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Apple's Obsession With Secrecy Grows Stronger

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the tell-no-one dept.

Businesses 305

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times has a story on the culture of secrecy at Apple (registration possibly required). Secrecy is not just the prevailing communications strategy; it is baked into the corporate culture that had its origin in the release of the first Macintosh. 'It really started around trying to keep the surprise aspect to product launches, which can have a lot of power,' says marketing veteran Regis McKenna who advised Apple in its early days. Today few companies are more secretive than Apple, or as punitive to those who dare violate the company's rules on keeping tight control over information. Employees have been fired for leaking news tidbits to outsiders, and the company has been known to spread disinformation about product plans to its own workers and sue bloggers who cover the company. Apple's decision to severely limit communication with the news media, shareholders, and the public is at odds with the approach taken by many other companies, and many experts agree that the secrecy that adds surprise and excitement to Apple product announcements is not serving the company well in corporate governance. Some say that recent reports that Steve Jobs may have had a liver transplant, still not confirmed by the company, now makes one of Apple's assertions from January — that Jobs was suffering only from a hormonal imbalance — seem like a deliberate untruth."

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Parts: The Clonus Horror (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#28445861)

But even by Apple's standards, its handling of news about the health of its chief executive and co-founder, Steven P. Jobs, who has battled pancreatic cancer and recently had a liver transplant while on a leave of absence, is unparalleled.

Indeed, very little of the matter comprising Steve Jobs is still Steve Jobs. The man's like a rebuilt Delorian [delorean.com] . Am I the only person that shudders when he closes all of his speeches with "Remember, there's a little piece of all of you inside me"?

I guess if I ran a cult I'd be asking for new organs from my younger zealots too.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28445879)

Appleâ(TM)s Obsession With Secrecy Grows Stronger
By BRAD STONE and ASHLEE VANCE

SAN FRANCISCO â" Apple is one of the worldâ(TM)s coolest companies. But there is one cool-company trend it has rejected: chatting with the world through blogs and dropping tidbits of information about its inner workings.

Few companies, indeed, are more secretive than Apple, or as punitive to those who dare violate the companyâ(TM)s rules on keeping tight control over information. Employees have been fired for leaking news tidbits to outsiders, and the company has been known to spread disinformation about product plans to its own workers.

âoeThey make everyone super, super paranoid about security,â said Mark Hamblin, who worked on the touch-screen technology for the iPhone and left Apple last year. âoeI have never seen anything else like it at another company.â

But even by Appleâ(TM)s standards, its handling of news about the health of its chief executive and co-founder, Steven P. Jobs, who has battled pancreatic cancer and recently had a liver transplant while on a leave of absence, is unparalleled.

Mr. Jobs received the liver transplant about two months ago, according to people briefed on the matter by current and former board members. Despite intense interest in Mr. Jobsâ(TM)s condition among the news media and investors, Apple representatives have declined to address the matter, reciting with maddening discipline only that Mr. Jobs is due back at the company by the end of June.

Mr. Jobs was actually at work on Appleâ(TM)s sprawling corporate campus on Monday, according to a person who saw him there. Company representatives would not say whether he had returned permanently.

Even senior officials at Apple fear crossing Mr. Jobs. One official, who is normally more open, when asked for a deep-background briefing about Mr. Jobsâ(TM)s health after the news of the transplant had become public, replied: âoeJust canâ(TM)t do it. Too sensitive.â

Secrecy at Apple is not just the prevailing communications strategy; it is baked into the corporate culture. Employees working on top-secret projects must pass through a maze of security doors, swiping their badges again and again and finally entering a numeric code to reach their offices, according to one former employee who worked in such areas.

Work spaces are typically monitored by security cameras, this employee said. Some Apple workers in the most critical product-testing rooms must cover up devices with black cloaks when they are working on them, and turn on a red warning light when devices are unmasked so that everyone knows to be extra-careful, he said.

Apple employees are often just as surprised about new products as everyone else.

âoeI was at the iPod launch,â said Edward Eigerman, who spent four years as a systems engineer at Apple and now runs his own technology consulting firm. âoeNo one that I worked with saw that coming.â

Mr. Eigerman was fired from Apple in 2005 when he was implicated in an incident in which a co-worker leaked a preview of some new software to a business customer as a favor. He said Apple routinely tries to find and fire leakers.

