I remain alert to news from Cupertino, though less obsessively as I did when I was a younger man, so I was interested to hear from Gruber about a momentous leak of information relative to tomorrow’s planned announcement of the latest models of iPhones.
Of course, Apple is notorious for its track record of successful secret-keeping. Against that backdrop, the leak of a GM operating system upgrade would be a noteworthy news event in itself. What makes this special is that it came just a couple of days before a much-anticipated Apple Event, at which viewers ordinarily gasp, applaud, tweet, subtweet, marvel, and kvetch about each micro-unit of news (since no one will have known about them till they’re announced at the Event). Tomorrow, Tim Cook will walk out onstage with all the details of his iOS upgrade apparently already known.
Popular imagination can easily envision the scene — including furious tirades, multiple firings, and new security measures possibly including the sequestration of loved ones in an Apple-controlled remote facility — were this to happen to Steve Jobs when he was at Apple. That’ not Tim Cook’s style, much to the disappointment of drama-loving fans and journalists. On the other hand, it would be tough for Tim to walk out with the script intact, to say ‘… and now, for your mind-boggled consideration, facial recognition!’ while the audience yawns.
Apple may be desperately rejiggering some of the specs, so that they can say ‘Neener, neener, that wasn’t the real Golden Master after all!’, but that would run the risk of bugs and failures, and if Apple hates anything more than leaks, it’s failures. They have another option, though.
Apple could deal with its misfortune by choosing not to make grand public punitive gestures (those will surely come anyway) on one hand, or stiff recitations about what anyone could have read on macrumors.
Apple loves the media, and its association with coolness, and it wants the media to have something unexpected to report. The iOS specs no longer count as hot or unexpected, however impressive they be. What if Apple called up a comedy writer — a Seinfeld, or a Poehler or Fey or David, or a behind-the-scenes comic writer — to rework the presentation with self-deprecating humour? Well done (and admittedly, that’s a risk with 24-hour turnaround and technology execs as presenters), it could divert attention from the sensation of the leak, keep Apple on the good guys side by laughing at itself, and make the presentation enjoyable even if you know what’s about to be announced.
This isn’t a moment for circling the wagons and publicly shooting traitors; more urgent concerns face Apple and the world than non-surprise product announcements. Apple could show its sense of proportion in a world where to heads of state are playing chicken with nuclear weapons, where two hurricanes have just devastated parts of the U.S. and its neighbours, and where climate change and economic disparities threaten to blight… well, everything. And make a few people laugh, perhaps awkwardly, and introduce some new products which (as far as the leaks suggest) should still be pretty impressive.