Apple refugees dish on how iPhone development culture echoes into Pearl Automation

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in General Discussion
A collection of Apple engineers who have departed the company over the years formed Pearl Automation, and are keeping the best of Apple's corporate ethos, and dishing about the worst.




Formed by three senior Apple engineers in 2014, Pearl Automation has released a well-regarded back-up camera app and associated hardware, with other safety products in the pipeline. Still in start-up despite the release, the company has taken some aspects of Apple management that work, and tossed the rest.

Cranking out iPhone after iPhone

The Apple philosophy likely comes from the work history of its employees. Pearl has 50 ex-Apple employees, from a total pool of 80.

"They were vibrating," co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Brian Sander said to The New York Times., regarding the Apple departees. "It was time for them to do something different."

Taking from Apple, the company breaks large tasks into smaller tasks, and assigns those tasks to small teams. Rather than leadership by committee, prevalent in modern Silicon Valley startups, Pearl has adopted what Apple calls the "directly responsible individual" for the sub-task.

Accountability, rather than diffuse responsibility

"At Apple, there are a few people in the company that decide what needs to be done, and everyone else is executing," said Pearl Director of Hardware Rishabh Bhargava. "Rarely do you get the chance to be the people that decide the problems that need to be solved."

The company has migrated Apple's design ethos to Pearl as well. Pearl tried 19 variations of the rear-view camera embedded in a license plate frame, before settling on two models.

Culture of secrecy

One of the departees is Brian Latimer. Latimer was tapped to set up a system to track and ultimately destroy prototypes of forthcoming projects, after the reveal of the iPhone 4 after an employee loss.

"It's very liberating to know what's going on," said Latimer, who left Apple in May to join Pearl prior to the launch of the Pearl RearVision. "Everyone is contributing here, so everyone has a need to know."

Latimer said he was bound at Apple by not having access to the information he was tasked to secure. He was further hampered by a restriction on talking about his job with other employees.

From the top, down

"We met at Apple in the iPod group in 2005. I moved on to manage iPhone development. In 2013 we left Apple. We mapped out what we wanted to do." Bryson Gardner, the Pearl CEO, told AppleInsider in an exclusive interview in June. "At Apple we liked Apple's ability to take core technologies and deliver them to consumers, and that's what we're doing now."

Pearl's $499 RearVision that shipped in October is a system is built around dual high-definition cameras in a license-plate frame powered by solar energy. A plug-in car adapter goes into a car's on-board diagnostic port.

Once paired with the Pearl App, which can work with both iOS or Android, the cameras wirelessly stream images to the phone mounted on the dashboard. No additional screen is required.

Pearl has declined to disclose sales figures, but did note that they released the product too late to make it to stores in time for the holiday. The company has over $50 million in venture capital, but Gardner says that more money will be needed in 2017.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    No one wants to copy Pearl Automation. No need for secrecy. C'mon man are these apple rejects or something??
    anantksundarammonstrosityStrangeDaysjony0
  • Reply 2 of 24
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,369member
    I see they adopted Apples high prices too.   The problem with pearls backup cam is that it will quickly be replaced by mandatory backup cameras.    As such i do hope that they have reasonably priced products in the pipeline it.  
    dysamoria
  • Reply 3 of 24
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,666member
    My 2009 Volvo has no back-up camera so this would be perfect for me... except for the price. I like the iPhone mount, too, and for this the price is fine, but in order to charge the phone at the same time you need to fiddle with cables. I prefer a cradle with a built in charging cable such as a Pro-Clip.
    tokyojimu
  • Reply 4 of 24
    Pearl... did note that they released the product too late to make it to stores in time for the holiday. 
    This sounds familiar.
    zimmermannavon b7jasenj1
  • Reply 5 of 24
    Their prices are likely high because volumes are low. No economies of scale. 

    I hope they do very well. They could one day make an excellent takeover opportunity for Apple. 
    king editor the grate
  • Reply 6 of 24
    cali said:
    No one wants to copy Pearl Automation. No need for secrecy. C'mon man are these apple rejects or something??
    You know this? How?
    brian green
  • Reply 7 of 24
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    cali said:
    No one wants to copy Pearl Automation. No need for secrecy. C'mon man are these apple rejects or something??
    You know this? How?
    Because big companies have their eyes on Apple. They won't copy small companies until they have a successful product. Logic.
  • Reply 8 of 24
    cali said:
    cali said:
    No one wants to copy Pearl Automation. No need for secrecy. C'mon man are these apple rejects or something??
    You know this? How?
    Because big companies have their eyes on Apple. They won't copy small companies until they have a successful product. Logic.
    So, in your world of logic, "big companies" = "everyone"? Got it.

    My question was equally about your implication that they could be a bunch of Apple "rejects." That is incredibly arrogant, insulting, and most of all, a stupid thing to say.
    edited January 2017 brian greendysamoriajony0
  • Reply 9 of 24
    Let me get this straight. Pearl is making a product that will soon be obsolete, as an earlier commenter noted. They have priced themselves out of the market for the backup camera. They couldn't get the camera released in time for the holiday season. They have raised $50 million in venture capital and now they need more. No thanks. And yes, your headline writer needs to look up "refugee" and sharpen those vocabulary skills.
    dysamoriaStrangeDaysjasenj1
  • Reply 10 of 24
    July RainsJuly Rains Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    What about burglary protection? Arent bigger cities inherently riskier? Crimes higher. What will stop someone from walking over to a parked car and unscrewing the $500 gadget? Ridiculously priced...
    dysamoria
  • Reply 11 of 24
    Very few people at Apple have a big picture view of the product they are working on. Churning out 40 icon variations in a bureaucratic setting will make anyone unhappy. Not knowing why you do something is crappy as well. I don't see how Apple can change this easily since a new device will be copied by competitors in seconds so secrecy is still a must for new products. Maybe they could be more transparent with incremental developments to existing products. Maybe even share some things more publicly, like it's doing with the Swift roadmap.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 12 of 24
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,682member
    cali said:
    cali said:
    No one wants to copy Pearl Automation. No need for secrecy. C'mon man are these apple rejects or something??
    You know this? How?
    Because big companies have their eyes on Apple. They won't copy small companies until they have a successful product. Logic.
    But much of what Apple releases often has its origins in small companies. The difference is that instead of copying, they just buy the company outright.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 13 of 24
    wizard69 said:
    I see they adopted Apples high prices too.   The problem with pearls backup cam is that it will quickly be replaced by mandatory backup cameras.    As such i do hope that they have reasonably priced products in the pipeline it.  


