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Former engineer: Apple has cultural/operation faults

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."

by MacNN Staff





  1. redwood

    Joined: Dec 1969


    he speaketh the truth

    He's absolutely right.

    The successes of Apple are built on the vision of one man and the blood sweet and tears of thousands of anonymous engineers.

    The official mandate to kill all easter-eggs around 1999 is a perfect example of this rigid control.

  1. lockhartt

    Joined: Dec 1969


    not a surprise

    This is all in line with Steve's personality... one that serves the company so well in many respects, and so poorly in others. I often worry that, for all their recent "successes" Apple has become too insular, too intractable for their own good.

    This ongoing trend is one that MS suffered under the "old guard," but Ray Ozzie has re-energized the Redmond behmoth and given it new found agility. Without more of that openness and willingness to embrace new thoughts and ideas (from outside of Jobs' and Ives' heads), Apple could find itself the "new" Microsoft in all the wrong ways.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    A Little Late

    He posted this 2 weeks ago. I guess because Appleinsider posted about this today, you felt the need to as well???

  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969


    All this anonymity talk..

    ...yet we know 'The Trilogy' names & personalities...?

    Perhaps this is as designed to be as simple & iconic 'rock star' personality branding as the minimalism of the industrial design & marketing imagery...?

  1. russellb

    Joined: Dec 1969



    All I can say .... was Steve's return bad for apple ... look where they are now !

    That does not mean they dont have internal issues but whatever they are doing has worked and continues to work ...

    Sounds like a bit of a disgruntled ex employee wanting to work on what he wants to, rather than what the company had slated

  1. rtbarry

    Joined: Dec 1969



    jesus. is this guy like 90 now?

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    ho hum

    sounds like this guy misses the way things used to be. sounds like this guy wants his ego fed. myself, I'm content to be fairly compensated for my experience and talents. I don't need to be a 'rock star'; the only ego strokes I really need are recognition from my clients that I'm good at what I do and my work benefits them. I like to be respected by my peers. I don't need rock star treatment. That's just silly. Nice if you can get it but it hardly means Apple has lost its way.

  1. dom2cool

    Joined: Dec 1969


    i couldnt care

    how they operate as long as they keeps feeding me the best products around.

  1. dogzilla

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Put it in context

    First of all, it's not surprising that an engineer who left because his pet projects didn't get traction within a company would be a little bitter about it.

    Second, I think this is another example of people having an incredibly emotional and specific attachment to Apple and its products. Seriously - Apple's a company, not a movement, not a religion, not a girlfriend.

    Third, Apple's public face (extending to blogs) *is* closely managed. That's called branding. While there's a lot of hype about corporate blogging, I've yet to see a company where it has dramatically altered the company's fortunes. Does Sony encourage corporate bloggers? Does Panasonic or Hitachi or Siemens? I don't know if I'm the only one who noticed, but Microsoft's not doing so hot nowadays, neither is Sun. So outside of Google, what huge company encourages and benefits from corporate blogging?

    Lastly, this seems like a little bit of pining for the goold ol' days, when engineers were "rock stars". I bought one of the first Macs, and I've been a long-time Apple fan and watcher, but I don't really remember the names of many of the original Mac crew. In any case, we've already seen an Apple that spoke with many voices instead of a unified message - that was Apple under Sculley and Gil Amelio, where 5 different people would provide you with 5 different roadmaps for the future, there were 20 models of Performa, and the company couldn't complete any core projects (I'm looking at you, Taligent) because everyone was working on their pet projects.

    OpenDoc was very cool, but there's no reason to think it was something anyone actually *wanted*. And maybe I'm too old to think very far outside the box now, but how much "social networking" do you really want in an OS?

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I used to work at Apple, too. I miss the old times, too. Do I post a blog entry whining about it? No. The company is in much better shape now than it has ever been, and as it's a BUSINESS and not a kindergarten, this it what counts. Not how warm and fuzzy it feels to work there.

    Plus, what about THIS pile of bs? "how many people can you name who work for Apple?". Huh?? How many people can you name that work for Ford/Walmart/Amazon/your local grocery store/etc.?? What's the point of this silly question?

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