Philip Schiller, Appleâ(TM)s senior vice president for marketing, has held internal meetings about new products and provided incorrect information about a productâ(TM)s price or features, according to a former employee who signed an agreement not to discuss internal matters. Apple then tries to track down the source of news reports that include the incorrect details.

Five years ago, Apple took its obsession with secrecy to the courts. It sued several bloggers who had covered the company, arguing that they had violated trade-secret laws and were not entitled to First Amendment protections. A California appeals court ruled for the bloggers, and the company had to pay $700,000 in legal fees.

Apple also sued a blog called Think Secret and settled the case for an undisclosed amount, but as part of the settlement that blog shut down.

Regis McKenna, a well-known Silicon Valley marketing veteran who advised Apple on its media strategy in its early days, said the culture of secrecy had its origin in the release of the first Macintosh, which competitors like Microsoft and Sony knew about before it was unveiled.

âoeIt really started around trying to keep the surprise aspect to product launches, which can have a lot of power,â Mr. McKenna said.

He added: âoeBut what most people donâ(TM)t understand is that Steve has always been very personal about his life. He has always kept things close to the vest since Iâ(TM)ve known him, and only confided in relatively few people.â

Appleâ(TM)s decision to severely limit communication with the news media, shareholders and the public is at odds with the approach taken by many other companies, which are embracing online outlets like blogs and Twitter and generally trying to be more open with shareholders and more responsive to customers.

âoeThey donâ(TM)t communicate. Itâ(TM)s a total black box,â said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray who has covered Apple for the last five years.

Mr. Munster said he jokes with other colleagues covering the company about how Apple routinely âoejams the frequencies,â or gives them misinformation to throw them off the scent of a new product or other news it hopes to keep confidential. Four years ago, he said, a senior Apple executive directly told him the company had no interest in developing a cheap iPod with no screen. Soon after, the company released just that: the iPod Shuffle.

For corporate governance experts, and perhaps federal regulators, the biggest question is whether Mr. Jobsâ(TM)s approach has led to violating laws that cover what companies must disclose to the public about the well-being of their chief executive.

On that key issue, the experts are divided. Some believe Apple did not need to disclose Mr. Jobsâ(TM)s liver transplant because Mr. Jobs was on a leave of absence and had passed responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the company to the chief operating officer, Timothy Cook.

Other governance experts argue that the liver transplant now makes one of Appleâ(TM)s assertions from January â" that Mr. Jobs was suffering only from a hormonal imbalance â" seem like a deliberate mistruth, unless Mr. Jobsâ(TM)s health condition suddenly deteriorated. Of course, no one knows enough to say definitively.

Most governance experts do seem to agree on one point: that the secrecy that adds surprise and excitement to Apple product announcements is not serving the company well in other areas.

âoeIn this environment, where transparency is critical, the more information you give the marketplace the better,â said Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. âoeFor a technology company that views itself as innovative, itâ(TM)s a little odd that they are getting a reputation for lack of transparency.â

Appleâ(TM)s stock dropped $2.11 to $137.37 on Monday amid a larger market sell-off. And the company did, in fact, have something to reveal: it said it had sold a million units of its new iPhone 3G S over the weekend, well above analystsâ(TM) forecasts.

OT: Text encoding w/ copy & paste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446035)

Off topic, I know, but can someone with the requisite background knowledge clue me in to why apostrophes and quotes get turned into multi-character garbage when pasted into Slashdot? I know it's some kind of character encoding issue, but why multiple characters?

Does everyone see the apostrophes in the parent comment as "Ã(TM)"? What's going on here?

Re:OT: Text encoding w/ copy & paste (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446415)

Because slashdot was written before multibyte encodings were invented and no one bothered to fix it.

Re:OT: Text encoding w/ copy & paste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446465)

Does everyone see the apostrophes in the parent comment as "Ãf(TM)"? What's going on here?

Yes, yes I do see it like that too. It's a problem with the Unicode support.

Re:OT: Text encoding w/ copy & paste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446497)

Slashdot doesn't do unicode (or rather, multibyte character sets in general).
The apostrophes and other garbage are most likely MS-word's version thereof, commonly used in print.

Re:OT: Text encoding w/ copy & paste (1)

Lotana (842533) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446653)

You are not alone in seeing garbage instead of quote marks, as it rendered it like that for myself as well.

