Monday morning, Gizmodo posted images, videos, and teardown analysis of Apple's next-generation iPhone running OS 4.0. It was apparently found in a bar in Redwood City, disguised as an iPhone 3GS.
For all the skeptics out there, this is definitely the real deal, right down to the newly designed case with a flat back, front-facing camera, higher-resolution display, next generation operating system, and larger battery. And it was found with a custom-designed casing so it looked like a regular iPhone.
Why do I find any of this at all interesting? Well, I've been around high-tech marketing and PR for a long time and I've had more than my share of intentional, buzz-creating product leaks. And I'm here to tell you that this leak is clearly intentional.
There is simply no way, I mean no way, that somebody actually left this thing laying around, lost it in a bar, or whatever the story was. Apple has tighter security around unreleased prototypes and products than the CIA, NSA, or any other security agency. No kidding.
And Gizmodo's story about Apple Software Engineer Gray Powell leaving the phone behind after a few beers at german beer garden Gourmet Haus Staudt doesn't even begin to pass the smell test. Powell, just four years out of college, was supposedly working on the next-generation phone's baseband software and, what, had to remove it from Apple's sprawling campus to take it for a spin around Redwood City? Give me a break.
One Gizmodo reader commented that maybe Walter Bishop brought it back from a parallel universe, a reference to the hit show Fringe. As far fetched as that sounds, it's a helluva lot more likely than this incident being an accident. It's no accident and it wasn't lost or stolen. So what is it? It's brilliant PR designed to create a buzz and keep Google Android-based phones from gaining market share.
Since the days of Osborne, the computer maker that famously preannounced its next-generation product too soon and killed the company, high-tech marketers have wrestled with the tradeoffs of preannouncements. Sure, they create a buzz, but too much too soon will also kill existing product sales. Being too tight-lipped, on the other hand, and aggressive competitors can steal market share.
It's a balancing act that few have mastered the way Apple has. It's certainly no small part of the Apple mystique, courtesy of Steve Jobs' bag of buzz-making marketing tricks. So, hats off to Jobs and his merry band of marketing tricksters. Well done.
Incidentally, since writing Why Apple's iPad Will Kill the PC, more than a few readers have brazenly accused me of being a shill for Apple. I have one thing to say to that. Get real. I just call 'em as I see 'em. Simple as that.