Why Apple Will Never Surprise Us With ‘One More Thing’ Ever Again

Why Apple Will Never Surprise Us With ‘One More Thing’ Ever Again

The iPad mini, leaked months before it debuts.

Earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook famously said that Cupertino was going to “double down on secrecy” this year. It hasn’t worked. Apple — once a company known for the surprise “one more thing” — had every single detail of the iPhone 5 leaked to the public before the actual event. Can Apple ever get its secrecy back?

Probably not. A new report talking to a number of Apple employees under the condition of anonymity suggests that while Apple HQ is as secretive of new products as ever, Cupertino can do nothing about leaks that come out of the Asian supply chain.

“Apple’s security practices are targeted at making sure US employees don’t leak stuff, but everything comes out of China now,” one Apple employee told Ars Technica. “I think Apple’s secrecy mode is really outdated.”

Why is it so outdated? While people who work directly for Apple look upon the company’s secrecy as a point of pride and as a way to show respect for other employee’s hard work, few workers at, say, Foxconn have any interest in keeping the details of new products secret. And since Apple must now build products up to half a year in advance of a new launch to supply demand, these workers have an extremely long time to leak details of upcoming products to the outside world.

And the leaks? They’re just going to get worse.

“You’ve got thousands of people working on manufacturing something who have no vested interest in keeping it secret,” one employee said, adding that he believes leaks will continue to increase as Apple ramps up overseas manufacturing operations. “It will be increasingly hard to hide the industrial design we do because we manufacture things overseas. Since we don’t do it in the US, it’s may be hard to surprise people over anything in the future.”

In other words, say goodbye to the surprise “one more thing.” Apple’s secrecy is a victim of the company’s own massive success. No one’s happy about it, but it’s not a failure from the top: Apple employees reportedly say that Tim Cook’s Apple is actually more secretive than it was under Jobs. Apple’s just too big to keep a secret anymore. There are too many links in the chain, too many people interested.

  • SamuelBrock

    I think the hardware “One more thing” is done, but not the software “One more thing.” Asian suppliers don’t work on the software.

    Apple just needs to come out with some awesome new software features on the scale that Siri was for the iPhone 4S in addition to the polishing that they do so well. I think we can all agree iOS 6, aside from the beautiful but sometimes dysfunctional maps app, was a polishing upgrade.

  • GEOKLV

    What if the “iPad mini” story is indeed a perfect eye wash, the epitomy of APPLE’s ability to preserve their control of leaks of all sorts and instead, tomorrow, APPLE introduces anything else but that? Then, the assumption about the long lost secrecy will not stand. Does is read & sound impossible? Do we really have to assume that all rumors (however pundit the sources are) are truly credible?

  • Mark A Esposito

    all that effort spent on secrecy could have gone towards including mass transit directions in the 1.0 release of maps, for instance.

  • Lord_Lillis

    I don’t buy it. Apple has the means to fix this in 12 months time. They have more than enough cash to build (or purchase) their own supply chain in China. CEO Tim Cook was promoted from operations so they have the in-house knowledge to make it a success. After the leadership transition later this year Apple could deal with the highest levels of the Chinese government to make sure their secrets were maintained (imagine if exposing details meant 5 years in a Chinese prison). It’s a question of whether maintaining secrecy is worth the opportunity cost of corporate resources during the transition.

  • iSteve

    How under Steve, there was no leak either from US or China??? It’s just matter of management and Tim is not as bold as Steve regarding secrecy…

  • DS_Champion

    I think the hardware “One more thing” is done, but not the software “One more thing.” Asian suppliers don’t work on the software.

    Apple just needs to come out with some awesome new software features on the scale that Siri was for the iPhone 4S in addition to the polishing that they do so well. I think we can all agree iOS 6, aside from the beautiful but sometimes dysfunctional maps app, was a polishing upgrade.

    You are absolutely correct that it means they will have to start selling their software better. It did bite them in the ass for Apple Maps, but hopefully they will learn from that and make sure that everything is in working order before they send it out. Apple holds a lot of power when it comes to software standards, and so long as they keep pushing that forward no amount of hardware spoilers can stop them.

  • Boris

    I agree on new good software for Mac is needed at last. There is no good functional mind mapper for Mac. There is no good functional office packageā€¦ There are plenty of cute small stuff on Mac, but much of Mac’s “best in class” software (take Omnigraffle, Novamind etc.) looks&feels outdated and archaic. Outdated guidelines and no vision ahead are the problem, IMHO.

  • vanmacguy

    I find it interesting that the local news radio station here in Vancouver has been saying all day that “Apple fans are all really excited about the announcement of the new iPad Mini tomorrow. Smaller, lighter and cheaper”.

    A few years ago, this didn’t happen.

  • markrlangston

    I agree with “SamuelBrock” in that the “one more thing” announcement could still be software related.

    If Apple is really devoted to secrecy they’d bring at least some of the manufacturing jobs to the US. I still love Apple and I’ll continue to support and buy their products but with them being the most valuable company in the world, I am disappointed that they can’t afford to spend a little more and set up, at the very least, an iPod nano factory.

  • aardman

    The play now, to still have some uncertainty and exitement in hardware announcements, is misdirection and misinformation.

  • bdkennedy

    This is probably why Apple has shown an interest in bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.

  • technochick

    all that effort spent on secrecy could have gone towards including mass transit directions in the 1.0 release of maps, for instance.

    You assume that Apple has any intentions towards building in transit info into Maps. Given the issues with keeping that information up to date, your assumption could be wrong

  • technochick

    One of the problems with supply chain secrecy is options. Apple can hardly threaten to yank their business etc if they don’t have a place to go. And for many things, right now, they don’t.

  • GEOKLV

    Well, personally, I believe that APLLE has well preserved the spirit of Steve Jobs! Today’s event is something else; rock bottom!!!

  • DdeviTo_3
    … After the leadership transition later this year Apple could deal with the highest levels of the Chinese government to make sure their secrets were maintained (imagine if exposing details meant 5 years in a Chinese prison).

    Wow! What a humanitarian you are! Apple profits are more important than Chinese workers, right?

    Why don’t you ask Samsung what conditions their workers work under. Oh yeah, that’s right. They run a secretive workshop and don’t allow outside inspections. For all you know they use children to make the rubbish they pump out.

  • DdeviTo_3
    … After the leadership transition later this year Apple could deal with the highest levels of the Chinese government to make sure their secrets were maintained (imagine if exposing details meant 5 years in a Chinese prison).

    Wow! What a humanitarian you are! Apple profits are more important than Chinese workers, right?

    Read this, then tell me your wonderful samscum are so wonderful. Hypocrite much?
    http://www.kernelmag.com/features/report/3028/samsung-power-corruption-and-lies/

    After reading that, I won’t be buying anything Samsung ever again. Why isn’t this known across the world? God, if Apple behaved like this, the haters would be screaming blue murder. Anyone who denies these facts are seriously deluding themselves. Now I’m wondering if they pay troll to visit these blogs.

  • DdeviTo_3

    “samscum”… so childish!

    As to the article in question — nothing more than cultural imperialism and chauvinism. Nothing new or surprising.

    I think you are seriously deluding yourself. You obviously didn’t read the article did you? Because it will shatter your reality? If you seriously back this corrupt, immoral company, you really do need your head read. You troll such stupid stuff you have no credibility. Why else do you come here? I’m sad for you. I was a Samsung user but not any more. I can’t support such an evil corporation. You should rethink your sheep like love for this lot. Seriously!

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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