I am curious about this as well. Could it be Unicode to ASCII conversion?

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#28445881)

Well, that's a strategy that has worked out pretty well for Cher, hasn't it?

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446639)

The difference between the two is that Steve Jobs is dying of AIDS and it dosen't take a genius from the genius bar to guess why.

Hint: unprotected gay buttsex at meth-fueled parties in private bathouses.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (3, Insightful)

Sorthum (123064) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446083)

I (sorta) see where you're coming from; the problem is one of "just because he's a CEO doesn't mean he's not entitled to privacy about medical matters." It was announced that he was having "medical problems;" past that I don't really see as it's the world's business. If it was, we'd not have things such as HIPAA in place.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (1)

Quantos (1327889) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446225)

Since Apple is a publicly traded company this is information that definately should be public. Withholding that kind of information could be construed as Anti-Trust when/if it's used to try to keep stock prices from fluctuating.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446325)

That not anti-trust MORON. That is stock price manipulation and is what every corporation tries to do as best as they can.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (1)

gspawn (703815) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446377)

Wanna page back a bit to when Apple was manipulating stock prices illegally and working very hard to cover it up as "oh, well we didn't know at the time"? This is part of a larger pattern of wrongdoing that is very legally actionable.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (4, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446359)

By that argument we should probably require all employees of any publicly traded company to make their genetic sequence available publicly, plus briefs about any potentially dangerous hobbies they may have. Better throw in data about their relationships too. Nothing impairs performance like trouble at home.

This "publicly traded company" nonsense is used to justify too much. "Medical problems" is more than enough for the shareholders and the public.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446365)

Apple would stand to be sued by the stockholders and Steve Jobs if Apple had intentionally violated the medical privacy act (HIPPA), which is FEDERAL LAW.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (1)

Quantos (1327889) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446509)

I think you mean HIPAA, and it has nothing to do with SEC.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446689)

Of course it doesn't have to do with the SEC. Regardless, it is still a law and the company has to follow it.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (3, Insightful)

cyber-dragon.net (899244) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446463)

Job's health is absolutely his business and no one else's. Who cares if it's a publicly traded company. Did he agree he and his families lives would be an open book to shareholders by virtue of them investing a few dollars? NO.

His professional actions are absolutely subject to scrutiny, after all a public company does not work for it's customers, it works for it's shareholders. This is established, especially in the US. But read that carefully, his PROFESSIONAL actions. It ends there.

If shareholders view his absence as harming stock they are welcome to replace him, temporarily or permanently. That is their sole recourse. He has done his duty in saying "I cannot preform my function and thus take a leave of absence." but in the end he wasn't even required to tell them it was for medical reasons.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446587)

I think the last five months have demonstrated that apple can operate perfectly well without Steve Jobs anyway. Thats much better than having a single point of failure.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (1)

PotatoFarmer (1250696) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446539)

If the market is basing its pricing of Apple's stock on Jobs' health, that's kind of the market's fault, don't you think? I certainly wouldn't want to be required to disclose my personal medical history because some external entity decided to base financial decisions on it.

Re:Parts: The Clonus Horror (1)

Sorthum (123064) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446555)

Disagree. "Medical Problems" more than cover it. If the shareholders disagree, they're welcome to attempt to replace him...

Iran (1, Offtopic)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28445911)

needs to hire Apple.

Comments on secrecy... (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28445913)

...from a web site that requires registration. Think I'll pass...

Re:Comments on secrecy... (4, Interesting)

More_Cowbell (957742) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446367)

Pro tip: Delete all your cookies that start with nyt. Presto, no registration needed...

Re:Comments on secrecy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446723)

Blackadder: You do know what irony is, don't you, Baldrick?

Baldrick: Yeh, it's like goldy, or silvery, only it's iron.

Here come the fanboys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28445921)

"A god does not reveal his plan to his subjects!" "Don't question Steve Jobs!" "I love Apple!" Etc etc.

Avoid the Osborne Effect (5, Insightful)

nweaver (113078) | more than 4 years ago | (#28445943)

One of the things Apple learned well by observing others was the Osborne Effect [wikipedia.org] . And its true: Would you buy a "new" iPhone if you were told a better one was 6 months away, and all the cool features it would have eventually?

