The art of deception: How Apple attempts to keep its secret projects under wraps

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited March 2015
With connections drawn between a rumored Apple car project and a research company named SixtyEight, AppleInsider takes a look at some other ways Apple has attempted to keep its top-secret projects out of the public eye.


Security cameras outside the offices of SixtyEight Research in Sunnyvale, Calif.


Amidst a series of Apple-occupied offices in the town of Sunnyvale, Calif., is a mysterious company named SixtyEight Research, which has a limited online presence and recently renovated its facilities to add a "repair garage." This, accompanied by sources who say it's located in the office complex is where Apple is working on its secret electric car project, has led to speculation that Apple is using SixtyEight as a cover.

Further adding intrigue to the mystery, "SixtyEight LLC" was registered as a company last year in California, and imported a 1957 Fiat Multipla 600 from the U.K. into the U.S. Apple's chief designer Jony Ive is known for having an affinity for Fiat's designs, and he and co-designer Marc Newson auctioned off a Product(RED) Fiat 600 back in 2013.
Apple has a history of using shell corporations and other tactics to obfuscate its projects and future plans.
The connections to Apple are particularly noteworthy because such tactics are the company's modus operandi, using shell corporations and other public smokescreens to hide projects, as it develops them and attempts to bring them to market.

These obfuscation tactics have been around for decades, famously used by Walt Disney to buy up large tracts of land in Florida. His real estate endeavors eventually became Walt Disney World, and the land was purchased at prices that would have been unavailable if the true buyer had been known.

Apple's own legendary veil of secrecy began to take shape around the release of the original Macintosh back in 1984, under the leadership of Steve Jobs. Today, Apple's secret labs are said to include multiple security doors, requiring badge swipes and code entry, while workspaces are under constant surveillance.

While Apple develops its products in secret, with secure rooms and draped black cloaks keeping information hidden at its Cupertino headquarters, bringing a product to market also requires interaction with the outside world.

Parts and prototypes must be ordered and shipped, extensive testing is required, and various legal filings must be made. Here, too, Apple does its best to maintain secrets.

But, as history has demonstrated, leaks happen.

iPad: What's in a name?

Apple wanted to be sure it owned the iPad name before it introduced the product. Of course, Apple didn't actually want anyone to know the name of the iPad before it was formally unveiled.

And so the company attempted a unique approach: It opted to register the name as an acronym, I.P.A.D.

It did so under the guise of a British shell corporation it created named "IP Application Development," or "IPAD Ltd."

Again, Apple's efforts fell short, as the filing and its connections to Apple were revealed before the iPad was officially announced.
The iPad name was registered through "IP Application Development," a British shell corporation owned by Apple, before the tablet was announced. Apple also covertly owned the names "iSlate" and "Magic slate.
There are signs that Apple also had a backup plan in naming the iPad, as records back in 2009 suggested the company was also behind another dummy corporation named "Slate Computing, LLC." That company owned the "iSlate" and "Magic Slate" trademarks.

As for the hardware, some developers were given access to the iPad prior to release, but the device was locked to an immovable object in an isolated room where all of the windows were completely blacked out. Developers were also required to sign and submit more than a 10-page non-disclosure agreement along with photographic evidence that they'd met all of the provisions set forth.

Pictures of the device securely bolted down still managed to leak onto the Internet before the first iPad was revealed in early 2010.

Watching for the Watch


Apple Watch schematics leaked last September.


As with the iPhone and iPad before it, the Apple Watch was the subject of countless rumors for years before its final unveiling. While the device itself was a highly guarded secret, the fact that Apple was working on it was widely known.

One element that Apple did manage to keep under wraps until the keynote presentation last September was the name. But as with the iPad and iSlate, Apple actually registered a number of potential names just in case.

The most popular name rumored for the device, "iWatch," was actually openly registered by Apple itself, potentially with the intent of misdirection. Unlike with iPad and iSlate, Apple sought ownership of the iWatch name under its own corporate banner.

