updated 03:15 pm EST, Thu January 24, 2008
Apple engineer speaks
Former Apple software engineer Jens Alfke has posted a blog entry about his departure from the company, why he did it, and Apple's perceived cultural/operation faults. Alfke initially worked on the now-defunct OpenDoc project, and later moved into social software, which he found Apple to be less-than-enthusiastic about: "I'm fascinated with social software. Apple isn't. Despite some promising starts, the most I've been able to get accomplished in that vein at Apple was iChat [the IM part; I'm really not interested in videoconferencing], Safari RSS, and the "PubSub" [which turned out to be "RSS and Atom"] framework. There were some very promising prototypes of sexier things, but I really can't talk about those, other than to say that they were canceled."
Alfke also says that Apple lacks individuality on a corporate scale. Though ideas flow freely inside, the external picture is monotone. "[...] ever since the return of Steve Jobs, the company has been pretty maniacal about micro-managing its visible face, to make it as smooth and featureless as an iPod's backside. (In my darker moments I've compared it to the brutal whiteness of "THX-1138".)
He adds: "It's deeply ironic: For a company that famously celebrates individuality and Thinking Different, Apple has in the past decade kept its image remarkably impersonal. Other than the trinity who go onstage at press events -- Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive, Phil Schiller -- how many people can you name who work for Apple? How many engineers?"
Alfke notes that Apple wasn't always this way, treating the original Mac team "like rock stars, complete with photo layouts in Rolling Stone," with signatures were engraved in the inside of the computer's case.
Finally, Alfke says, Apple's policy on blogs is one of the most restrictive anywhere in the tech universe "I think Apple's policy on blogging is one of the least enlightened of major tech companies; Microsoft in particular is surprisingly open."