In the BlackBerry community, Leaks are one of the biggest debates. Many question the intentions of leaking, saying it's both harmful and derailing for a company - while others can't seem to get enough of it.
Leaks (for those less-aware) is when information whether tangible or intangible is released in a public space unintended by the company or owner of the product or service to which the information pertains. It could be someone showing a device, discussing an unrelease product offering, releasing a downloadable OS, etc. The issue with these leaks, is that everyone seems to want to know about tomorrow's products, right now.
When it comes to the mobile industry, leaks have become a part of every product cycle. It's not limited to BlackBerry - companies like Apple, Samsung, and Motorola deal with the same issues. In fact, rarely does a device not get leaked. Take the iPhone for example: a device which has been leaked literally every single product cycle since the original version - even the iPhone 6S that is due out in a couple of weeks has leaked in it's entirety or the Samsung Note 5 which has been leaked both in press renderings, and pictures along side their upcoming Galaxy S6 Edge Plus model. In a sentence, leaking has become a culture, driven by consumerism where secrecy means nothing when it comes to showing off something new.
So, Who Gets Hurt, and How?
People risk jobs, legal and financial consequences of both the company and leaker. When something leaks, not only is a career at stake, but the company can actually lose money long-term. Here's an example: The BlackBerry Passport leaks and consumers are able to get a widespread view of the device for the first time. We can assume that some will appreciate the device, and decide to pursue purchasing one when available - while others will disregard the device, calling it ugly or unappealing and immediately come to conclusions about the device based on information provided to them online. Whether the information is accurate or innacurate, people will 9 times out of 10 decide on the spot if the phone is for them purely based on appearance and hearsay. In other words, a device could lose out on lots of sales before it's even official - or hold off on buying a current device because they'd rather purchase what's next. Something worth touching on, would be the BlackBerry Venice (Upcoming Slider Device) that is said to offer a varient of Android OS -- and already has some fan's jumping ship, purely based on unverified rumour; another way that the company can lose in their financial sectors.
One thing leaks definitely have an effect on, is the final unveiling. Without a doubt, it absolutely defames the event - where consumers really should be seeing the device for the first time, and allowing the company to market instead of consumers already having judgement about the device.
But it's not always just a willing person leaking information, publicly available sites like the FCC can often unveil a devices upcoming before the company has said anything; simply becuase registration information that is not covered on confidentiality agreements. Not many know, but plenty of companies do what we call controlled leaks where they soft-leak certain information for their own benefit - but I'll touch on that later.
The issue really exists due to today's connectivity, and impatient / eager consumers. Where people can instantly connect across the world with a few clicks, it makes information incredibly easy to obtain and spread. We also live in a global online society where information is changed, or put a spin on in order to obtain new readership and site numbers - which I feel can be most damaging to leaked information and the company itself. There really is a difference between publishing information to keep your reader base up-to-date, and slanderously wording articles to put your own interests above proper journalism.
Is there any advantages to leaks for a company? Yes. While that can sound crazy to some, leaks can actually be beneficial in the right light. In example, when a device like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 leaks, it allows the company as a whole to observe public reactions. By monitoring forums, comments, and articles Samsung can effectively alter the device with minor improvements before an official announcement. R&D along with Marketing departments do this with focus-groups, where participants are allowed to use the device before it's final stages in production. One way BlackBerry has used leaks to their advantage has been showing off devices they have on their roadmap. It's a tactic of public exposure from the executives, rather than allowing lower-level leaking. By showing off the Slider, BlackBerry has gained a wide public response -- a publicity stunt that Chen has used with the Passport & Classic before their release. It's smart when you think about it.
BlackBerry doesn't discuss internal specifications when they show off devices; which is where leaks can affect other companies. When something leaks about an upcoming device, other companies are constantly watching in hopes to get a leg up on the competetor. Hypothetically, if BlackBerry's Venice leaked with a Fingerprint Scanner built into the screen, Apple could take that idea and integrate it into their upcoming iPhone 7 rather than fall behind.
Assuming leaks only affect consumers is a serious mistake.
Okay, So How Do We Stop Leaks?
Simple, you don't because you can't. A way to think of leaks, is like music pirating services: when the government closes one down, two more pop up. It's something that can't really be stopped in today's digital age.
Is there ways to improve / prevent leaks? Totally -- to some extent. As much as a company can improve employee relationships, and focus on internal leaks; there's always unforseen issues. One that's big, and occurs most often, is supply chain leaks. When companies outsource manufacturing, it's more than likely to be leaked. If not there, in carrier testing.
Leaking has become a part of modern technology releases. It's simply a fact of it all. Often times we see consumers or blogs trying to fight leaks, blame others, and argue over them. I, as many others feel, it should be accepted as a part of technology.