WSJ on Apple and its obsession with secrecy

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple Computer's singular focus on secrecy is unusual, even among high-tech companies that closely guard their product plans, the Wall Street Journal explains in a lengthy piece on the Mac maker's tight-lipped operation.



While many tech companies assign internal code names to products, Apple goes a step further. "It often gives different departments dissimilar code names for the same product," writes the Journal's Nick Wingfield. "If a code name leaks, Apple can more easily track down the department from which the leak originated."



Apple managers are said to keep tabs on who knows what (paid subscription required) about secret projects by maintaining "disclosure lists" of those who have been briefed. When employees receive documents containing sensitive information about unannounced products, they are often watermarked with the recipient's name in order to discourage carelessness, the report states.



The Journal also recalls that when Apple first began to plot its entry into retail, chief executive Steve Jobs instructed Ron Johnson, the head of the retail initiative, to first build a life-size store prototype.



"The project was so hush-hush, Mr. Jobs said when announcing the stores, that he asked Mr. Johnson and his crew to build an exact replica of the 6,000-square-foot store entirely inside a sealed-off warehouse away from Apple's main campus."



Similarly, employees on Apple's Cupertino, Calif. campus are "outfitted with electronic badges" that "grant them access only to specific areas" and not others. The company is also reported to have posted "No tailgating" signs outside entry doors, which are further staffed by security guards in order to deter people from bypassing the badge system by holding the door open.



While the secrecy surrounding unannounced products enables Apple to generate more publicity for the product at the time of launch, the Journal offers several examples of how the approach has had the adverse affect, driving away potential partners and big customers.



Specifically, Apple's obscurity is reported to have forced an end to its iPod resale partnership with HP. It's also foiled potential deals between the large government agencies, including the Argonne National Laboratory and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), over the years.
«134

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 61
    solsunsolsun Posts: 763member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by AppleInsider

    Apple Computer's singular focus on secrecy is unusual, even among high-tech companies that closely guard their product plans, the Wall Street Journal explains in a lengthy piece on the Mac maker's tight-lipped operation.



    While many tech companies assign internal code names to products, Apple goes a step further. "It often gives different departments dissimilar code names for the same product," writes the Journal's Nick Wingfield. "If a code name leaks, Apple can more easily track down the department from which the leak originated."



    Apple managers are said to keep tabs on who knows what (paid subscription required) about secret projects by maintaining "disclosure lists" of those who has been briefed. When employees receive documents containing sensitive information about unannounced products, they are often watermarked with the recipient's name in order to discourage carelessness, the report states.



    The Journal also recalls that when Apple first began to plot its entry into retail, chief executive Steve Jobs instructed Ron Johnson, the head of the retail initiative, to first build a life-size store prototype.



    "The project was so hush-hush, Mr. Jobs said when announcing the stores, that he asked Mr. Johnson and his crew to build an exact replica of the 6,000-square-foot store entirely inside a sealed-off warehouse away from Apple's main campus."



    Similarly, employees on Apple's Cupertino, Calif. campus are "outfitted with electronic badges" that "grant them access only to specific areas" and no others. The company is also reported to have posted "No tailgating" signs outside entry doors, which are further staffed by security guards in order to deter people from bypassing the badge system by holding the door open.



    While the secrecy surrounding unannounced products enables Apple to generate more publicity for the product at the time of launch, the Journal offers several examples of how the approach has had the adverse affect, driving away potential partners and big customers.



    Specifically, Apple's obscurity is reported to have forced an end to its iPod resale partnership with HP. It's also foiled potential deals between the large government agencies, including the Argonne National Laboratory and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) over the years.
    [ View this article at AppleInsider.com ]




    The specualation, rumor mills, media-hype and buzz around new Apple products far outweigh the cons mentioned in the article. My grandpa was talking about the iPod nano just days after it was released. I mean, come on... No other company in the world generates as much interest and attention in a new product as Apple does, and it's because of their secrecy.
  • Reply 2 of 61
    backtomacbacktomac Posts: 4,579member
    Mel is gonna love this piece.
  • Reply 3 of 61
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    You know, that sounds just like where I work. We have disclosure lists, electronic badges that are area-specific, and No Tailgating signs at all entrances - standard stuff, if you ask me. Heck, my old CompSci dept at university had area-specific electronic badges for all students. Not sure what the big deal is.
  • Reply 4 of 61
    elixirelixir Posts: 782member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by solsun

    The specualation, rumor mills, media-hype and buzz around new Apple products far outweigh the cons mentioned in the article.



    thats highly debatable.
  • Reply 5 of 61
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kickaha

    You know, that sounds just like where I work. We have disclosure lists, electronic badges that are area-specific, and No Tailgating signs at all entrances - standard stuff, if you ask me. Heck, my old CompSci dept at university had area-specific electronic badges for all students. Not sure what the big deal is.