Re:Avoid the Osborne Effect (4, Interesting)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446049)

That's a somewhat interesting question. The fact is is that people know new things are coming out from Apple. Yet they buy the "old" stuff and then bitch and moan when the "new" stuff comes out!

Re:Avoid the Osborne Effect (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446239)

Maybe they like to iBitch or iComplain or iWine?

Some people cannot wait. They like apple stuff so much that even if they just got a new phone, laptop, or ipod, when the new one comes out they still have to get the new model one. often they sell they 'old' one on ebay or to a friend.

Re:Avoid the Osborne Effect (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446265)

Naah, when I buy Apple it's on the rare occasion that a product they make is worth its purchase price to me. I am still quite happy with my old G3/G4 (forget which) 6GB iPod mini from four years ago.

Re:Avoid the Osborne Effect (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446447)

Naah, when I buy Apple it's on the rare occasion that a product they make is worth its purchase price to me. I am still quite happy with my old G3/G4 (forget which) 6GB iPod mini from four years ago.

the mini only came in 1G and 2G.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod_mini

Re:Avoid the Osborne Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446763)

That's a somewhat interesting question. The fact is is that people know new things are coming out from Apple. Yet they buy the "old" stuff and then bitch and moan when the "new" stuff comes out!

Isn't that part of the whole "Apple Experience"?

Re:Avoid the Osborne Effect (4, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446569)

I bought the G1 months after it came out. I bought it knowing that Samsung, HTC, and about 7 other companies have already announced that they are making new Android phones. At least 1 of them will be better than the one I have, and it'll probably be within 6 months. I signed a 2 year contract with my provider to get the phone as cheap as possible.

So yes, even knowing that newer, better things were coming out, I did buy the current offerings.

With computers, this is -always- the case. Every computer will be replaced by a better model the next year. Cars, too. And just about everything that has to do with technology.

Yes, there are some people who will say 'oh, there's a better one coming' and wait 6 months for it... But most people won't wait more than a month.

Re:Avoid the Osborne Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446625)

The page you linked to offers logical proof that the osborne effect was a myth and did not cause any negative effects, indicating that anyone who holds true to that belief is wrong.

Re:Avoid the Osborne Effect (0, Offtopic)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446643)

One of the things Microsoft learned well by observing others was the Osborne Effect. And its true: Would you buy a "new" Windows OS if you were told a better one was on it's way, and all the cool features it would have eventually?

Not fixing, I just wanted to see how it looked.

Re:Avoid the Osborne Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446721)

Right - if I knew what was coming out, I'd be able to make better purchasing decisions.

Why do we give corporations any right of privacy, again? Is there any social benefit to it?

Re:Avoid the Osborne Effect (2, Insightful)

rtechie (244489) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446725)

Except that it isn't true. The "Osborne Effect" didn't even apply to the Osborne. If this WERE true the computer video card industry, with it's 6 month refresh cycles, would have collapsed years ago. In case you aren't familiar, in the video card industry you buy a $500 video card knowing, with absolute certainty, that a much cheaper and faster card will be available at the same price or lower in 6 months. Yet people still buy video cards.

And the cellphone market is an even better example of this. Some "early adopters" (including the key teenage girl demographic) buy new cellphones 6 every months, no matter what. The vast majority of those who bought the iPhone 3GS ALREADY HAD an iPhone.

Misleading Shareholders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28445965)

If Apple were lying about his health, could this be a case of misleading the shareholders and put Apple at risk legally?

Re:Misleading Shareholders? (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446147)

I don't see how withholding private medical information can be construed as misleading shareholders. It's perfectly likely that he DID have a hormonal imbalance, in addition to whatever was causing it.

Re:Misleading Shareholders? (1)

LSDelirious (1569065) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446657)

His liver was under a NDA

...so? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28445985)

They want to keep their company secrets, secret. Put a slanted evil spin on the title just a little more please...

[sarcasm]
SHOCK
HORROR

How DARE they keep secrets secret!!! I am entitled to know everything they do, when they do it, and if I don't like it, I am entitled to force them to change it because I am entitled!
[/sarcasm]


*rolls eyes*

Re:...so? (2)

cyber-dragon.net (899244) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446523)

This needs to be modded up :)

"Deliberate untruth"? (4, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#28445989)

In plain English, that's called a lie.

