At some point in September, Apple CEO Tim Cook is going to stride on stage in San Francisco.
He’s going to look out at the crowd of media people, Apple employees, and technology industry VIPs and say, “We’re really excited to show what we’ve been working on.”
After a little pre-amble, Phil Schiller, the head of Apple’s marketing will take the stage, and he will unveil the iPhone 6.
Anyone that’s been paying attention to Apple even a little bit on the internet will know exactly what to expect.
The crowd will ooh, and ahh despite the fact that there will be almost not surprises.
How did this happen? How did Apple, which is famous for secrecy, end up so leaky?
According to several plugged-in analysts, journalists, and industry watchers, it’s Apple’s supply chain that’s mostly to blame coupled with the fact that there’s a whole online news industry devoted to documenting everything Apple may or may not be up to.
“Apple did not become more leaky,” said Horace Dediu, an Apple analyst. “If you are wondering about product leaks, they typically leak from suppliers, of which there are many.”
Apple’s supply chain is massive. The company contracts with over 200 suppliers around the world to procure, produce and assemble its products.
These contractors aren’t loyal to Apple.
“In Asia, it’s difficult to keep secrets anyway because it’s a culture that places so much importance on building trust through personal relationships,” says Yukari Kane, author of Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs. “So when someone else comes along and is willing to invest in a personal relationship, the person who works at the supplier might chat a little ‘between friends.'”
Apple can still keep a secret from time to time.
“I think [secrecy is] still very important for Apple, and there are still lots of people that do honour it,” said Kane. “I certainly encountered many people who declined to speak with me.”
For instance, nobody reported that it was going to do a deal with IBM. And nobody knew that it was coming out with its own programming language called Swift. Those are two big secrets it kept under wraps.
But, the IBM deal, and the Swift programming language are increasingly the exceptions.
It’s not surprising. Apple is more scrutinized than any other company in the world. It has 9to5Mac, AppleInsider, MacRumors, Cult of Mac, Loop Insight, Daring Fireball, iMore, and many others around the world, dedicated almost entirely to covering Apple. Then there’s the mainstream press — Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The New York Times, Fortune, etc. And then there are Wall Street analysts flying to Asia trying to learn all they can about Apple. With that many people trying to dig up nuggets of news on the company, it makes sense that things are going to leak.
As the largest company in the United States, Apple news attracts not only curious consumers but also those with a financial steak in the company as well as speculators looking to profit in the short-term.
“[Apple] is probably the most followed stock in the market by investors,” said Bret Jensen, a columnist at TheStreet.com. Given this investor scrutiny, Jensen said it was “not surprising” that so many leaks have arisen.
Were Apple not so large and dependent on a vast array of contractors, the company might be more successful at keeping its products secret until their release.
But given the plethora of companies that do business with Apple every day and the intense interest in the company, it seems like the hastily-shot pictures that we’ve become accustomed to seeing are here to stay.
“Keeping a secret among that many people has its limits,” said Kane.
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