Three people in China are going to prison for leaking information about the iPad 2. It's a sad and pathetic story, but also one that we're going to be telling again and again in the coming years.
As the Wall Street Journal reports:
The Shenzhen Bao'an People's Court, in announcing its decision, said the head of a Chinese electronics-accessories manufacturer allegedly paid a former employee and a then-active employee of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. for information about the iPad 2 in order to produce protective cases for the device. Hon Hai, known by its trade name Foxconn, makes the iPad 2 and other gadgets for Apple in its factories in China.
That's right. iPad cases. Those Foxconn employees weren't selling information to iPad counterfeiters or competitors, they were selling them to an accessory maker. Three people are going to prison in sentences ranging from a year to a year and a half for helping a case-maker get a jump start on the competition. The stiffest sentence was handed down to Xiao Chengsong, general manager of Mac Top Electronics, who paid the other two co-conspirators to get him the iPad 2 specs.
But of course, that's not really the whole story. Interestingly, the case in question is one Gizmodo covered in December 2010, long before the iPad 2 itself was announced. Its early appearance fed the iPad rumour mill. As Jesus Diaz noted at the time:
Historically, Chinese manufacturers always get a jumpstart when it comes to make skins and cases for future Apple iOS devices. My guess is that they get the physical specs early from the low level operators at the factories that make Apple goods
That was dead-on. Pilfering those specs was a way out. Or at least a way up from this place, which, while not exactly grim, is likely a good bit less comfortable than where most of us reading this lie our heads at night.
Our insatiable desire for new gadgets, to know about them first, to have the hottest, latest, best, of everything is not only driving the conditions at Foxconn but it's also creating an entire black market economy built on piracy, theft and yes even rumour-mongering.
Nobody is responsible for what happened except those directly involved in buying and selling the iPad 2 specs illegally. But anytime the have-nots of the world possess something that the haves all desire, it's going drive that black market forward, ruining lives along the way so we can get some cheap-ass protective cases just a little early.