Remember when Time magazine accidentally blew Steve Jobs’ cover and leaked out Apple’s whole new product announcement the night before?
With the Apple tablet unveiling set for tomorrow, think anyone will do that tonight?
Yes, it’s hard to believe, knowing Apple’s theoretically impenetrable secrecy and security around product launches. But it really happened.
It was Sunday night, Jan. 6, 2002. Steve Jobs’ Macworld Expo keynote — where Apple used to introduce some of its biggest products, before calling it quits after last year’s conference — was set for the next day.
I was a college student getting ready for the winter academic session to start. I was also trying to figure out how I’d catch the Apple news between classes, frantically refreshing Mac rumours sites for last-minute leaks.
And then, as Jobs might have said in his keynote, boom.
Not only did the details of the keynote leak out, but actual photos and article text. Wow!
Apple’s new gadget, we found out 12 hours early, was a LCD-equipped iMac. Thanks to a leaked Time magazine cover, I knew it had a weird metal arm and a spherical base that looked like a bread wheel.
The culprit: Time‘s Canadian Web site, timecanada.com, which messed up an embargo and published Time’s exclusive iMac story 12 hours early.
As a 2002 New York Times story recalls, “By the time Mr. Jobs put his new iMac on display last Monday, the magazine and Josh Quittner, the author of Time’s feverishly positive article on the computer, were the villains of the moment.”
So could that happen tonight?
It’s always possible that someone will screw up, or blow their nondisclosure agreement, or blow the publish time in their content management system.
But since breaking news has mostly moved online, where the production cycles are much faster, and newsstands and post offices aren’t involved, it seems less likely.
It’s possible some reporters have seen and fondled the tablet under nondisclosure, the way Time‘s Lev Grossman “spent hours” with Jobs talking about the iPhone before its launch in 2007.
But it seems that these days, that sort of article would be kept out of content management systems in advance, or under a longer embargo period, so as to avoid a similar meltdown.
By the way, here’s the best part of Grossman’s article, explaining how he got to play with the iPhone in advance:
If you’ve ever wondered how it works, this is how it works: I don’t call Steve, Steve calls me. Or more accurately, someone in Steve Jobs’s office calls someone in my office—someone at a much higher pay grade —to say that he has something cool. I then fly to the metastasized strip mall called Cupertino, Calif., where Apple lives, sign some legal confidentiality stuff and am escorted to a conference room that contains Jobs, some associates, and some lumps concealed under some black towels. I stare at what was under the towels. Everybody else stares at me.
This is how Apple, and nobody else, introduces new products to the press. It can be awkward, because Jobs is high-strung and he expects you to be impressed. I was, fortunately, and with good reason.
Meanwhile, don’t miss: Apple Tablet rumours: Everything You Need To Know
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