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Women in Tech

Apple's Leaky Vietnamese Connection

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
May 21, 2010 5:00 AM PT

For the third time is a little more than a week, information about an upcoming Apple product has been aired at the Vietnamese blog Tinhte -- the same blog that accurately predicted Apple's latest round of MacBook upgrades.

Apple's Leaky Vietnamese Connection

The latest revelation at the site appears to be a prototype of a next-generation iPod touch sporting a built-in digital camera, which the site says has a resolution of two megapixels.

Photos of the touch posted at Tinhte show an early test unit that may or may not be what the final unit will look like whenever it's released, according to Thomas Ricker writing at Endgadget. That release could be as early as June 7, when Apple will be holding its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Historically, however, Apple has released updates to its iPod line in September.

Based on the serial number of the device in the posted photos, the unit is a late 2009 third-generation touch, Ricker noted. "[C]ould be that this device was one of those eBay prototypes that never made it to production for whatever reason," he speculated. In April, two touch prototypes with cameras were listed for sale on the online auction site but the listings were quickly taken down.

Stuff Happens

Since tight control over new product information is an important part of Apple's success strategy in its markets, this latest rash of leaks -- multiple fourth-generation iPhones, information on MacBooks and now this supposed iPod -- must be disturbing to the company. However, it shouldn't be surprising, according to Scott Testa, a professor of business administration at Cabrini College in Philadelphia.

"If you're a large company, and you're outsourcing R&D and manufacturing, you're going to have leaks," he told MacNewsWorld. "That stuff is going to happen."

While the Tinhte leaks may have minimal impact on Apple's marketing strategy, Cabrini contended, that's not the case with another lapse in the company's information control: the obtaining of an iPhone prototype by the gadget website Gizmodo.

"Apple gains a lot marketing firepower from the secrecy of their products," he asserted. "The loss of the prototype did much more damage than the other [leaks]."

Painful Repercussions

Because of the location of the recent rash of leaks, questions arise about how tight a lid Apple's manufacturing partners overseas are keeping on the company's proprietary information. "No company wants their products prereleased by manufacturing partners," Gartner Media Analyst Michael McGuire told MacNewsWorld.

The demand for this kind of product is growing, and that demand may be very tempting to folks in the Apple food chain, but the stakes can be high for those who do not toe the Infinite Loop line, McGuire maintained.

"The repercussions are going to be substantial and painful for those entities," he said. "They may suffer some legal issues for contract violations, but the biggest pain is they're probably going to lose business."

What's more, he added, "A company like Apple is more likely to really put the screws to its OEMs and put lots more expensive requirements for them in terms of protecting the products their manufacturing for Apple."

Not a Pattern - Yet

This latest Apple revelation at Tinhte is the third in eight days for the Vietnamese blog. On May 12, it posted a video of an apparent next-generation iPhone, which closely resembled the prototype obtained by Gizmodo in April, and for the first time appeared to confirm the use in the device of the A4 processor, known for its speed and low power consumption.

In another video posted on May 15, it showed a new version of the 13-inch white MacBook being unboxed just days before Apple officially unveiled the product.

With so many leaks appearing in so short a time from a single geographic location, should Apple be concerned that Vietnam is becoming an information sieve for the company? Cabrini doesn't think so.

"I don't think that's significant in itself," he opined. "It's not significant unless it becomes a pattern. It's not a pattern yet. If you see one or two more of these, then you may have to ask, 'Who are my suppliers in Vietnam, and what are they doing with my products?'"

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