Apple’s big iOS 14 leak is just business as usual

Given that iOS 14 has been in the wild for months, why don't we know more about it?

Apple, iOS, iOS 13, Mac, WWDC, iOS 14, leak
Apple

The story is that an early developmental build of iOS 14 has somehow escaped into the wild. So why do we know so little about it?

What happened?

To paraphrase the elements of the claims:

  • An unnamed individual purchased and then distributed the iOS 14 software.
  • The software was extracted from a developmental iPhone 11 running an internal build of the iOS 14.
  • The hardware was purchased from a Chinese vendor.
  • The OS was then distributed among hackers and security researchers.
  • Information concerning the software then began to leak, principally from the big Mac rumor sites, with 9to5Mac mentioned in the report.
  • “Leaked Apple code, documentation, and hardware is often traded on Twitter using a hashtag called #AppleInternals."
  • We don’t know who purchased and shared the code. Was it a competitor? Was it a journalist? Follow the money.

What we know about iOS 14

The strange thing is that despite the operating system apparently being in circulation since February, all we really know about it is this:

  • A new PencilKit UI for iOS.
  • iMessage improvements.
  • A new Home screen with a list view.
  • A Clips feature that lets apps run in a kind of demo mode without requiring the entire app be downloaded.
  • An AR application designed to support socially distanced retail.
  • Improvements in the mouse support on iPads.
  • HomeKit features including face recognition and more.
  • Integration between Apple Watch and Apple TV for workout apps.
  • Blood oxygen level detection for Apple Watch.
  • HomePod/TVos.

All these enhancements will be of interest, but it seems strange that some of the most critical improvements likely to be found in the release around graphics and extended support for the creation of Catalyst apps haven’t surfaced at all yet.

We understand the focus this year is on performance and quality as the company sets the scene for next year’s innovations, particularly around Apple Glass and the Mac.

However, with the code in the wild, it’s surprising we haven’t learned more.

Not long to wait

In a sense, this leak has made very little difference.

Traditionally, we’ve always had some insight into Apple’s future plans, and I don’t sense we know more or less than in previous years this year. It’s not exactly rocket science to predict more improvements in Homekit, iPad user interfaces, health technologies and AR, given these have been high focus areas at the company for several years.

It is also probably true that excitement at Apple’s plans will be muted this year, as the disaster of COVID-19 continues to impose huge costs – so the company may even benefit from any additional attention raised by the leak. We only have a few weeks to wait until we learn much more on Apple’s plans at WWDC Online 2020.

What are we expecting at WWDC?

New OS releases, obviously, and perhaps a little more insight into Apple’s intentions for any migration of the Mac platform to its own A-series processors.

Don’t be shocked if this isn’t too openly discussed: Apple continues in its attempt to turn iPads into all the Mac most people ever need.

How Apple handles it

Apple knows it’s a company that’s under more scrutiny than most. It always has been.

We know Apple reads the same blogs and media we do. I’ve been told before that Apple insiders are often frustrated when secrets slip. Any enterprise under such levels of scrutiny would feel the same.

Apple’s approach is interesting.

Many years ago it attempted to litigate against some bloggers for sharing secret information about it. That sparked a huge negative outcry and the company eventually relented, though the whole affair created lasting bad feeling.

It’s not a particularly good look for a huge company to persecute an individual.

These days, the company’s approach is different.

While remaining eminently secretive, the company seems to have a constructive approach to dealing with Apple reporters, working supportively where it can. Sure, it recognizes some stories slip, and that not every decision will be without criticism, but it also sees that working in a constructive way means it can feed facts into conversations that may otherwise be defined by misinformation.

It’s an approach any enterprise defined by high degrees of public interest and scrutiny can learn from, as it shows that the absence of media scrutiny fosters weakness and misunderstanding rather than strength.

Apple has decided it’s strong enough to bear a little scrutiny, in exchange for which it is also able to maximize coverage when it does have something to say – while also showing it is not above criticism. This is also why the company will have more people watching its news at WWDC 2020 than ever before.

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