In the U.S., U.K. and other countries, ownership of the iWatch name was sought by a mystery company named "Brightflash," also thought to be a front for Apple to conceal its efforts.

As for the final product name of Apple Watch? Apple did file for ownership, under its own name, prior to its unveiling. It went unnoticed in Trinidad & Tobago.

The iPhone 4 debacle

iPhone 4G 2


The most famous Apple leak of all didn't involve legal maneuvering, trademark filings or mysterious shell corporations -- just a simple plastic casing.

Apple's next-generation handset was hiding in plain sight, but it was exposed when an Apple employee mistakenly left a prototype iPhone 4 unit at a bar in 2010. The handset was then stolen and sold to Gizmodo, which went as far as to take the device apart and show its insides before mailing it back to Apple.

Testing an iPhone in the wild is paramount for obvious reasons related to cellular connectivity and reception. But Apple couldn't allow an entirely new-looking iPhone to be used in plain sight, lest its secret project be prematurely unveiled.

And so Apple wrapped the iPhone 4 in a plastic case housing that made it look like an iPhone 3GS. To the average person, the prototype iPhone looked completely identical to the current model.

Though the prototype iPhone 4 ended up getting a very public exposure, Apple didn't abandon that strategy.

Last year, when it was testing the Apple Watch in public with the code-name "Gizmo," the device was wrapped in dummy shells to conceal its design. With no wearables of its own on the market at the time, Apple opted to make its Watch look like competing devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear.

Weeding out the leakers

Apple Breakout Box
Apple sued in an effort to find out who leaked this secret, unreleased product.


In an effort to crack down on leaks, Apple is known to disseminate bogus information to find out who is leaking it. Since those affairs are handled internally, it's unknown how frequently, or how successful, those efforts are.

But over a decade ago, Apple took a different approach, and attempted to force news publications to reveal their sources so it could crack down on leaks. Apple sought to subpoena editors at AppleInsider and PowerPage in an effort to identify sources who provided accurate details of an unreleased hardware product code-named Asteroid. The journalists refused to cooperate and enlisted the services of the Electronic Frontier Foundation as their counsel.

Eventually the case went to court, and Apple argued that online journalists shouldn't be afforded the same protections as print journalists. A three-judge panel in the California Court of Appeals ultimately sided with the websites, and found their editors were entitled to the same protections as conventional print reporters.

Apple declined to appeal the decision and was later sued by the EFF for attorney's fees. In an effort to deter Apple from filing future cases of little merit to root out leakers at the company, the court awarded the EFF more than two times the attorney's fees for which it had asked.

SixtyEight and Apple

An investigation by AppleInsider discovered the aforementioned SixtyEight Research, which signs point to being a potential front for a secret Apple project.

Multiple sources have told AppleInsider that automotive parts for testing have been shipped to Apple's offices in Sunnyvale, where it's speculated that the company is hard at work on an electric car project in a building code-named "SG5." But as the largest company in the world, if Apple were to import cars and parts under its own name, it might draw red flags and fuel speculation about a so-called "Apple Car."

The use of a shell corporation would certainly be one way for Apple to push forward on development of a top-secret project without drawing unwanted attention.

And therein lies perhaps the company's greatest creation of all: the Apple hype machine. The less that's revealed, the more the world wants to know what's next.
«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    krreagankrreagan Posts: 218member
    That's one of the reasons there are so many leaks from "reliable and trusted sources" that turn out to be bogus... Apple has baited its employees by giving them false information that they can trace back to the internal leaker or at least the group.
  • Reply 2 of 57
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Apple should have a full-scale, year-round, well-staffed and well-funded misinformation department. Fooling not just the media digging for secrets, but their own Asian suppliers as well. Complete with making real semi-functional prototypes of things, using realistic part numbers, etc.. They should hire long-time rumor bloggers to craft these fakeries so they leak in exactly the same way as would really happen.

    The expense, for Apple, would be microscopic, but there would suddenly be a constant stream of fresh leaks--well crafted and undetectable.

