We've established that beta software is off topic until it is released, but what about hardware? For instance, are iPhone 4S questions off limits until Apple actually ships them?

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...are iPhone 4S questions off limits until Apple actually ships them?

Now that it has been announced, I think that makes it on-topic. Apple has a nice product page to pull some answers from (though any question might get closed as being easily answerable via the page).

As to the quality of that answers you are going to get, that's something else completely since it hasn't been shipped and no one has it in their hands yet.

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I agree, they're now on topic –  Kyle Cronin Oct 4 '11 at 23:56
    
But what questions can we answer at this point? There's what's posted on Apple's page (so read the page), and then there's the raft of "why did Apple do x, y, or z" questions. The information that's known at this point is so small, I'd argue that we're unlikely to get good, answerable 4S questions until people actually have more information than what's on Apple's product page. –  Daniel Lawson Oct 5 '11 at 2:46
    
Questions about things posted to Apple's web pages are not necessarily bad questions. Obvious perhaps, in some cases. But some legitimate questions could be of sufficient quality to keep around and answer with a high degree of detail. –  Jason Salaz Oct 5 '11 at 8:10
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@Daniel: I completely agree with you on all your points, but we have to draw a line somewhere. From my perspective, it is much easier to enforce "beta" than it is "announced but not yet shipped." By announcing something, Apple makes it open to discussion. That creates a very distinct line we all can work from. –  Philip Regan Oct 5 '11 at 12:26
    
Thanks @PhilipRegan for clarifying. I agree there's a distinct line, and I'm in favor of distinct lines. I do think we're on precisely the wrong side of the distinct line. Beta software (without NDA) we can get actual information about and answer questions helpfully. Vaporware hardware we just have manufacturer information about. But I agree that a clear policy is much better than a lack of a clear policy, and I can certainly run with this. –  Daniel Lawson Oct 5 '11 at 12:37
    
@Daniel: Beta software invariably has an NDA attached to it, particularly Apple who is particularly strict about violation. We cannot place the community in jeopardy like that, good intentions or otherwise. Please see this question for detailed discussion: meta.apple.stackexchange.com/q/573/212 –  Philip Regan Oct 5 '11 at 12:42
    
@PhilipRegan But that wasn't the basis of the decision here. Beta software (particularly non-Apple beta software) sometimes does NOT have an NDA attached to it, but the decision was to make it all off-topic for "too localized" reasons. I agree that we should be extremely careful not to put people in jeopardy for violating NDAs. –  Daniel Lawson Oct 5 '11 at 12:46
    
@Daniel: It would be unreasonable for us to verify the existence of every NDA, and their terms, for every piece of pre-release software asked about (and sometimes we don't know if it is pre-release or not until someone flags the post). I don't agree with the logic put forth in Nathan's answer, but I do agree with yours that pre-release is oftentimes still transient in state and answers will change between beta releases and final. The policy is not that blunt an instrument, but some questions will suffer. Those are in the vast minority. NDAs are far too prevalent to assume otherwise. –  Philip Regan Oct 5 '11 at 13:15
    
@PhilipRegan Fair enough. –  Daniel Lawson Oct 5 '11 at 13:20
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