Apple Secrecy a Double Edged Sword

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The unprecedented secrecy surrounding Apple products is both a blessing and a curse for the Mac and iPod maker, says Nick Wingfield writing for The Wall Street Journal. On the consumer side, Appleis tight lips about new and updated products in development creates excitement among potential buyers, and generates an amazing amount of publicity for free. In the corporate camp, however, that same secrecy creates headaches and frustration when companies try to figure out their technology spending budgets.

The strict policy of no leaked information has created a market where Mac rumor sites can be successful offering stories about potential products, and readers can join in and share what they would like to see next from Apple.

Regis McKenna, a Silicon Valley marketing executive who worked on some of Appleis product introductions, says the lack of information keeps the public interest high as consumers speculate about the next product to be announced. "Thereis a great deal of mystery and speculation about what it will be," he said.

Unfortunately, these sites are often the only source of information for business and education buyers. Without a firm roadmap to work from, many buyers shy away from purchasing Apple products.

Appleis secrecy is so tight that it created problems for HP when it sold the iPod under its own label. Apple routinely withheld new iPod product information from HP until the day before a public announcement was to be made. The lack of information left HP scrambling to keep up with Apple. Last August, HP terminated its iPod deal with Apple.

The World Wide Developer Conference offers a limited view of what Apple has in store. IT managers and developers that attend the annual event get a glimpse of what is to come, but for some, it isnit enough to plan a 3-year budget.

Appleis stance on providing product information in advance isnit likely to change any time soon. Outside of the early announcement that the PowerPC processors in the Mac product line were being phased out in favor of Intel chips, Apple has been very tight-lipped about its product road map. If the company plans to focus its sales efforts on consumers, thatis probably not going to hurt sales. Corporate buyers, however, are more likely to spend their money elsewhere.

[This article has been edited for clarity]

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