Apple's 'Obsession With Secrecy' Isn't Always Working

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Apple (AAPL) has been among the most secretive companies forever. But as far as Apple’s product leaks go — as someone who’s been closely watching Apple for about 15 years — it feels like they’re at an all-time high.

In a feature today, the New York Times reminds of Apple’s “obsession with secrecy,” which, according to the article’s headline, is “growing stronger.” Indeed, Apple has been extremely private with chief executive Steve Jobs’ health details — perhaps even misleading. And some of the anecdotes in the Times story — like the company’s lie to a Wall Street analyst years ago that it would not unveil a screen-less iPod — are amusing.

But it’s hard to argue that Apple is very effective at preventing leaks these days. For instance, there were very few details left for Apple marketing head Phil Schiller to announce during this month’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote.

Take the new iPhone 3G S, which debuted last week. Pretty much everyone knew about its faster speed, better camera, and voice commands weeks ago. Details about the name leaked out days before the event. And thanks to John Gruber’s Daring Fireball, we’d even heard ahead of time that Apple would refresh its MacBook lineup during the event.

Same goes for pretty much any Apple product or event these days. And the company seems to be even deliberately leaking information to the press now, such as rumours that Apple is talking to Verizon about carrying the iPhone, and hazy details around a supposed Internet tablet. An Apple representative or board member was likely the Wall Street Journal‘s source for its Saturday morning scoop about Steve Jobs’ liver transplant.

When’s the last time Apple wowed the public with a significant new product that nothing had leaked about beforehand? We can’t think of anything more recent than the first iPhone in January, 2007. Can you?

Update: Good discussion in the comments about the difference between less-important product leaks — which are happening days or weeks before they’re announced — versus more important leaks, which Apple is successfully keeping a lid on, such as Steve Jobs’ health-related info, or long-term product roadmaps and details.

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