    And the fun of the surprise would return! Because we simply would not know what to believe anymore.
  • Reply 3 of 57
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post



    Apple should have a full-scale, year-round, well-staffed and well-funded misinformation department. Fooling not just the media digging for secrets, but their own Asian suppliers as well. Complete with making real semi-functional prototypes of things, using realistic part numbers, etc.. They should hire long-time rumor bloggers to craft these fakeries so they leak in exactly the same way as would really happen.



    The expense, for Apple, would be microscopic, but there would suddenly be a constant stream of fresh leaks--well crafted and undetectable.



    And the fun of the surprise would return! Because we simply would not know what to believe anymore.



    They already do this. ;)

     

    Gruber and Dalrymple are also, semi-officially, Apple people.

  • Reply 4 of 57
    It seems that Apple is NOT working on a car per se. That is well out of their comfort zone. But they MUST, by nature of their business, be working on SYSTEMS that can be used in an automobile! Think "Apple environment " and you'll begin to figure out systems that can be used to install in a vehicle.
  • Reply 5 of 57
    feynmanfeynman Posts: 1,087member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post



    Apple should have a full-scale, year-round, well-staffed and well-funded misinformation department. Fooling not just the media digging for secrets, but their own Asian suppliers as well. Complete with making real semi-functional prototypes of things, using realistic part numbers, etc.. They should hire long-time rumor bloggers to craft these fakeries so they leak in exactly the same way as would really happen.



    The expense, for Apple, would be microscopic, but there would suddenly be a constant stream of fresh leaks--well crafted and undetectable.



    And the fun of the surprise would return! Because we simply would not know what to believe anymore.



    The problem with this idea is that a lot of shareholders and analysts would be upset that said product is not actually real since it won't ever ship and it could do more damage to AAPL stock then good. Apple would turn out like Google with lots of abandonware and it would just look bad for their image.

  • Reply 6 of 57
    mellamella Posts: 8member

    I keep hearing that Apple is a "fish out of water" in the car market, but what I think many casual observers don't connect is that the computer has yet to "take over" the car. A personal transport is largely controlled and manipulated by mechanical mechanisms and user discretion. This is completely counter to almost every other aspects of our lives, which are enhanced by automation and computer input and output. 

     

    The computer isn't just "going to the car", it's going to completely take it over, and it won't be using a conventional OS like all our other devices use. Apple makes hardware and software *work together* and as a shareholder and enthusiastic fangirl I feel like Apple should make the OS that runs the self-driving vehicle... and we all know Apple doesn't just make OS distros, it makes the hardware for them too–in this case, the Car! 

     

    Does anyone remember iTunes on Moto Razr pre Apple iPhone?? It's like Déjà vu! 

  • Reply 7 of 57
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    ... and imported a 1957 Fiat Multipla 600 from the U.K. ...

     

    I had a brief panic attack when I saw the name "Multipla" in that sentence.

    To my great relief, the old one is far more attractive (less hideous) than the new one.

     

     

    50s-60s Fiat Multipla 600:

     

     

     

     

    '98-'03 new-generation Fiat Multipla:

     

     

     

    '04-'10 new-generation Fiat Multipla (Second series):

     

     

    Yes, the new version won Top Gear's "Car of the Year" award in 1999.

    And yes, it was displayed in New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1999.

    But no, it didn't sell well outside Italy.  Production ceased in 2010.

  • Reply 8 of 57
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

    '98-'03 Fiat Multipla:

     


     

    I prefer the newer version of that.

     

  • Reply 9 of 57
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,612member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

     

     

    I had a brief panic attack when I saw the name "Multipla" in that sentence.

    The old one is far more attractive (less hideous) than the new one.

     

     

    '98-'03 Fiat Multipla:

     

     

    Yes, the new version won Top Gear's "Car of the Year" award in 1999.

    And yes, it was displayed in New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1999.

    But no, it didn't sell well outside Italy.




