What is Philippe Starck’s big secret project?

April 13, 2012

Friday afternoon, I picked up a report that Philippe Starck, the French designer, has been working on a big project for Apple. He’d been to see Steve Jobs regularly before the Apple co-founder’s death, he told the French media, and continued to see Laurene Powell Jobs. Since Starck had worked on consumer technology products before, Apple watchers were making all kinds of guesses about what he may be working on now, with ideas ranging from the Apple TV to a redesigned App Store, the report said.

And according to the latest talk, Starck’s supposed project will be very big indeed. Even better, his rumored product will be waterproof, though it will likely weigh more than the usual consumer technology device. For comparison, the iPhone weighs 4.9 ounces and starts at $199. Reports indicate that Starck’s project will weigh thousands of tons and cost millions of dollars.

Confused?

After the rumors took off, an unnamed Apple spokesperson told All Things Digital that the company isn’t working with Starck on any project and declined to speculate what the designer may have been talking about. It was clearly time to look for a different theory about the project.

One strong possibility seems to be an idea proposed by the French site igeneration. According to the site (translated), Jobs was working with the Dutch company Feadship on plans for a yacht. The report said that Starck has worked with the company in the past, so it’s possible that the designer is also working on the Jobs family yacht. Jobs mentioned the yacht to biographer Walter Isaacson before the executive’s death in October, saying that his plans with Feadship included walls of glass 40 feet long and 10 feet high.

Feadship could not immediately be reached for comment on whether Starck is collaborating on a project for the Jobs family. This remains another example of an Apple rumor gone wild.

The Apple culture has created a huge appetite for any tidbit of information about the next big thing out of Cupertino, and it's easy to get swept up in, well, the wave of speculation. Remember the theories about the iPhone’s sliding keyboard? Or the inclusion of an NFC chip? Or the absolutely 100-percent-sure rumors about the iPhone 5 being released in October?

It’s easy for Apple watchers — myself included — to get overexcited about any insight into Apple’s closely guarded plans for the future. Starck himself referenced Apple’s “culte du secret religieux” in the interview that started the speculation, which is what makes Apple leaks so intriguing. Today’s rumor du jour, however, should remind us to take stock of how many of those Apple tidbits actually come true.

All I can say is this: if the rumored yacht has a kitchen, I hope it comes stocked with several pinches of salt and some egg — for my face.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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