Technology and the Internet • Inside Apple: one of the world most secretive organisations
A 12,000-person mile-round glass mothership is about to land in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Futuristic, with its own self-contained electricity plant: plans for Apple’s new disc-shaped headquarters encompass the lasting legacy of the late Steve Jobs – a slick design, with an uber-efficient core.
Over the years dozens of technophiles, seduced by three decades of technological smut, have made the pilgrimage to One Infinite Loop, Apple’s current base in Cupertino, in the hope of getting under the skin of the highly-secretive company.
Few make it inside the main Apple building. A throng of security guards greets them instead, escorting them back onto the sidewalk, sometimes pointing them in the direction of the on-campus shop where they can buy a token Apple T-Shirt.
But a new book, released in the UK this week, finally gives a non-partisan insight into life as an Apple employee. And it isn’t what most expect.
According to Inside Apple, Apple is a glut of windowless offices, a neutering of egos and an ethos of fear with “cultish” overtones.
“Apple doesn’t talk about Apple. Apple talks about Apple products,” Adam Lashinsky, author of the book and editor of Fortune Magazine, told The Daily Telegraph.
Perhaps for good reason; the illusion of a free-spirited workforce sitting around on bean bags playing on the latest gizmos before they have their free lunch would be shattered.
Instead, a dictatorial CEO rules with an iron fist, Mr Lashinsky said. Employees don’t ask questions and they leave their egos at the door. There is only one person who was allowed to have a public ego and that was Steve Jobs, he said.
“It is a tough place to work. It is a very demanding work environment. It is not a joyous place the way Google presents itself,” Mr Lashinsky said. “It’s not a particularly happy place but it breeds people who can thrive in that environment. It’s a pressure cooker and some people like that.”
Apple employees are like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle and the only person who knows how to fit the pieces together is the CEO, a role Steve Jobs held until it was handed to Tim Cook last year.
Amid the wires, nodules and circuit board designs, is a company that is so clandestine, its own workers don’t know what they are creating, he said.
Windowless chambers, called lock-down rooms, are the only place where the next iPad or iPhone can be discussed, and even then senior vice presidents only enter the room to discuss their part in a design before being asked to leave, he said.
Information is strictly restricted to a select 100, hand-picked by Steve Jobs himself.
When it comes to product launch day, Apple employees gather around the television in the cafeteria to find out about the new product. They will be as surprised as everyone else despite having helped build it, said Mr Lashinsky.
Secrecy is engrained into every employee, Mr Lashinsky said. Anyone caught revealing Apple secrets whether accidental or intentional is dealt with swiftly: immediate termination from the company.
In the book, one employee recalled how he had nightmares over threats made to employees about breaching confidentiality.
"[Jobs would] say, ‘Anything disclosed from this meeting will result not just in termination but in the prosecution to the fullest extent that our lawyers can.’ That made me very uncomfortable. You have to watch everything you do. I’d have nightmares," the employee told Mr Lashinsky.
Even staff members who have left the business live in fear of retribution, Mr Lashinsky said.
“Jobs’s brutality in dealing with subordinates legitimised a frighteningly harsh, bullying, and demanding culture at Apple. Under Jobs a culture of fear and intimidation found roots throughout the organisation,” Mr Lashinsky wrote.
For a company so revered for its innovation, the neutering of entrepreneurial spirit might seem counterproductive, but Apple’s draconian treatment of its workforce is actually part of its formula for success, Mr Lashinsky explained. It creates a loyal ethos among the staff, protecting the products.
Tim Cook once said: "That’s part of the magic of Apple. And I don’t want to let anybody know our magic because I don’t want anybody copying it."
Cultish overtones or not, the Apple juggernaut shows no sign of stalling. This week Apple was valued at $415 billion – putting it neck and neck with Exxon Mobil as the world’s most valuable company.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sun Jan 29, 2012 6:10 pm
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