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Inside Apple: On Apple's legendary secrecy

Fortune has published a lengthy excerpt from Adam Lashinsky's Inside Apple, a book scheduled to be released next week that provides an unprecedented look inside a company legendary for its secrecy. I'd encourage you to read the entire excerpt at Fortune, and buy the book when it comes out, but I've included a couple summarized items below to stoke your curiosity.

  • Many new employees are hired into "dummy positions," and they don't know the details of their work until after their first day on the job.
  • No one helps new employees set up their computers on Apple's network; anyone hired by Apple is simply assumed to have the knowledge to do it themselves.
  • Plainclothes Apple security agents supposedly hang out at a bar/restaurant right off the Apple campus and listen for employees discussing company matters. No one knows if this is true or not, but just the rumor of it is enough to keep employees quiet.
  • Apple has an unwritten hierarchy of "coolness" -- iOS engineers are at the top, with iOS hardware engineers coming in second. iTunes and other online services come next, with Mac employees now considered "second-rate" in the pecking order. Sales, HR, and customer service aren't considered even remotely cool at Apple (no offense, but are they anywhere?).
  • According to Lashinsky, "Almost nobody describes working at Apple as being fun."

Just reading through this brief excerpt of Inside Apple, the corporate culture at Cupertino honestly reminds me a lot of my time in the military. The extreme emphasis on secrecy, the "need to know" culture, the compartmentalizing of separate divisions, the emphasis on producing results (and not usually seeing tangible rewards for doing so)... it's all very uncomfortably familiar. I don't think I'd enjoy working at Apple.

Inside Apple will be coming out next week. Quite a few of us at TUAW are interested in seeing what the book has to say about the company, and we'll have a review of the book itself up later on.

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