updated 01:35 pm EST, Wed January 18, 2012
Firing, tight access among corporate control tools
A Fortune excerpt from Adam Lashinsky's upcoming Inside Apple book details some of the extreme security measures the company takes to keep products secret and build up hype. The company will, for instance, sometimes even rely on construction, changing spaces in its offices to include new walls, doors, or frosted windows. Some areas, known as "lockdown" rooms, will have no windows at all, and be so heavily restricted that no information goes in or out unless absolutely necessary.
Workers will sometimes have badges granting them access to areas even their bosses are prevented from entering, although the most closely-guarded section may be Jonathan Ive's design lab, to which only a handful of people have access. Workers assigned to high-profile projects sign confidentiality agreements preventing them from talking to anyone about the matter. Those involved with launch events are assigned watermarked paper copies of a booklet called "Rules of the Road," illustrating milestones leading up to the launch, but with a stern legal warning that if the booklet is shared with the wrong person, the guilty party will be fired.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is said to have gone even further with fellow executives, telling them in meetings that "Anything disclosed from this meeting will result not just in termination but in the prosecution to the fullest extent that our lawyers can." Subordinates are allegedly reminded by executives that the hype before Apple product launches is worth millions of dollars, and that any exposure of Apple secrets will result in a prompt firing.
A former Apple employee describes Apple as "the ultimate need-to-know culture," where trust isn't assumed. "Quite likely you have no idea what is going on, and it's not like you're going to ask," the person says. "If it hasn't been disclosed to you, then it's literally none of your business. What's more, your badge, which got you into particular areas before the new construction, no longer works in those places. All you can surmise is that a new, highly secretive project is under way, and you are not in the know. End of story."
This confusion can extend down to having to figure out how to connect a Mac to the corporate network, or even what a person was hired for. The company is said to rely on "dummy positions," meaning jobs where a person is hired without knowing what they'll actually be put to work on. A product marketing executive during the early iPhone years, Bob Borchers, notes that other new Apple employees simply won't say what they're involved with, which can create problems at orientation sessions. "You sit down, and you start with the usual roundtable of who is doing what," he explains. "And half the folks can't tell you what they're doing, because it's a secret project that they've gotten hired for."