    I saw this model everywhere when I lived in Germany in the early 2000's.  Even back then I thought to myself that it was one FUGLY car.  Nonetheless, I was surprised how many of them I saw on the road back then.  Style and tastes are certainly different in other parts of the world.



    Still an ugly car.

  • Reply 10 of 57
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,595member
    nagromme wrote: »
    Apple should have a full-scale, year-round, well-staffed and well-funded misinformation department. Fooling not just the media digging for secrets, but their own Asian suppliers as well. Complete with making real semi-functional prototypes of things, using realistic part numbers, etc.. They should hire long-time rumor bloggers to craft these fakeries so they leak in exactly the same way as would really happen.

    The expense, for Apple, would be microscopic, but there would suddenly be a constant stream of fresh leaks--well crafted and undetectable.

    And the fun of the surprise would return! Because we simply would not know what to believe anymore.

    I have always suspected that Apple is behind many of the rumors surrounding new product launches. The thing is, I don't really think Apple needs, or even wants, to conceal everything. They always manage to spring something on us and yet other things we know about. My guess is that it is fairly controlled. For instance, it didn't matter that the name iPhone or iPad were among the names being rumored about as long as nobody knew for sure. The important thing is keeping the conversation going. Just think of the press coverage Apple always receives prior to launches - worth millions in terms of marketing. If on launchday 90% of the people say 'see, I KNEW it was going to be called iPad', Apple still won because nobody knew for sure. Then they spring something completely different on us like ?pay, or Swift which somehow nobody had ever heard about. And it is not as if those things are insignificant. I don't know how much of this is all pre-planned but it makes for one helluva marketing story if it is.
  • Reply 11 of 57
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,595member
    sflocal wrote: »

    I saw this model everywhere when I lived in Germany in the early 2000's.  Even back then I thought to myself that it was one FUGLY car.  Nonetheless, I was surprised how many of them I saw on the road back then.  Style and tastes are certainly different in other parts of the world.


    Still an ugly car.

    'So ugly it is almost nice' - I heard someone say :).

    More successful was the 2CV though it was hardly pretty. Like the Multipla it was supremely 'practical' and not expensive. The French and the Italians have always had some very weird looking cars. So, for that matter have the Brits (do a Google image search for Reliant Robin - its hilarious)
    700

    But ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the new ?Car
    700
    Hard to argue that this is not a pretty car.

    And if you want to see some other great cars... including weird and wonderful...
    http://chrisoncars.com/2010/10/gran-turismo-5-cars-part-ii/
  • Reply 12 of 57
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    The most popular name rumored for the device, "iWatch," was actually openly registered by Apple itself, potentially with the intent of misdirection.

     

    Pre-release misdirection is important, yes.  But the real misdirection causes the would-be competition to make huge strategic mistakes after an Apple device is announced.  Not with "iPod," because the name is too generic.  And not so much with "iPad" either.

     

    But the name "iPhone," all by itself, likely caused incumbent and future competitors all manner of damage.  Because the name implies that it's a phone with extra features like internet connectivity.  So the knee-jerk reaction to its announcement was "The 'i' means that it's super-easy to get to the internet, but otherwise it's just a smartphone.  Like 'iMac.'"  So the competition thought all they had to do was add a few more features and apps to their existing smartphones.  Wrong.

     

    No, iPhone turned out to be a personal computing device in your pocket.  With a phone app and cell phone radio.  It took the Blackberrys and Palms years to figure that out.  And by the time they did, it was too late.  The same thing might happen with ?Watch.  The first generation is, in fact, a fancy smartwatch with iPhone connectivity.  But later generations might actually replace iPhone.

     

    Same with the ?Car, or whatever will be called.  It will probably look like a modern, cleanly designed electric car.  And you'll probably be able to drive it manually if you want.  But if and when it becomes self-driving, it can and will disrupt many aging 20th-century industries and rituals.  The ?Car and other self-driving all-electric cars will radically change the automobile manufacturing and petroleum industries, car dealer networks and the car buying experience, the auto insurance and repair industries, public transportation and school busing, the taxi and "airport limo" industries, the postal service and delivery services like UPS and FedEx, ad nauseam.  

