Surprise and delight

It's been a field day for tech reporters. The Outline managed to hear a confidential Apple internal presentation about security and leaks. Yes, the irony of that particular leak had not gone unnoticed by many.

There's a lot of money at stake for those who can illegally obtain proprietary information. Think about it: the cases available at product launch have a nearly 1:1 purchase ratio advantage. That advantage comes at the cost of intellectual property theft.

Then there are Apple employees who foolishly leak information. Samuel Johnson once said the vanity of being trusted with a secret is the prime motive to disclose it. To put it another way, people like to blab to show how important they are.

The real losers aren't Apple shareholders. It's us. Surprise and delight is the hallmark of an Apple product intro. It's a core part of Apple. I recall my first employee review with Phil Schiller. He pointed out that I hadn't been an employee long enough to qualify for a salary increase. Then, "surprise and delight", I received a quite generous raise.

Sure, it was kind of cool to get the details of the iPhone 4 ahead of time. It was a race for tech sites to publish the leak and republish it. Steve Jobs got directly involved himself. But something happened at the launch. It was less magical. It was less fun.

In my youth, I was a member of the Society of American Magicians. I was a pretty good amateur and I had a lot of fun. Except, every time I learned how a trick was done and how to perform it, there was a sense of disappointment. The "magic" is gone.

I've gone behind the curtain at Apple to see how keynotes work. It's great, fascinating, and amazing. Except, no Apple launch will ever excite me quite the same way.

To be clear, not all company leaks are truly leaks. Some companies will quietly whisper information to a blogger or journalist to get it out quietly to tamp down expectations, for example. A little birdie chirp in someone's ear can go a long way.

The vast majority of leaks are leaks, though. Unfortunately, there's a lot of money — hundreds of thousands of dollars — to be made for each nugget of information.

While knowing in advance what's going to happen seems fun, it's a lot like going to a magic show knowing all the secrets in advance. While interesting, it's no fun.

For all the reasons I've said, leaks will continue. The cat and mouse game goes on and, when Apple security builds a better mousetrap, the leakers build a better mouse.

Nothing I say here will change anything. I can only say, I avoid any leaked information as much as possible. I'll take surprise and delight any day.

Michael Gartenberg

I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.