Here are some reasons to prohibit pre-release questions for hardware and services.
Apple has currently announced the following services and hardware in Fall 2014 that is not available.
- Apple Watch
- Apple Pay
- Home Kit
Even with iOS 8, Apple committed to shipping Health Kit apps on release day and that was changed at the last moment and the first 3 weeks of iOS 8 had no support for Health Kit. The Watch is committed to be released in Early 2015 (assuming that regulatory approval is granted). Apple Pay was committed in October 2014 and I don't have a good date for when Home Kit will arrive.
The reasons for prohibiting questions in general about pre-release software is to maintain the possibility to have high quality answers that don't enter into rumor, reading tea leaves, or over-parsing limited details that are released before the work to finish the product is done. Had we allowed Health Kit answers, we would have had incorrect information at launch as well as demonstrably poor answers to health kit questions until 8.0.2 and releases today September 29 allowed consumers to actually use the product.
The Stack Exchange sites are optimized to provide great answers by attracting knowledgable, expert people to address clearly worded questions. We even tolerate miserable questions when there is a demonstrated good answer or the possibility of a good answer to be provided.
With pre-release products that may or may not be covered with NDA - the pool of professional, capable, and knowledgable answers is severely limited. Furthermore, anyone that comes up with a good answer can probably be assumed to be breaking NDA. That environment fosters a "those who know aren't talking, those who are talking don't know" effect.
By widening the prohibition, it helps site moderators of all reputation levels to know that they should probably close most or all questions on pre-release software so that the site doesn't waste attention and discussion on un-answerable questions.
Once the product is released, all of the on-hold questions are easily reviewed and edited and reopened for all of the well worded questions.
I have seen these patterns as a user of the site as well as one of the elected moderators since day one. By following the same spirit of discouraging all but the most answerable and helpful questions on pre-release software - we would have consistency by prohibiting all but the most answerable questions about pre-release hardware and services.
My vote is to edit the [help] to broaden the prohibition on pre-release to cover hardware and services.