     

    Home architecture could change too.  Why would you need a garage if you could summon a self-driving car within 5 minutes to take you directly to where you want to go?  No need to park it because it would be used immediately by the next passenger.  And that might reduce parking congestion in cities too, by the way.  Just a few things to think about.

  • Reply 13 of 57
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,595member
    sockrolid wrote: »
    Home architecture could change too.  Why would you need a garage if you could summon a self-driving car within 5 minutes to take you directly to where you want to go?  No need to park it because it would be used immediately by the next passenger.  And that might reduce parking congestion in cities too, by the way.  Just a few things to think about.

    This is what I think, too. Personal car ownership could one day seem ridiculous and antiquated. Why would anyone want their own personal car? The cost and the agro will seem out of proportion to the benefit. As a matter of fact, for many urban dwellers it already does and instead they rent a car whenever one is required. This is obviously more common in cities with good public transport such as London. The cost of car ownership is high and most of the time the thing sits idle. To be able to summon a car from one's iPhone would take a lot of stress out of many people's lives. And yes, a reduction in car ownership would obviously reduce the number of cars on the road which would benefit everyone.
  • Reply 14 of 57
    pfisherpfisher Posts: 758member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post

     



    They already do this. ;)

     

    Gruber and Dalrymple are also, semi-officially, Apple people.


    You can almost tell when Apple leaks info. That iPad screen that turned out to be the new MacBook screen? Apple leak. Guaranteed. 

     

    Apple yells "Squirrel!" and all of the press and Apple fan sites go nuts.

     

    Of course, the WSJ has been the official mouthpiece Apple for some time (not sure about now).

     

    Dalrymple? He's entertaining to the point to hearing about guitars and Heineken and his beard, but reminds me of one of those friends in high school who didn't know much, but BSed a lot and was personable enough that people gave him a pass. It's obvious when he doesn't know something, on 5x5 with Dan Benjamin, he's rationalize an answer where you knew it was made up on the spot, as long as the answer supported to rationalize anything Apple did.

     

    Apple-focused entertainers remind you of Bigfoot hunters. Wiling to make a living scraping by with a fact or rumor crumb thrown their way.

  • Reply 15 of 57
    pfisherpfisher Posts: 758member

    I've noticed that after 35 years and in the years of Steve's passing, Apple has been showing how to jump the shark. From buying Beats to showing up on Mad Money to cheesy and embarrassing product announcements (iWatch) to putting crap apps on my phone. iWatch app on our phones? We can't delete? Really? And when I restart my phone, the music app defaults to pointing me to iTunes radio, losing where I left off to what music I was listening to? Apple? Are you trying too hard? 

     

    The company that could let the product sell itself (as Steve J. did so amazingly), it's more like we are being pushed product.

     

    Apple: let the products speak for themselves. Let people talk about the products to friends. Now I can't (or don't need to?) recommend Apple products. 

  • Reply 17 of 57
    dave k.dave k. Posts: 1,306member

    IMO, the whole Apple car thing is really more of the development of their "CarKit" framework and not an actual working car...

  • Reply 18 of 57
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    dave k. wrote: »
    IMO, the whole Apple car thing is really more of the development of their "CarKit" framework and not an actual working car...
    They may. But I believe they will buy Tesla eventually or at least partner with them. They may also partner with BMW. Bottom line, if Apple build a car, they will target upper class more just like Tesla
  • Reply 19 of 57
    phone-ui-guyphone-ui-guy Posts: 1,018member

    Perhaps they needed the garage and parts for their work making sensor laden vans for their 3D Street Level mapping efforts?

  • Reply 20 of 57
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,378member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nagromme View Post



    Apple should have a full-scale, year-round, well-staffed and well-funded misinformation department.

     

    They do, it's called DigiTimes.

     

    :D

Sign In or Register to comment.