most of the tech press (mea culpa: sometimes including CNET) following Apple does these days. If you don't give readers their Apple fix, the other guys will.
Then there's the high-end approach: you have occasional access to Steve Jobs, so you have an outside chance of knowing what's complete BS--or hope you know. You only jump into the pool when you've got something no one else does. Patron saint of all things Appleness, Walt Mossberg at The Wall Street Journal, is probably the best on the high end.
I mention this because Tom Krazit, my colleague here at CNET News.com and the author of the One More Thing blog, had to make a tough call this morning: Does he dutifully blog that Dow Jones is reporting Hon Hai Precision Industry "would be producing next-generation iPhones for Apple and is the exclusive contract manufacturer for the new phones?" Or should he take a step back, try to make some phone calls on this (not easy, since the company is in Taiwan where it was the middle of the night) and try to find out if this story, based on a single, anonymous source, is true?
Mind you, we often see reports like this come out of Taiwan and other Asian manufacturing centers, so our first thoughts were of the "here we go again" kind. But Hon Hai is already manufacturing the iPhone, so working on a next-generation iPhone (3G?) would make sense for them. But did we know one way or another? Nope.
Tom took the conservative route. Instead of fanning the rumor flames, and acknowledging how obvious a choice Hon Hai would be, he chose to pass and focus more pressing priorities such as the CTIA show in Las Vegas next week and Opening Day. Of course, getting up at 5 a.m. to cover Apple's Aperture news probably helped him with his decision.
Did he make the right call? I honestly have no idea. The old-school journalist in me says you steer clear of stuff you can't confirm and sets off warning bells (rightly or wrongly) in your gut. But the online editor in me who competes with a gazillion gadget blogs says, "Aiiiiieeeeeee!!!! We must have something on this! It has like a dozen links on Techmeme and growing! We MUST be in the river!"
But given the sheer volume of Apple speculation today, you have to give Tom credit for standing pat. In addition to the Dow Jones report, we had a Gartner analyst's prediction of iPhone shipment levels (OK, so that was Wednesday), meticulously rolled back by said analyst's boss, and more speculation by another analyst (but he's a Wall Street guy, so he must be wicked smart) that Apple will deliver the 3G iPhone in the second quarter.
So what do we really know? At some point, Apple will build a new version of the iPhone. It will do more stuff and have more features than the current iPhone. It will be manufactured in Asia, because that's where nearly all consumer electronics are made.
And it will be pretty.