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Why Apple sues. A meditation.

<![CDATA[Why does Apple sue fans of its products when they speculate on what the company will do? The company has this nasty habit of biting the hand that feeds it positive buzz. There’s a pretty simple explanation as to why, but it doesn’t justify attacking the influencers who set the stage for a new product’s […]

<![CDATA[Why does Apple sue fans of its products when they speculate on what the company will do? The company has this nasty habit of biting the hand that feeds it positive buzz. There’s a pretty simple explanation as to why, but it doesn’t justify attacking the influencers who set the stage for a new product’s success.
Of course, I am an ardent fan of Apple design. Even when it is not perfect or far from perfect, it’s far ahead of the competition. But I know better than to ask an Apple employee to tell me what they are working on, because they would lose their job for telling me. The suit, filed on December 13 and revealed yesterday, is aimed at the “unidentified individual… [who] has recently misappropriated and disseminated confidential information.” A suit lets the company’s lawyers subpoena people to find out who leaked the information.
A lawsuit, too, also exposes which rumors are actual fact. There are always a swarm of rumors about what Apple will announce at an upcoming Macworld, so why actually acknowledge which ones hit the mark? Instead, Steve Jobs should waltz on stage and use the buzz to his advantage. Maybe he ought to point to the rumors as excitement about the product.
Steve’s thing, however, is to be the master showman, which he is very good at being. He wants to reveal magic to the world. It’s his gift and the way Apple protects that gift is a curse on the company, because no one wants to get sued for being excited.
Way back when, when I was at MacWEEK, our staff broke a lot of these stories. During the Sculley and Schindler regimes, leaks were an important part of the marketing process and Apple, when confronted with a legitimate fact about an upcoming product, didn’t sue, it started filling out the picture. When MacWEEKers found out something the company didn’t want the public to know, the company at least responded gracefully.
Jobs has resurrected a company that would have been dead years ago, but he should not abandon the forthrightness with which a company must deal with information in the marketplace. These lawsuits are the external emanation of Jobs’ famous temper, which he still applies liberally within the company to anyone who he thinks has done something stupid. Apple fans do the same thing, for instance over at the Cult of Mac blog hosted by Wired, where they corrected me about what the iTunes Rendezvous playlist publishing feature. However, the feature exists because iPods need to have a playlist feature, not because it is integral to iTunes, so I use shorthand to attribute getting laid to the iPod—if people weren’t carrying iPods around with them as a sort of soundtrack, the playlists would be unrepresentative of the user’s personality. It is the explicit link between daily routine and the iPod, as represented by the playlist, that makes the “just one vector” Tony Fadell and I were talking about as a social phenomenon possible. I also find it humorous to be described as a “Silicon Valley consultant,” since I live about 800 miles away as the crow flies.
See, all the Apple fanatics are perfectionists, even me, because I feel compelled to explain why the Cult of Mac posting is off base. It’s just the way all of us are. We’re all a little like Steve Jobs, über perfectionist.
Jobs wants a perfect show for Macworld when he should let the mystery of the rumors build momentum for his presenting what is true, actually separating fact from fantasy. That’s an act that doesn’t require the revelations about the company’s plans that a lawsuit brings.]]>