P020: Secret Apples and Swift Leaks

Yesterday saw the opening of Apple’s 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference and its centerpiece, the keynote address. For Apple geeks like myself, the keynote is a time to watch with baited breath to see what new goodies will be coming to iOS and OS X in the upcoming year. But for a smaller and even geekier subset, keynote day is tech journalism Christmas.

You see, the demand for information about Apple is so great that it supports dozens of journalistic enterprises that focus primarily, if not exclusively on the company. This rabid enthusiasm for even the tiniest morsel of information, combined with the economics of page view journalism, has incentivized sites to publish rumor upon rumor regardless of their accuracy.

Keynote day is our opportunity to compare the rumors to the reality. When Mark Gurman published a leaked first-look of Healthbook, the app that would become Health, it was a major story in the Apple community. When the Health app showed up in the keynote, Gurman’s work was validated and his credibility increased. But some would see that leak as a failure by Apple to follow through on their 2012 vow to double down on secrecy.

Gone public

Apple is a public company. As a consequence, anyone with (currently) $636 can purchase a share of AAPL and take either a profit or a loss based on the future performance of the company. Similarly, anyone with way less that $636 can publish to the internet in a way that can artificially move the stock price. Again, the incentives are aligned for people to misbehave. It’s in Apple’s best interests to limit the amount of credible material that escapes in order to minimize stock price volatility. Or is it?

A Swiftian proposal for controlled leaks

Near the end of the keynote, Craig Federighi announced Swift, a new programming language. Exactly zero of the rumor sites and tech blogs saw this coming. Apple was able to create a programming language and all of the tools required to release a developer preview – and a 500 page book – with nary a single person outside of Cupertino catching wind of it.

Swift is the crown-jewel of the developers conference. The language and environment will be what drives the App ecosystem for the next ten years. Keeping this announcement under wraps was the single most important thing for the keynote and they pulled it off flawlessly. Between Healthbook and the Beats acquisition, no one even thought to look for signs of a new programming language.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron