Apple has long kept its new product secrets close, wary that details leaking of new hardware will reduce sales of current products, just at the point where they are most profitable. I've written before how this culture spread unnecessarily into Apple's overall culture, and why they have missed a lot of the social media effects because of it. However, something has changed - both with the
iTV AppleTV and todays iPhone
announcement, Jobs is trumpeting new hardware months before it's available.
The difference here is that these are new categories for Apple, and the goal is to make customers wait for the Apple product instead of buying an alternative from someone else. By setting the price and broad features now, Jobs forces the competition's shipping product, based on last years technology and manufacturing costs to compete with what he will have in 6 months time. This is something that can only be done from a position of strength, which the iPod success gives him, but it is also a bit of a risk, as the product may disappoint.
I'm reserving judgment on the AppleTV until I see more details of what software it will run, in particular whether it can use Perian to play other video formats, and can use BitTorrent for HD podcasts, but it only having enough CPU oomph for 720p playback seems to be aiming low compared to a lot of existing Apple products, as well as the Xbox 360.
Update: Apple seems to understand the advantages of downloading media for later playback - these two new products both cache video locally in the great iPod tradition. So why on earth is the keynote up as a stream? I'd like to watch it on the train home tonight, so I want to download it, but no. Twits.
Update: Since I wrote this, it has shown up as a podcast on the iTunes store, so I will be able to watch it on the train on Monday. It's not linked from the Apple main page, so you may have missed this too; clearly there are still some internal Apple turf wars over this.