Apple's obsession with secrecy

Remember that iPhone 3G ad that Apple ran when the phone was first announced? It turns out that it might not be so far from the truth after all. Apple seems to be a company that has more rumors generated than anybody else, and the hype they generate for their upcoming products is always gargantuan. The reason for this is because they do their best to keep their products secret, but just exactly how far do they go to do this? The NY Times ran an article just recently, detailing the lengths that the Cupertino firm goes to in order to keep things tight.

Apple has been known to even surprise its own employees with product launches. Take for example Edward Eigerman, a man who worked as a systems engineer at the company for four years. He said, regarding the launch of the iPod, "I was at the iPod launch. No one that I worked with saw that coming." Eigerman was actually fired in 2005, as a co-worker leaked a preview of new software and he got mixed up in it. According to him, Apple frequently tries to trick the leakers, and then removing them from work. Phil Schiller, who is the senior vice president for marketing at the company, has held meetings before detailing false information about new products in order to see if it leaks. If it does, they try to find the source of the articles and then it's easier to know who's being untrustworthy.

Gene Munster, who works as an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said, "They don't communicate. It's a total black box." He's also been one to experience Apple's habit of throwing people off the scent; he was informed by an Apple executive that, "the company had no interest in developing a cheap iPod with no screen." As you may know, shortly after the iPod Shuffle was unveiled.

"Secrecy at Apple is not just the prevailing communications strategy; it is baked into the corporate culture." That's what the NY Times has said, and it's dead on. Apparently, those employees of Apple that work on the top secret projects have to navigate a labyrinth of hallways, using keycards to get to their destination (much like the iPhone 3G ad), all whilst being tracked on camera. To add to this, products are covered with black cloaks, and if they're going to be uncovered, workers have to switch on a red warning light to indicate extra secrecy. It's this behavior that leads to Apple employees being just as surprised as customers when the company unveils new products.

Tracking down leaks is all well and good, but Apple certainly doesn't stay quiet to the sites that report the articles. About five years ago, Apple took a group of bloggers to court, after they had been covering the company because they violated trade-secret laws, and they were not entitled to First Amendment protections. However, the courts ruled in favor of the bloggers and Apple was slapped with orders to pay $700,000 in legal fees.

Perhaps this secrecy is due to Apple co-founder and current CEO Steve Jobs. Regis McKenna, who is a employed in marketing around Silicon Valley, said, "What most people don't understand is that Steve has always been very personal about his life. He has always kept things close to the vest since I've known him, and only confided in relatively few people." An official at Apple who is apparently pretty loose-lipped when it comes to questioning, replied with, "Just can't do it. Too sensitive," after being asked for a briefing on the health of Steve Jobs.

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