As I cruise around the blogosphere I have to ponder over all the bloggers hopping on the Apple-bashing bandwagon over their attempt to protect trade secrets by forcing rumor sites to name their "confidential sources." For the longest time I was just going to wait it out but, now that bloggers I actually respect are weighing in, I guess it's time to throw out my two-cents...
Do I think Apple is going too far this time? Yes, I do. It should surprise absolutely nobody that this type of heavy-handed approach is going to backfire. Apple is making enemies out of die-hard supporters, and they need all the support they can get (they always have -- heck, according to the media, Apple's been dying for twenty years now!). Despite the iPod's success, the Mac needs to build on the momentum that's been keeping fans loyal and converting a new breed of users... everybody from hackers to home users. It's a time to be kind. People are dying to know your secrets only because they love you. Apple, you should love us back.
All that being said, who can possibly blame them?
For YEARS Apple's lawyers have been writing to "rumor sites" kindly asking them to remove proprietary information (as is their legal right). I can only guess that they've grown tired of constantly firing off the same letters again and again and again to these same people, and decided to explore a different approach. I mean, come on! The sites in question KNOW when they put up confidential information that it's not a very nice thing to do and Apple is going to ask them to remove it, but they put it up anyway because the extra hits will bring them more advertising dollars. Since they never seem to learn, what was Apple supposed to do?
The only thing they can do, and what any other company would do: explore every legal avenue available to them in order to protect their trade secrets. It is, after all, the American Way. Yes, I think that this was a bit extreme on Apple's part, but I have no idea what steps they have been taking within their company to stop the leaks. Maybe they've tried everything and this is a last resort for them? But heaven forbid we should ever give Apple the benefit of the doubt. It's much more fun to crucify them and threaten to not love them anymore and scream loudly about "un-switching" to a crappy Windows PC because "Apple is evil."
Yeah, whatever. If you're going to be such a whiner, at least whine about stuff that actually matters (how about "where is the G5 PowerBook?" for a start). Turning Apple into Microsoft for vilification just doesn't do it for me. Maybe if their products sucked a lot more, I could try and sympathize. But Apple makes great stuff! And if legally protecting their secrets is what they have to do to keep on making great stuff in the cut-throat computer business... well... I suppose it's better than hiring ninjas to start killing people (though not quite as cool).
And before you decide to fire off some hate-mail to me crying about how "Apple's actions are the death-knell for free speech on the internet," save your breath. Because do you want to know how I respond to this laughable rhetoric?
If Apple was secretly building nuclear weapons or killing kittens for ingredients used to build their iPods, or even using a monopoly to force computer manufacturers to only install their OS, then sure... these are newsworthy events that should be investigated, and people should be told. But posting proprietary trade secrets gleaned from law-breaking employees bound by an NDA that could potentially damage a company?
Excuse me, but exactly who is supposed to be the victim here? Do you honestly believe that companies should spend millions of dollars researching a new product, only to have all their hard work dumped on some rumor site for their competition to pour over? If you had spent millions and untold hours, would you? Breaking a non-disclosure agreement to spill company secrets doesn't make you a whistle-blower unless there are laws being broken (or perhaps an ethical violation), it just makes you a spy and a theif. If you publish it, that makes you an accessory to theft. Don't go walking on some journalistic high ground, because you're not serving the public interest... you're only serving yourself, no matter how you candy-coat it.
Free speech is a luxury that everybody should feel to abuse whenever they feel like it. Heaven only knows I do. But if companies can't do everything they can within the law to uphold legally-binding non-disclosure documents, what good is an NDA in the first place? This doesn't change the fact that I think Apple has gone a little crazy here, but going after people who publicly release information they know to be covered by an NDA (and those who broke such an agreement in the first place) is something I can certainly understand. And forgive.
Oh, and by the way... if anybody has any details on Apple making a video iPod or a G5 PowerBook, my email address is in the top-left corner of every page.