Apple’s iOS 11 GM leak: Where’s the money?

Why is it that we think we know what Apple will reveal tomorrow but still don’t know what’s in the U.S. President’s tax returns? Who really paid for these leaks?

Apple, iPhone, iOS 11, iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, mobile

This weekend saw all Apple’s iPhone X news leak. It was interesting to learn more about what the company will announce tomorrow, but it’s left me with a sense of unease. Why is it that we now think we know what Apple will reveal tomorrow, but we still don’t know what’s in the U.S. President’s tax returns? Who really paid for these leaks?

What to expect in the new iPhones

Let me summarize some of what we got told over the weekend. I’ll keep it short, as I’m fairly certain anyone who wants to read these things already did:

  • Sizes: 5.8-inch, 5.5-inch, and 4.7-inch. 3GB RAM, 2GB in smallest device
  • FaceID to replace Touch ID
  • A11 Fusion chip is a 6-core chip, two cores are high power
  • Qi wireless charging
  • 3D animated emoji
  • Apple TV to get A10X Fusion chip and 3GB RAM: A big bonus for games developers and sufficient to support 4K content
  • Apple Watch: Suggestion that Apple will make your watch an LTE phone
  • Future iPhones: OLED iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus

With iOS 11, ARKit, much-improved machine intelligence and a host of other anticipated improvements set to appear across the Apple product range, the millions of everyday consumers who don’t spend their lives glued to tech news websites will find a lot to like in Apple’s new smartphones.

But who leaked the iPhone features?

Learning these details is interesting up to a point. All the same, we only had to wait a day or two to get the full details confirmed and learn better how all the tech actually works to solve problems we didn’t know we had. But what should be more interesting is figuring out who leaked the iOS 11 GM code?

We can easily identify the well-known developers and rumor sites who claim they dug into the code that was apparently shared with them.

What we don’t know is who leaked the code in the first place.

John Gruber at Daring Fireball claims to be “almost 100 percent certain” that the person who published the code (and told the rumor sites were to download it) will turn out to be a “disaffected Apple employee.”

"Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors,” he wrote. “I'm nearly certain this wasn't a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee."

Leakers: Follow the money

I can’t help but ask what would motivate someone who has built a professional career at Apple to leak information like this. They must have got to a position of responsibility sufficient to be given access to GM code, and by sharing it they've broken every standard of professional conduct.

Why? Who really gains?

Think about it: Is the public interest really served by learning Apple’s secrets a day or two before the company revealed them voluntarily? It’s hardly a smoking gun or a confirmation of collusion in a matter of state. It’s about a phone.

I find it hard to imagine anyone would risk their career just for the sake of leaking information about a phone a few days before it is introduced. What really is the point? Unless there’s money in doing it.

So, if there is money to grease the wheels of the leak, then where did that money come from? I just can't think that MacRumors or 9to5Mac would dig deep into their pockets to pay for a leak — in part because I’m not convinced the cost of doing so would be recouped by the ads income made, but also because I just don't think they would.

If it isn’t the websites, then what — or who — motivated (or paid for) the leak?

Who really benefits from leaking this information early?

  • Apple’s competitors? They just get to spoil the show.
  • Apple? It gets to whet interest in the products before they are announced.
  • Rogue investors? Hoping to sell or buy stock in response to share price fluctuation.
  • Someone else?

Who had access to the GM code?

Gruber says he thinks, “there’s a good chance Apple is going to figure out who it was.”

I think he’s right.

After all, only a very limited number of people had access to this code, and who is to say that everyone with such access had the same version of that code?

I’m not going to let this spoil this year's big reveal. I sort of don't think it matters,  as these raw tech facts are just part of the package — Apple will apply a layer of context and significance to the tech when it announces it.

It's not about the memory, display size, or even the name. For most consumers, the bigger concern is just what can you do with these new devices. That’s the kind of information consumers want. They want to learn how these new iPhones will empower and engage them.

We''ll find out soon. I’ll be live-blogging what Apple announces on Sept. 12, 2017, here at Computerworld — follow me on Twitter for the link when it goes live, or check back here later on when I will update this story.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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