    The market for this won't go away immediately, even when backup cameras do become mandatory.  There are still more used cars on the road than new, and if the price comes down on this device, people might consider it as a way to take advantage without buying a new car.

    I do hope the price comes down, though, and that they come up with a version that can integrate with an existing display.  Shouldn't need a phone.

  • Reply 14 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,154member
    What about burglary protection? Arent bigger cities inherently riskier? Crimes higher. What will stop someone from walking over to a parked car and unscrewing the $500 gadget? Ridiculously priced...
    the same thing that stopped them from chopping off fingers, stealing your watch, or grabbing your airpods. all fears expressed by folks on forums pre launches. in real life thieves aren't in the habit of inspecting car license plate mounts which are ubiquitous and worthless. and ultra casual thieves won't have the alternative screw head on them. 
  • Reply 15 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,154member

    avon b7 said:
    cali said:
    cali said:
    No one wants to copy Pearl Automation. No need for secrecy. C'mon man are these apple rejects or something??
    You know this? How?
    Because big companies have their eyes on Apple. They won't copy small companies until they have a successful product. Logic.
    But much of what Apple releases often has its origins in small companies. The difference is that instead of copying, they just buy the company outright.
    Can you quantify "much"? How much?
  • Reply 16 of 24
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,418member
    cali said:
    cali said:
    No one wants to copy Pearl Automation. No need for secrecy. C'mon man are these apple rejects or something??
    You know this? How?
    Because big companies have their eyes on Apple. They won't copy small companies until they have a successful product. Logic.
    So, in your world of logic, "big companies" = "everyone"? Got it.

    My question was equally about your implication that they could be a bunch of Apple "rejects." That is incredibly arrogant, insulting, and most of all, a stupid thing to say.
    I mostly agree with you, but, c'mon - insults don't "win" discussions (even if they make you feel better).
    I know from experience that you're smarter than that, so...
  • Reply 17 of 24
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,682member

    avon b7 said:
    cali said:
    cali said:
    No one wants to copy Pearl Automation. No need for secrecy. C'mon man are these apple rejects or something??
    You know this? How?
    Because big companies have their eyes on Apple. They won't copy small companies until they have a successful product. Logic.
    But much of what Apple releases often has its origins in small companies. The difference is that instead of copying, they just buy the company outright.
    Can you quantify "much"? How much?
    Ten second search reveals over 80 known acquisitions. There are others we don't know about or that are not formal acquisitions but the result is the same.

    OS X had its origins in NeXT. iTunes in SoundJam, Siri in Siri, Apple's main mobile processor line in P.A Semi. Then Emagic, Filemaker, etc. Maps, Finger print sensor tech. Etc, etc, etc.


  • Reply 18 of 24
    larz2112larz2112 Posts: 291member
    kamilton said:
    Maybe they were tied up, taken away and held for ransom...
    Listen, it don't really matter to me. Everybody's got to fight to be free.

    $500 for a product that is available for hundreds less by competitors and is quickly becoming ubiquitous on new vehicles? Good luck!
  • Reply 19 of 24
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,529member
    Is it even minutely surprising that a bunch of ex-Apple employees starting a new company would adopt practices from Apple that they thought worked well and reject practices from Apple that they thought were counterproductive? Is there a higher rank than Captain Obvious? Perhaps Rear Admiral Obvious? 

    Anyone who's worked for more than one company or stays in touch with business management and process trends and practices sees a constantly expanding wave of concepts propagating from company to company, eventually hitting a barrier and reflecting back and rehashing old ideas under new buzzwords. That's just how businesses operate. Larger companies are always searching for the elusive silver bullet that will allow them to break away from the herd and avoid stagnation while the smaller ones are trying to learn from the apparent successes of the larger ones.  
  • Reply 20 of 24
    wizard69 said:
    I see they adopted Apples high prices too.   The problem with pearls backup cam is that it will quickly be replaced by mandatory backup cameras.    As such i do hope that they have reasonably priced products in the pipeline it.  


    The market for this won't go away immediately, even when backup cameras do become mandatory.  There are still more used cars on the road than new, and if the price comes down on this device, people might consider it as a way to take advantage without buying a new car.

    I do hope the price comes down, though, and that they come up with a version that can integrate with an existing display.  Shouldn't need a phone.


    Most all cars that have the type of existing display that would work already have back up cameras, and it would be an engineering nightmare to try and integrate a remote camera with the individual displays, even if feasible.  Most importantly, however,  the vast majority of cars now being sold have back up cameras in anticipation of the requirement that any car manufactured after May 2018 must have one.  The market for folks willing to pay $500 for their device who don't already have a back up camera is exceedingly small and grows smaller by the day.  Not a good situation to be in.
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