Re:"Deliberate untruth"? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446073)

Public relations people lie, constantly. They do it so much I don't think they even feel a twinge of remorse anymore. I mean, look at all the celebrities who are hospitalized for "exhaustion."

Re:"Deliberate untruth"? (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446193)

Well, do you have any idea how exhausting it is to be high on half a dozen different narcotic substances as well as a few types prescription medicine 24/7? Yeah, that's right, you'd be exhausted to. :P

/Mikael

Re:"Deliberate untruth"? (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446493)

I mean, look at all the celebrities who are hospitalized for "exhaustion."

I'd rather not if Jobs is going flash us while getting out of his car a la Britney Spears......

Re:"Deliberate untruth"? (1, Offtopic)

Stray7Xi (698337) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446285)

In plain English, that's called a lie.

Careful comrade, plusungoodwise nearful crimespeak, crimestop rapidwise.

Re:"Deliberate untruth"? (1)

WebManWalking (1225366) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446491)

Doubleplusgood, that.

But I also heard a marklar that Marklar was starting to insist that its marklars speak "Marklar" internally. That way, no one marklar would have all of the marklar necessary to know exactly what Marklar was intending to release to the marklar. So deliberate marklars would no longer be necessary to protect upcoming marklars. Also, when a marklar says "I don't really know the marklar to that. I haven't been kept in the marklar.", he or she would be telling the absolute marklar.

No marklar.

Re:"Deliberate untruth"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446361)

"Deliberate Untruth" is a lot easier to stomach for the followers of the almighty Cult of Apple. There's lies, damn lies, and deliberate untruths.

Not everything is money (1, Insightful)

smartr (1035324) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446005)

So we realize that instead of it being something mild, Steve Jobs very well may die. Does it really make sense to go after someone who is dying for not being completely honest about well, their mortality? I mean, I'm a shareholder of Apple, and I just don't find myself furious at someone who is dying from illness.

Re:Not everything is money (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446137)

Steve Jobs very well may die.

Yes, but according to a leak I heard from a top Apple exec, he will miraculously rise after 3 days and reveal a new iPhone unto his disciples!

It's a funny kind of ship that leaks from the top. (2, Interesting)

sillivalley (411349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446021)

I was with Apple through the late 90's. Yes, that was an era of leaks -- but more often than not, they came from up top, not from the folks down in the trenches.

What was the difference? If I or a colleague said anything, it was a leak, and we'd be fried. But if someone on top said something, well, that was strategic.

See the difference?

Re:It's a funny kind of ship that leaks from the t (4, Funny)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446699)

I was with Apple through the late 90's. Yes, that was an era of leaks -- but more often than not, they came from up top, not from the folks down in the trenches.

What was the difference? If I or a colleague said anything, it was a leak, and we'd be fried. But if someone on top said something, well, that was strategic.

See the difference?

At least you got to keep your job!

Re:It's a funny kind of ship that leaks from the t (2, Insightful)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446729)

Yes, their leaks were planned and approved, which makes them strategic. You did not have that right.

Or maybe it's a deliberate partial truth... (3, Insightful)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446027)

It's quite possible that they knew of the likelihood of cancer at the time of the announcement, but that only the hormonal imbalance had been officially diagnosed. I mean, I think that Jobs has done a great job since his return to Apple, but there's more than one way to skin a cat, and it's possible that someone like Cook could take over and take the company even further into the stratosphere. I'm just saying, Jobs is only a man.

Combine that with the fact that plenty of perfectly healthy CEOs have been raping and plundering their companies, destroying entire industries with practices ranging from questionable to outright fraudulent. Jobs' health is his own concern, and I wish him good health for its own sake, not the value of my share in Apple.

The SEC may be interested... (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446031)

It seems impossible to me to attribute All Things To Chairman Steve, and at the same time suggest that serious illness of the CEO, Chief Designer, Head Boffin, and the virtual Persona of Apple Inc is not a material event, and is something the company can glibly lie about. http://valleywag.gawker.com/5028508/steve-jobss-health-leads-top-apple-flack-to-contract-common-bug-with-the-truth [gawker.com]

If true that Jobs had liver replacement, why is this not a violation of reporting requirements?

