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Apple wins!

The rumour game is a big part of Apple’s playbook – but only if they are in control

Apple logo - winning at the leakers game

Apple and rumours go together like peanut butter & jelly. It comes with the territory.

From Apple’s point of view, I’m sure they love that writers like myself spend days writing and talking about their next release. I realise as I write each day that I’m effectively a free PR machine for them – I’m sure they couldn’t have scripted it better. I mean, what other company gets so many free column inches and videos uploaded promoting new gear and creating demand?

It must be a dream come true for Apple – but they’re fine with it to a point. As we’ve seen with Apple vs. Epic, Apple vs. Spotify, Apple vs. DoJ and Apple taking on the EU, they like to do things their way and at their pace.

In short, Apple likes to win and with the wealth and might they have behind them they are used to winning as well. When challenged though, we see them bear their teeth – and they are sore losers.

Looking at the recent shenanigans in the EU at times they have acted almost like a petulant school bully. They full well know what the EU means and wants from the mandates they pass down, but Apple routinely flips the bird at them and does just enough to temporarily pacify them.

Their actions with the EU, Spotify & Side-loading have been so blatant and off-handed that a new term has even been termed for them – malicious compliance. Oddly, I bet they are probably quite proud of it too. I can almost see a plaque on the wall…

But the rumours game has ruffled the company recently and they’ve been swift to show they mean business.

Playing it Apple’s way

I have no problem with giving Apple a little more free publicity – it’s a hobby that has turned into a job which makes me the luckiest guy alive I know.

I’m not high enough up the food chain to have contacts or insiders so a lot of what I write and report comes from me spending hours scoring websites, reading articles, looking at new feeds or listening to podcasts and coming up with my spin on it – just like the story you’re reading now in fact.

But for those journo’s that do have contacts, there is a pretty strict code of conduct that has to be adhered to. The first rule of thumb is that we do not approach the source – that’s a total breach of protocol. Good luck defending any articles you write from information that you have solicited.

But…it’s a very different ball game if the source approaches us. It’s not for us to ask how they came by the information – all our job entails is to do the necessary background checks to make sure that both the source and information stacks up – that it’s genuine.

Many of these sources are Apple employees who have a grudge or looking for their moment in the sun. To ruin Apple’s party. There have been instances where employees who have worked closely on a project for years take exception to their baby being killed and decide to vent their anger by leaking info.

The source will generally never be seen or met in person – but communicated with via an end-to-end encrypted message service – with Signal being the one choice. The basic unspoken rule is that the source should be using their own device and not a company-supplied or managed one. You’d have thought that an obvious rule of the jungle – but recently somebody fell foul of that most basic move – and boy are they about to pay the price!

Fleshing it out

Former Apple employee Andrew Aude is in trouble – big trouble.

Apple has taken him to court in California alleging that he breached the company’s confidentiality agreement and violated their employment laws by leaking sensitive information.

He joined the company in 2016 straight from college as a software engineer and was predominately involved with the team that looks to optimise battery performance. As you can imagine that gives him a pretty broad brushstroke of the apps he would have seen in development.

In the complaint (which can be read in full here) Apple stated that he was leaking features regularly to two journalists at both the Information and The Wall Street Journal.

And Aude who was referred to as ‘Homeboy’ in the messages didn’t mess around either. He’s accused of sending 1400 messages to one journalist and over 10,000 messages to another with whom he crossed another barrier and met with the journalist in question.

Over the years he leaked information and details on The Journal app, the Vision Pro and spatial computing. And get this – all these messages were sent from his work iPhone!

A hiding to nothing

Apple found out about the leaks in December 2023 when he was, not surprisingly immediately fired.

In a meeting just before that in November 2023 when Apple first confronted him, Aude denied leaking any information. The story gets even more ridiculous though as in that meeting he asked for a bathroom break where he deleted “significant amounts of evidence”.

In that follow-up meeting, Aude admitted to some minor leaks – it would seem to do with the messages he wasn’t able to delete in time during that bathroom break.

There has been an attempt to resolve the matter out of court although it’s reported that for whatever reason Aude was uncooperative;

Apple does not bring suit against its former employees lightly. As a result of Mr. Aude’s wilful destruction of evidence, however, Apple cannot know the universe of what he disclosed to whom and when. Before filing this lawsuit, Apple reached out to Mr. Aude to potentially resolve this matter. Over a month ago, Apple contacted Mr. Aude to understand the full scope of his leaks and ask for his full cooperation in resolving this matter without litigation. Mr. Aude, however, did not commit to cooperating.

What next

Aude’s professional life is finished – as a young man it’s over, and for what?

Don’t get me wrong, I get and understand Apple’s need for confidentiality from their employees. But the fact they are only suing him for $25,000 puts some kind of context on the threat they felt from these leaks.

$25,000 is ‘down the back of the sofa’ loose change for Apple. They are pursuing this case to prove a point and scare anyone else who’s tempted to make a quick name for themselves.

Are the journalists to blame? Should they have been looking out for him? Is it their job to have his back? In a perfect world yes, but that’s not the world we live in. They did nothing wrong – ethically they were playing by the rules and reporting on information that was handed to them.

It won’t stop – we know it won’t. There is a massive following for tidbits and information about the next Apple release but I guess now the net will tighten even further as the company look to plug any holes.

Leaks from the supply chain are harder to monitor but as for any Apple employees that may be tempted – it’s time to think again…at least until the dust settles.

Apple is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, and it is also seeking other legal remedies.

As a parting thought – if any members of Apple’s payroll were targets wouldn’t it be the web team that updates the pages just before release? Those guys know everything – prices, names, specs and release dates. Can you imagine how ring-fenced that team is? Geez!

If you work for Apple and fancy sharing any information with me, I can be found on Signal…just kidding!

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