I imagine Tim Cook seething with rage.
And I imagine workers in Apple’s marketing department filled with a gut-churning mixture of righteous anger, paranoia and dread.
What could cause such unpleasantness inside the pristine glass walls of Apple’s spaceship HQ (or within remote employees’ home bubbles)? Tuesday morning, images of the entire iPhone 12 lineup and HomePod mini leaked just hours ahead of Apple’s “Hi, Speed” event.
Published by longtime leaker Evan Blass, the images revealed the new iPhones’ designs and colors, and introduced the HomePod mini’s bar candle-like round chassis to the world.
One can only imagine the impact of such leaks. (Apple certainly isn’t talking about them. We asked for a comment but haven’t yet heard back.) But while they slightly spoiled today’s big event, I bet they will lead to severe consequences inside Cupertino’s inner circle.
Apple leaks must fuel paranoia
Can you wrap your head around the great unease that must be brewing inside Apple amid such a wave of leaks? Can you envision yourself participating in the Group FaceTime post-mortem about how the “Hi, Speed” event went?
I envision an atmosphere only slightly less tense and toxic than the Antarctic base in The Thing.
After all, Apple is a secretive, $2 trillion-dollar company that prides itself on the privacy of its products. Cook himself pledged to “double down” on secrecy in 2012 (and warned employees in 2018 about harsh punishment for leaking Apple secrets). And yet, Cupertino cannot even protect the crown jewels of its product lineup — the iPhone.
The implications seem astonishing.
Who spilled the beans?
Were these leaks the handiwork of a hacker? In many ways, that would prove more devastating to Apple’s image and morale than the likely source(s). After all, if Apple’s PR department files can be hacked, what about iCloud?
More than likely, however, these leaks flow directly from one or more Apple insiders. And, if you toil on Apple’s marketing team, the knowledge that somebody you work alongside actively seeks to undermine your company’s biggest product launch of the year must eat away at your psyche.
In some ways — and this is not encouraging news for Apple executives — Tuesday’s last-minute leaks actually didn’t seem that surprising. When we welcomed serial leaker Jon Prosser onto The CultCast earlier this year, he told us shocking stories of receiving C-suite-level info practically in real time about upcoming Apple press releases.
In the run-up to Tuesday’s “Hi, Speed” event, the sheer volume of leaks about new Apple products gave us a Nostradamus-level vision of basically everything destined to pop out of Cupertino’s magic pipeline.
Still, Tuesday morning’s drip, drip, drip of fresh leaks must surely have rattled Apple’s executive team.
Apple ‘Hi, Speed’ event leaks
Blass’ posts on the Voice website followed a straightforward template. He employed declarative headlines and colorful images, seemingly pilfered directly from Apple’s marketing materials (and adorned with a Voice watermark):
- This Is the iPhone 12 in Black, Blue, Green, Red, and White
- This Is the iPhone 12 mini in Black, Blue, Green, Red, and White
- This Is the iPhone 12 Pro in Blue, Gold, Graphite, and Silver
- This Is the iPhone 12 Pro Max in Blue, Gold, Graphite, and Silver
- This Is the Apple HomePod mini in Space Gray and White
As the “Hi, Speed” event approached Tuesday morning, the Voice website went offline, presumably buckling under the weight of Apple fans’ interest.
What’s next for Apple leaks?
Cook and other Apple workers must have felt gutted by the revelations. For decades, Apple has traded on secrecy. The company deftly erected a monolithic wall around its projects, and used the resulting secrecy to drum up excitement about the devices at launch time.
After today’s event showed the leaks to be accurate, you can only imagine the tension going forward in Cupertino.
If, as an Apple employee, you regularly handle the company’s most precious secrets, you must be rattled. Is the person sitting next to you one of the moles leaking to the media? Does your boss think you’re the one doing the leaking?
Just like Cook, Prosser seems to have his own magic pipeline. His predictions for what would, and wouldn’t, be revealed Tuesday once again proved uncannily accurate. (And, once again, he gets to keep his eyebrows.)
For Prosser, sharing Apple’s most precious secrets yields pure joy. “No one else makes leaks this fun, and you know it,” he tweeted early Tuesday. Then, as the event unfolded, he tweeted a link to the full video keynote.
No one else makes leaks this fun, and you know it #AppleEvent
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) October 13, 2020
And afterward, he promised there’s even more to come Wednesday.
For longtime leaker Blass, Tuesday’s coup proved successful. He said he racked up more than 1,000 new Twitter followers in two hours as a result.
“I will say this, though: I do love leaking iPhones,” he tweeted. “We need to work together more often, @apple (that’s a joke, folks).”
How can Apple clamp down?
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that Apple faces the problem of continuing leaks. For Apple leakers, who turn prized secrets into viral tweets and videos, accurate predictions represent the most treasured coin of the realm. For Apple news sites, including Cult of Mac, the steady flow of rumors and leaks provides a data stream ripe for evaluation and exploitation.
For everyone, us included, there’s money in Apple leaks.
In Apple’s defense, even the Pentagon and the National Security Agency can’t stop leaks. And the contractors who smuggled classified info out of those organizations were dealing with life-and-death data that’s far more sensitive than a product shot. Whether you view those leakers as heroes or traitors depends entirely upon your view of the world.
For Apple insiders, each leak must feel like another sucker punch to the gut. And I’m guessing it’s the kind of body blow that leaves a mark — and a lingering feeling of dread and paranoia — that only gets worse the day after.
Now the only question is, what’s Tim Cook going to do about it?