Re:The SEC may be interested... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446623)

I think the fact that Apple hasn't reported Steve Jobs is immortal is all the disclosure needed -- unless of course he is immortal, and even then there's it's a matter of personal health information. The only outsiders who really benefit from invading Jobs' personal life are short-term investors and gossip columnists, and neither group is worthwhile enough to justify the loss of the man's privacy. Whether someone is a CEO or a guy in the mailroom, what health information he decides to make known to investors or his employers is completely up to him.

Better title would be... (5, Insightful)

FloydTheDroid (1296743) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446039)

Are people's obsession with conspiracy theories growing?

The culture of secrecy is not an Apple exclusive. Any company that has an inventory which needs to be sold would be foolish to open it's future product line to the public's eyes.

Any company which has a carefully crafted public image will not suffer just anyone to make public announcements about them. This goes double (well, a few billion times actually) for companies which are publicly traded.

Anyone who is upset about a so called "deliberate untruth" regarding someone's health is a total jackass. This article is almost too stupid to respond to.

Re:Better title would be... (1)

lee1026 (876806) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446441)

Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, and so on and so forth publish road maps about future products all of the time. They can still sell their inventories.

Re:Better title would be... (2, Insightful)

ahankinson (1249646) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446655)

Intel, AMD & NVIDIA's customers aren't the same as Apple's. Their big customers are the people making the computers, not the people buying them.

Re:Better title would be... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446665)

I an go to Intel, Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, or IBM, and in return for signing a NDA, they will give a roadmap of what their product lines will be doing in the next 1-5 years. I then can go time equipment purchases around their model cycles.

Apple? No way to get that info. I don't know if the $500,000 I'm spending on Mac hardware will be obsolete and unsupported in 24 hours.

However, Apple knows this. To be honest, I am pretty sure they don't want into the enterprise. They are best served as being a toy maker, with the rigors of addressing business needs secondary.

Re:Better title would be... (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446495)

Anyone who is upset about a so called "deliberate untruth" regarding someone's health is a total jackass.

Huh? I would think the company's owners have every right to know who is actually running it.

Yes, yes but. . . (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446591)

. . .the article also claims that Apple's policy "is at odds with the approach taken by many other companies". So. . .uh. . .so how do you like those apples?

Re:Better title would be... (4, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446755)

The point is that Apple decided to lie about Steve Jobs health to avoid a stock price crash.

There is a good reason why stockholders and the SEC should be angry

Nefarious intent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446043)

Steve Jobs may have more to worry about than losing face over being dishonest about his medical condition. His failure to fully disclose it may warrant investigation by the SEC. Company stock prices often waver based on medical reports of their CEOs, especially ones with as much direct influence and control as Jobs. Intentionally lying to shareholders may be construed as an attempt to manipulate stock prices for the benefit of Jobs and Apple's board of directors. If so, the head dogs at Apple are headed for the dog house.

Personal Life (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446057)

There is no reason that every bit of Steve Jobs personal life needs to be on display for the world. Being a CEO of a prominent company does not mean that you need to show your medical records to everybody. All it means is that he needs to make sure there is a plan for the company to continue running if something does happen to him. I have to same responsibility to my company: make sure there is someone else who can take over my projects reasonably well if I happen to get hit by a bus. It doesn't matter if he has cancer, a liver transplant, or is 100% healthy, he still might die tomorrow if the bus comes with his name on it. The only right shareholders have is to know that the company will continue on if he dies. And all signs point to YES.

Re:Personal Life (1)

aes123 (1532617) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446345)

Apple is in the business of golden eggs. There aren't that many geese that will do.
If you buy the argument that Jobs is a unique asset, which many people apparently do, then his health is a perfectly valid concern to Apple shareholders. Just continuing to run after he croaks isn't good enough. They have to continue to innovate and set trends.

Re:Personal Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446431)

No its not. But since he did decide to share it, & if it turns out that he purposely mislead people as to the true cause (several times potentially), an argument can be made he mislead investors so as to preserve the financial status of the company. Whether or not that's the case, or can be proven is a different matter. And whether or not they are alive now doesn't matter. Usually he would have been involved with products perhaps 2 years down the line (i.e. already working on getting those built). Roadmaps would probably be sketched out about 3-5 years - maybe even with rough ideas going out 10 years. It's that time frame (3-10 years) where you should probably see the loss if there is one. Of course a trully incompetent CEO (or negative shift in culture) could easily bring that up by screwing up products in the pipeline just as a trully competent CEO could keep the company succeeding.

