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A Year Later, Apple's Secret Supply Chain Seems Reined in With Cheesecloth

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Aug 22, 2013 5:00 AM PT

I'm trying to stay excited about Apple's Sept. 10 iPhone-revealing media ceremony, but instead I'm settling into the notion that we'll have a gold iPhone and a bunch of plastic entry iPhone models in vague fugly colors.

A Year Later, Apple's Secret Supply Chain Seems Reined in With Cheesecloth

I should have been more worried when Apple's master of design, Jony Ive, showed off iOS 7 with a palette of pastels at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this year, but I gave the company the benefit of the doubt: Surely soft and gentle tones aren't the future of Apple's innovation?

At least the sexy new Mac Pro seems to remain black.

Apple's dubious color choices are the least worrisome thing come September, however -- the leaky supply chain seems as if it's being run with reins made of stretchy, transparent cheesecloth.

Weirdly Soft Blue?

This year I've seen multiple photos of polycarbonate cases of an entry-level iPhone 5 featuring the same basic form factor as the current iPhone 5, just thicker. The colors? Wow. I've already gone off about that, but never mind the colors now -- maybe, just maybe, Apple did a lot of research into the color preferences of entry-level buyers and consumers in far-off parts of the world.

Maybe the sickly yellow and weirdly soft blue that I see are actually desirable to a billion or two people. Apparently shades of gold attract younger Chinese consumers. So I get that an Apple that wants to play well all over the world might deliver some colors that make my skin itch. That's business, different cultures. I get that.

Didn't Apple CEO Tim Cook say he was going to "double down" on secrecy last year, though? And then, well, wasn't last year's September iPhone 5 announcement brutally anti-climatic?

Unless Apple has some surprises up its sleeve, like an iPhone with a larger screen or an iWatch, the Sept. 10 announcement is shaping up to be something like watching the last episode of Under the Dome after the shooting script has been posted all over the Internet -- with photos from the set and spoilers tossed out like candy on Twitter.

What Went Wrong?

In addition to vague reports from sources that say the next iPhone could be the iPhone 5C, one rumor posted a photo of a box of iPhone 5C retail boxes with the familiar iPhone 5S sort of naming convention (with the S replaced by a C, of course). Assuming the photo was real, and it looked pretty real, what went wrong?

Unless all these leaks were on purpose so Americans wouldn't flip out over funky colors come Sept. 10, I'm wondering why we haven't read reports of Tim Cook being hospitalized for a leak-induced stroke.

I'm thinking that perhaps Apple has successfully doubled down on secrecy internally, but externally? Not so much -- unless secrecy and overwhelming demand have reached a tipping point, making old-school secrecy rules ineffective. At the same time, I wonder if Cook has the sheer willpower to destroy the availability of a product in order to burn a secret-leaking supplier into the ground. You know, lose the battle, make consumers mad, but make a point to everyone who wants to do business with Apple.

Single Malt to the Rescue

Maybe the days of Steve Jobs-ian irrational thermonuclear punishment are irretrievably gone.

I hope not, though, because I so fondly remember being surprised and delighted on announcement days.

Apple had a serious chance here, to create a brand-new iPhone for the masses and surprise everyone. Instead, I think Apple might be settling for moving its installed base to iOS 7 and growing its ecosystem with some new, incremental content, which is important ... but hardly exciting.

If the best thing about a high-end iPhone 5 is a fingerprint-reading home button and a "champagne" gold tone, I'll be cracking open a bottle of whiskey to help me get through the rest of the day.

MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com.

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Self-driving vehicles should be banned -- one death is one too many.
Autonomous vehicles could save thousands of lives -- the tests should continue.
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The tests are pointless -- most people will never trust software and sensors.
Most injuries and fatalities in self-driving auto tests are due to human error.