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Stifling security marks Apple corporate culture

updated 10:40 am EDT, Tue June 23, 2009

Apple's security culture

The level of secrecy in Apple's corporate culture is "super paranoid," say people with experience in the company. The issue has come into particular focus with news of a liver transplant performed on CEO Steve Jobs, which despite its relevance to workers and investors has been kept outside of public knowledge for two months. A senior official, typically said to be more open to talking with the media, has refused to disclose anything to the New York Times. "Just can't do it. Too sensitive," he says.

The company is also said to impose intense security barriers on workers handling secret projects, such as multiple badge-triggered security doors, followed by number pads for offices. One former worker observes that workspaces are often monitored by cameras, and that at an extreme level, testers can be forced to cover up products with black cloaks while working. The cloaks can be removed as necessary, but a red light must be turned on as a warning.

Many employees are known to be as surprised as the public at new product announcements, such as that for the original iPod. Managers in the company are meanwhile claimed to perpetuate misinformation campaigns, either by denying an interest in concepts secretly being worked on (such as the iPod shuffle) or spreading false facts. Worldwide marketing chief Philip Schiller, for instance, is claimed by another ex-worker to have held several internal meetings in which he deliberately lied about the pricing or features of a product. Such tactics let the company narrow down leaks, after which the responsible people are typically fired.

The motivation for the security, says former Apple marketing adviser Regis McKenna, stems from the era of the original Macintosh. Sony and Microsoft discovered the product before it had even launched, and Apple has since attempted to restrict information in a bid to maintain surprise. The policy also reflects Jobs' attitude, McKenna adds. "But what most people don't understand is that Steve has always been very personal about his life. He has always kept things close to the vest since I've known him, and only confided in relatively few people."

The company may be forced to become more open, at least in regards to Jobs, if an SEC probe turns against Apple's favor. American businesses are required to disclose information material to investors, and some have accused the company of deliberately concealing the gravity of Jobs' recent medical problems. An official explanation of them involving a "hormonal imbalance" could be contradicted by Jobs' need for a transplant.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +11

    still a question

    does the sec outrule the hipaa laws?

    as for security, well, yeah. considering ms is out there i'd be paranoid as h*** as well. i mean, they have to get their ideas from somewhere (apparently not from anywhere near the vicinity of redmond though).

  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +7

    security

    Those who have run their own companies understand this security issue. There are just way too many out there who want to take the "shortcut" and steal from someone else. But Apple has made it part of its DNA and as such has been able to exploit it in their surprise marketing strategies, product launches, etc. Why take the bloom off the rose just because other electronics companies do this? Apple DOES think differently.
    As to those who are fired... good riddance. And to others, quit your job if you don't like the way Apple operates... it is NOT your company.
    Apple probably has some cell phone policies which other companies should emulate but won't because the employees run the company!

  1. slapppy

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +8

    Why not

    Not just MS, but now they have major cellphone companies itching to know what Apple is up to.

  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +4

    SAND

    The part of the article that relates to Microsoft knowing about the Mac through security leaks is complete hogwash. It is well known that Steve Jobs showed the Mac to Bill Gates prior to it's release, there are even photographs of the meeting, and Microsoft had a jocular code-name for the Mac, SAND: Steve's Amazing New Device

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +8

    Obvious

    When your products sell 10% of the market, you need to more than your fair share of press to succeed. The only way to do this is to control the information coming out of your company.

    This is a boon to consumer sales, but Apple does sacrifice corporate sales who often need to plan six months or longer into the future.

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -9

    Crossed the line...

    Apple has crossed the line on this one. They clearly, intentionally, mislead investors in a premeditated fashion that had the potential to do serious fiduciary damage. If Jobs had died, Apple's stock would have tanked. Apple deserves to be fined, and heavily, so that other corporations do not pull stunts like this. This should not be allowed to stand as a precedent.

  1. resuna

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +5

    Leaked to Microsoft?

    "Sony and Microsoft discovered the product before it had even launched"

    Um, Microsoft was pulled in to develop Microsoft Basic for the Mac. That wasn't a leak that was a partnership.

  1. slider

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    SEC-n-Stuff

    So this is clearly an issue for stock holders as they are the ones that always make a stink about it. From an individual perspective, I say someone's personal life is there business - afterall, shouldn't you be able to be able to become anything you want on this country and still have a right to privicy. Regardless of what Jobs is to Apple, Jobs himself is not a product or a brand, Apple is and that is what investors are investing in.

    As for the secrecy regarding M$, while true that Apple did give the mac to them in 84 - at the time Apple saw IBM as the competition - it was certainly a lesson - and let's face it, a personal blow to SJ himself - that set off the whole thing.

  1. c. haynes

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +4

    Paranoia

    Privacy during times of personal crisis vs. the level of importance to investors or a corporation creates a circular argument.

    Jobs said he was sick. Said he would be back in June. He's back.

    Everybody and their little brother (and their big brother) copies everything Apple makes. Their only advantage is to develop in secrecy and maximize profit after development by giving themselves a little time. Not too difficult to see that.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    I doubt

    any real case can be made about Steve's health "secret" might have made the stock tank. It is quite clear to me that revealing, if not misdiagnosed, information would have caused the stock to tank as well. So, it could be considered in the best interests of the investors that the infomation, correct or not would have been just as destructive.

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