What are the odds that this week’s story about the next-gen iPhone “found” in a Bay Area bar came about by accident? A quick survey of former and current Apple employees (okay, it was only four of them) came out 100 percent on the side of this being no accident but a deliberate plant on Apple’s part.

Look how the story grabbed headlines and created free buzz for Apple at a time when Apple doesn’t have a new iPhone to flog in the face of new phones from Microsoft and a bunch of new Android devices. By “losing” a phone Apple stole the attention and, in doing so, told us only one thing we didn’t know before — that the new phone will have two cameras. Big whoop. Thinner, bigger battery, more Apple components were all to be expected, but the second camera, of course, has us all thinking about iChatting on the bus to work, which is exactly what we’re supposed to be thinking about.

Remember Apple is the only phone vendor that has such tight integration of hardware and software services. Not even Microsoft or Nokia are in a position to offer something truly comparable.

Which brings us to the iPad, which doesn’t even have a camera. Why the heck not? Because adding one would have bumped-up the price, because the 300,000 people who bought a camera-less iPad on Day One will also buy another iPad with camera on the day that version is introduced. Once again Apple is playing to its strengths even in leveraging its weaknesses.

Apple is also about to effectively abandon one old power center in favor of a new one. Apple has historically had great success in education. Remember how Dan’l Lewin 25 years ago built Apple’s education sales operation into a powerhouse that is still an important profit center for the company? Now I am told Apple is about to shutter their education program in favor of shifting it into the Apple Stores.

The plan is for Apple to dismantle their higher education sales and pre-sales support division by October, shifting resources to support University sales at the Apple Stores and by telemarketing.

This makes sense and is probably even a good thing. It means more Apple stores in more cities and especially across the street from more colleges and universities. It gives Apple Retail greater resources at a time when the company is already gaining market share. And if Apple makes a serious grab for the textbook market with its iPad (hint, hint), they’d better have a shop nearby to support students.