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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As an ex-employee of Apple some of what is written is true and some is false. Yes new products are kept under lock and key-and key-and key---if you get my meaning. However I have been in rooms that I didn't even know existed until I was cleared to work on more projects. Apple is well aware of corporate espionage and employs some very clever ways of keeping those in, and out of the loop. At one time I can remember our internal intranet being used to pass on false information and items being tagged to identify the traitor. Apple keeps new products very close to the chest. If I could give one word of advice to any potential Apple buyer it would be this -- Never ever buy anything from Apple that is first generation -- That is to say a newly released product. Because one thing Apple loves to do is release products before they are really ready, some have major defects --- Case in point if you can recall the old Performa line of computers bundled with Global Village Software that was full of bugs, yet the inside story was the customer "MUST BE DOING SOMETHING WRONG OR HAS THIRD PARTY SOFTWARE INSTALLED WHICH IS IN CONFLICT" We would have Tech. Support walk them through several BS fixes. The facts were plain - the hardware and software was released before all the bugs could be worked out. Apple does eventually come around and correct the bugs and gaffs even though that may be at the customer's expense or in a second or third generation release of the product. One thing in my time at Apple was that I couldn't understand how Apple crazy consumers really are. I know the OS is good and all positive points but remember the first iMacs? Good lord people laid out the bucks for colored plastic! One thing Apple is good at is taking something and designing the crap out of it, creating buzz, and convincing people they can't live without the latest WHIZ BANG product.

Look at MS and their constant Windows 7/Office 2010/MSE/Windows Virtual PC leaked builds. Apple needs to learn something from them :P

Its their product, they can keep it as open or as secretive as they like. All I really care about is if the product works or not. I mean, its really cool being able to follow the windows development along the path that it takes, but its even cooler when something leaks from Apple and we get a small window into what they are coming up with. MS kinda had that when Vista was in development but with windows 7 build leaking like there is no tomorrow it has kind of become a little old.
With apple no one really knows what to expect. And they defiantly have been able to keep the cool factor imo with keeping all their releases a little secret.

They can be secret....why because they don't deal with other developers and OEMs. Thinking stereotypically.....Women are secretive and men are not....So that makes Steve Jobs and all his fanboys societies little B**chs.....lol

It's pretty amusing to think that Apple feels their products need this kind of secrecy. Their employees must feel like they are working on something special with all the unncesessary security.

C_Guy said,
It's pretty amusing to think that Apple feels their products need this kind of secrecy. Their employees must feel like they are working on something special with all the unncesessary security.

its called hype and it makes $

I must admit, Apple seems to know how to keep secrets. The lengths they'd go to keep a secret from their own employees is a testament to their determination. How much did they make off the iPod thus far? A lot of dollar signs comes to mind with a question like that. Cha-ching! $$$

You know, I was wondering the same thing. I guess you're pretty much right, BUT, the iPhone 3G S had to be deployed in many countries and they had to communicate some information to a lot of cellphone providers, yet we didn't have that much informations on it. I mean, we did, but they were all rumours in the end (glowing logo? matte plastic? dual-core?)
But I would agree that we knew more about the iPhone 3G S than any Mac computer for instance.

Not that this secrecy and subsequent hype always works in their favor. The fact they let their fans run rampant with rumors often lead to a pretty disappointed fan base when the resulting product doesn't meet the raised expectations.

Still, it's pretty astonishing how good they are at keeping things secret and even when a romor/leak is accurate theres usually another half dozen to go with it that are so viable as to make the correct one not stand out anyway.

I read that the soft rubber backed 3GS iPhone images were rumored by some to have originated from Apple as a way to catch out some of their own employees. Certainly would be in line with this article.

Smigit said,
Not that this secrecy and subsequent hype always works in their favor. The fact they let their fans run rampant with rumors often lead to a pretty disappointed fan base when the resulting product doesn't meet the raised expectations.

And how pray tell, can you stop anyone from making a rumour and posting it on the net?

That's just as impossible as stopping the real leakers of info imho.

People get hyped up because they know Apple is always innovating and coming out with cool ideals year after year, even if they aren't up to the imaginary, unworldy expectations of rumour sites.

Binary said,
People get hyped up because they know Apple is always innovating and coming out with cool ideals year after year, even if they aren't up to the imaginary, unworldy expectations of rumour sites.

What, like putting MMS, copy & paste, and video (yes....video) on an iPhone?! The only innovative thing apple do is come up with some well designed and products.

Binary said,
And how pray tell, can you stop anyone from making a rumour and posting it on the net?

You don't...but you can dampen the effects by not holding information back for the last minute. You can stream information out over time before the launch so people know where the company is headed.