    ... and that's just to get into the cafeteria!
  • Reply 6 of 61
    a_greera_greer Posts: 4,594member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by AppleInsider





    Similarly, employees on Apple's Cupertino, Calif. campus are "outfitted with electronic badges" that "grant them access only to specific areas" and not others. The company is also reported to have posted "No tailgating" signs outside entry doors, which are further staffed by security guards in order to deter people from bypassing the badge system by holding the door open.





    ummmm..yea...security 101...any company that doesnt have similar procedures in place (some with metal keys in leu of swipe-cards) should be freeling some real stockholder heat about it. You dont want just anyone in your top secret R&D facilities, the engineers and team members can keep a secret, but a temp accountant or receptionest has far less motivation not to talk to competition (maybe even launder the info through sites like this). Apple relies on the "wow" factor, people had never seen anything like he ipod, iMac (G3 G4 and G5/intel), OSX, the iLife bundle and the like before their release; Apple wants to catch the competitors off guard, they could give a crap less if you know about the new product three weeks or months ahead of anouncment so long as "you" are not in charge of a Dell, HP, MS,and so on.
  • Reply 7 of 61
    crees!crees! Posts: 501member
    Anyone have this article? I'd like to check it out.
  • Reply 8 of 61
    aplnubaplnub Posts: 2,584member
    At 3% market share, that secrecy has really paid off for Steve.



    commence holy war...
  • Reply 9 of 61
    mchumanmchuman Posts: 154member
    People forget Apple is a hardware design company, not a software company. This is par for the course. Car design studios black out all their windows so photographers can't spy in. Movie studios on blockbuster films build only the pieces of a movie set necessary from the angles shooting that day so the extras won't go home and blog what they saw.



    People complain that Apple is too secret out of one side of their mouth, and wonder why nobody can defeat the iPod out of the other. Duh.
  • Reply 10 of 61
    aplnubaplnub Posts: 2,584member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by McHuman

    People complain that Apple is too secret out of one side of their mouth, and wonder why nobody can defeat the iPod out of the other. Duh.



    Almost like a one hit wonder.
  • Reply 11 of 61
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by audiopollution

    ... and that's just to get into the cafeteria!



    Actually, for my workplace? Yes.
  • Reply 12 of 61
    ajmasajmas Posts: 555member
    Quote:

    It's also foiled potential deals between the large government agencies, including the Argonne National Laboratory and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), over the years.



    Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if these entities have the same procedures in place.
  • Reply 13 of 61
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kickaha

    Actually, for my workplace? Yes.



    Can you get me the Apple Cobbler recipe? Sneaky-like.
  • Reply 14 of 61
    lakingsfnlakingsfn Posts: 141member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kickaha

    You know, that sounds just like where I work. We have disclosure lists, electronic badges that are area-specific, and No Tailgating signs at all entrances - standard stuff, if you ask me. Heck, my old CompSci dept at university had area-specific electronic badges for all students. Not sure what the big deal is.



    Agree, I don't really think this is anything new, especially for large companies. I work for Petco and we all carry badges with proximity chips in them so your location within the building is tracked. We are also allowed access to certain areas but not other areas of the campus.
  • Reply 15 of 61
    guarthoguartho Posts: 1,208member
    Steve gave Microsoft a prototype Mac to write software for back in the day. Who can blame him? Once bitten, twice shy and all that.
  • Reply 16 of 61
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,215member
    Back when Apple's computer hardware was different from PCs I would say "keep the secrecy"



    Now, however, they are using the same hardware that Dull and HP and everyone will be using.



    Apple can afford to lose contracts to large entities because they aren't an Enterprise company and thus aren't looking for that repeat business.



    With consumers I doubt it's much of an issue.
  • Reply 17 of 61
    The WSJ reporter just seems really out of touch to me. Has he never been on the campus of a Fortune 500 company (let alone a technology company that lives and dies by its innovation)?



    Security badges and disclosure lists are nothing new nor uncommon. Is this just an older writer who remembers the "good ol' days"?
  • Reply 18 of 61
    Would the REAL 'Big Brother' please stand up!
  • Reply 19 of 61
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,274member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by hmurchison

    Back when Apple's computer hardware was different from PCs I would say "keep the secrecy". Now, however, they are using the same hardware that Dull and HP and everyone will be using...



    Macs are still different hardware even though they share the same processor. The Macbook is in a way just a notebook pc, sure, but it clearly stands out in the world of ugly notebook computers. It feels unique. And the MacBookPro too. I've never even heard of another notebook PC with motion sensors to protect the harddrive, a keyboard that automatically lights up in the dark, a magnetic cable to protect the common "stumble on the notebook power cable" problem. And the iMac, the Mac Mini etc... Hardware isn't just the processor and the motherboard.



    I'd say the whole computer design and details are more worth protecting than the choice of processor. Now everybody knows the next Mac Pro line will use some kind of 4 core intel solution, it's logic, but nobody knows anything about the design and details that is gonna make it unique. I like that. It keeps me alert and curious at all times. But for governments and the likes that plan stuff years in advance, this is clearly a pain.
  • Reply 20 of 61
    It's really nice that Apple fans are so loyal and supportive of Steve Jobs. And on the one hand I can understand his fear of getting beat to the punch by competitors, though his main reason for secrecy seems to be the kick he gets out of the big unveiling ("oh, and one more thing."). But that gag is getting old ((has been old), and the cease and desist letters from Apple legal and lawsuits against rumors websites are way over the top. Steve Jobs is at once Apple's biggest asset and its biggest liability.



    One example: marketing the Mac OS to PCs in the early 1990s would have given Apple Microsoft's current market domination. There's still a chance now to be a major player in the OS market if they sold OS X for PCs. But Steve's preoccupation with selling boxes (hardware) will at best bring them back to their previous glory days of 5% market share.



    I've been a very faithful Mac user since 1984 (my wife and I currently have a quad G5, MBP 2.16, MB 2.0, 2 Core Duo minis, Apple 30", 23" cinema displays, and 4 iPods). But I have to say that I buy Macs not BECAUSE of Steve Jobs, but DESPITE him.



    David
Sign In or Register to comment.