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Did Apple leak details of its own launch? And if so, why?

1st August 2017

Alan Dunton gets to the core of the issue...

News began hitting early Monday that Apple had suffered yet-another-leak of seemingly classified product information. This time, upcoming designs of its iPhone 8 could be viewed across the internet. Spolier alert: the upcoming – most bestest and amazing iPhone! – will have a slimmer bezel and no physical home button. Apple will proclaim this design revolutionary, never mind that Samsung and Google have already been shipping phones like this for a while.

It’s a given that Apple’s products will be covered when announced. They could push out a release on Christmas and still dominate the headlines. Over the years the company has groomed a media army to market their products for them. In return, the press get invited to events that feature notable pop acts and plenty of fodder to fill their Twitter feeds for a few days.

So the question is: When Apple knows it can command this army to do its bidding at a time and place of its choosing, why does it resort to leaking information before ‘official’ announcement days?

Hold on, you say … Apple isn’t intentionally leaking this information! Yes. Yes, they are. What do you think all those ex-clandestine staffers are doing for them anyway? Its iPhone 8 designs were found INSIDE firmware of its also yet-to-launch HomePod speaker. That’s cold-war genius, not to mention awesome.

Here’s a few reasons why Apple leaks its stuff early:

  1. Their PR people are bored. Imagine working for a company where almost no journalist ever questions your marketing hype. Sounds great for a while, sure, but how do you show value as a PR/marketing pro in the long run without needing to overcome any kind of comms challenge, ever?
  2. Playing games is fun. Leaking information is like playing a game, and that’s entertaining for everyone with a seat at the table.
  3. Their marketing people are nervous. This might sound off for a company that has more money than God in its bank bank account, but when you consider their product design now lags behind much of the competition, these leaks can be tactics to test the market’s reaction before the big show, where its execs march across a huge stage with their shirts untucked.
  4. Companies are full of people who are terrible at keeping secrets. Let’s assume for a hot second that Apple doesn’t intentionally leak its product info. It’s a huge company with an enormous global operation – lots of opportunities for someone to unintentionally let their guard down, or for someone to act with malicious intentions.
  5. It wants to take away attention from the competition. Outside of its official scheduling, a quick leak from Apple is guaranteed to become the news du jour, a valuable weapon that can be deployed to disrupt a competitor who might have plans to make news that day or initiate a new marketing campaign.

I recall looking forward to Apple press days before the leaks had become so egregious. Unfortunately, the spectacle of most of the recent ones on memory have been diluted because all the big-ticket items have been covered ad nauseam in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the main event.

For the record, I’ve never worked for Apple in any capacity, but the Apple II was my first computer and despite a weird Android experiment I went on a few years ago I’ve always been a loyal follower. And as soon as that iPhone drops, I’m getting it. Because Apple says I should.

Alan Dunton is managing director of Grayling San Francisco. 

Alan Dunton

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