I'm not saying they should do that, just that clearly holding things back hasn't gone well for them all the times in the past.

HacKage said,
What, like putting MMS, copy & paste, and video (yes....video) on an iPhone?! The only innovative thing apple do is come up with some well designed and products.


+1

-1 :)
MMS and video were late and a lot, copy & paste was already on a few phones, but just because it is on more than 1 phone it doesn't mean they're so late that the iPhone is a lost cause ;)
Now people are complaining about multitasking and nothing else, and all the updates to MMS, copy & paste, etc. are now useable on the iPhones from the 1st gen.

Try to find a company who updates their 3-years old phones. None of them will even support the stupid phone.

PsykX said,
and all the updates to MMS, copy & paste, etc. are now useable on the iPhones from the 1st gen.

There is no MMS on the 1st generation iPhone due to some hardware issues according to Apple. They haven't given specifics as to what these issues are, but MMS is not present.

That ad sucked in my opinnion. It doesn't even show that it can video record, really. To any casual viewer, they would think, "Wait, can't I already watch videos on my iPhone? I'm not gonna buy a new one then!".

They should have showed off the video editor or something. I'm a Windows Mobile fanboy, but that Apple ad actually sucked! Honestly, your video editor is good! That's the only thing I'm jealous of, so why don't you show it off a little?

Who cares! Let them be secretive about their upcoming products! I think it brings out the excitement when nobody sees it coming. Besides it works to their advantage, brings out the hype. And I think Steve has a right to his life being secretive, yeah he might have had a liver transplant, at least he's healthier and in good condition!

michaelof36 said,
Who cares! Let them be secretive about their upcoming products! I think it brings out the excitement when nobody sees it coming. Besides it works to their advantage, brings out the hype. And I think Steve has a right to his life being secretive, yeah he might have had a liver transplant, at least he's healthier and in good condition!


Oh yeah and the third party developers don't mind being told last at all ...

Out of all things from Apple I don't like, this is just a great way to filter low-end employers aka leakers. I'd do exactly the same.

FoxieFoxie said,
Out of all things from Apple I don't like, this is just a great way to filter low-end employers aka leakers. I'd do exactly the same.

Overall this is pretty low down my list of things I don't like about Apple, the no.1 for me in their elitism among the apple faithful.

Well, deveopling things like MMS-support and video recording should be kept under the wraps.
It's really hard coding, and what if it were to leak?!

Back in the days of micosoft vrs apple (im talking way back during the first versions of windows), secrecy wasnt a bit issue for apple. If you know your history you would know that microsoft got alot of ideas from apple (software handled mouse, for example) and implemented them into windows.

Since apple lost a lot to microsoft, they have very good reason to try and keep things secret. Its a little bit of paranoia mixed with simply knowing that if given the chance, people will steal your idea. Apple has simply learned from the past, sharing their ideas simply gives someone opportunity to make it their own.

Conjor said,
Back in the days of micosoft vrs apple (im talking way back during the first versions of windows), secrecy wasnt a bit issue for apple. If you know your history you would know that microsoft got alot of ideas from apple (software handled mouse, for example) and implemented them into windows.

Since apple lost a lot to microsoft, they have very good reason to try and keep things secret. Its a little bit of paranoia mixed with simply knowing that if given the chance, people will steal your idea. Apple has simply learned from the past, sharing their ideas simply gives someone opportunity to make it their own.


You mean like how Apple stole it from Xerox?
Know your history man. Lots of books on the subject and even a (kinda descent) docu-drama film about it: Pirates of silicon valley

Xerox would've learned the same lesson had they stayed in the software market. I don't think that was his point.

Microsoft doesn't have the same problem, really. OEM's will buy Windows regardless, businesses will keep buying Office, phones will even continue to license Windows Mobile. Apple doesn't have that advantage: they need to entice the user to buy their product, software and hardware. If someone steals their ideas, they won't sell their products as well.

Conjor said,
If you know your history you would know that microsoft got alot of ideas from apple (software handled mouse, for example) and implemented them into windows.

apperantly you just hear word of mouth, like mmaster13 said, both apple and microsoft "stole" the idea from xerox.

metheweirdo said,
apperantly you just hear word of mouth, like mmaster13 said, both apple and microsoft "stole" the idea from xerox.


Yep, lol. That history lesson failed.

Regardless of who stole it from who, apple, xerox, whatever, it doesn't matter. You are simply proving my point, which is people will steal whatever they can get their hands on.

Conjor said,
Regardless of who stole it from who, apple, xerox, whatever, it doesn't matter. You are simply proving my point, which is people will steal whatever they can get their hands on.

that is so true.