Besides, Apple is pretty huge now & successfully making lots of money of most of their product line. They can keep this going for quite a while even with really good competition.

Re:Personal Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446571)

Actually Steve Jobs is seen as a major asset. If Apple was aware of his condition when they reported his "hormonal imbalance", they are guilt of SEC violations. It was obviously reported to protect stock values. You aren't allowed to manipulate stock values with misinformation.

Re:Personal Life (1)

rtechie (244489) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446601)

When you're the CEO and public face of a major corporation your health is of great legitimate interest to shareholders, bondholders, and other interested parties as it can have a major affect on share price.

And Steve Jobs isn't just any CEO. He is associated more strongly with Apple than perhaps any CEO is associated with any large company in America. Apple has a history of being adrift without Steve Jobs at the helm.

It doesn't matter that Jobs doesn't run Apple day to day. In the stock market perception is EVERYTHING and if Steve Jobs dies the perception will be that Apple is once again rudderless and the stock price WILL plummet. In this weak economy that could very well mean the Apple.

So your core premise is wrong. If Jobs dies or steps down in the near future that could easily mean the end of Apple as we know it. It might not fold, but dramatic shrinkage (massive layoffs, etc.) is very likely.

Re:Personal Life (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446697)

Being a CEO of a publicly traded company DOES mean you need to reveal to shareholders any information you have that could impact the company's value (stock price).

Apple, including Jobs himself, are VERY well aware of the impact Steve Jobs' health has upon the stock price. They've seen it happen before when he was sick, and when he was rumored to have died.

Then again, Steve Jobs shouldn't be back-dating his stock options either.

Apple shouldn't be hiding continued costs for product development and support by charging a nominal fee for software updates. (No, it has nothing to do with SARBOX, it has to do with Apple not wanting to reveal how long they plan to support product X, so they keep the support and development cost projections off the balance sheet by lying and claiming the sales of the patches cover the cost!)

Who Cares? (1)

spiffydudex (1458363) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446075)

If all the underlying story is about Steve Jobs' health. I don't see any reason why the world should be prying into his medical records. Apple makes good products and creates that anticipation that can electrify a buying frenzy. I say go Apple.

obsession of obsession (4, Funny)

avandesande (143899) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446165)

How about an article about the medias obsession over Apples obsession about secrecy?

Re:obsession of obsession (2, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446195)

It's a secret.

Re:obsession of obsession (1)

mkiwi (585287) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446433)

"I learned, from a trusted source, that Steve Jobs likes avocado."

In the beginning, it was my sig. I have since removed it as some of the newer slashdotters have thought it was a troll.
Its underlying meaning is all too relevant to this article, though- the obsession is not just with apple, but with Steve Jobs himself. It's the tabloid mentality we live in today.

Re:obsession of obsession (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446739)

How about an article about slashdotters' obsession over the media's obsession over Apple's obsession about secrecy? These things wouldn't get posted if people didn't read them, y'know.

And yes, I'm aware I'm part of the problem as well, but its always fun to watch the Apple fanboys 'in their own turf', so to speak ;)

Not just a deliberate untruth, possibly illegal (3, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446197)

There's a serious question if Apple obeyed the laws for not disclosing more about Jobs' health. There are strict rules about publicly traded companies having to disclose materially relevant information to share holders. Having your CEO, who is known for being extremely influential and essentially responsible for most of your major products, having a severe, life threatening illness and not disclosing it, might very well run afoul of those regulations.

Re:Not just a deliberate untruth, possibly illegal (3, Insightful)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446261)

Nonsense. The rights of shareholders of a corporation to be informed about materially relevant information about the enterprise do not in general override the privacy rights of its CEO, only in very specific instances (e.g., the CEO is forced to disclose his transactions on company stock, and other dealings with the corporations such as pay and benefits). The possibility that the CEO of a corporation you're investing in is secretly very sick and will die soon is, well, just a risk that you have to take.

Re:Not just a deliberate untruth, possibly illegal (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446583)

That would be true normally. But Jobs isn't a normal CEO. Steve Jobs is responsible for Apple's success. He's not replaceable like a normal CEO. Given how important Jobs has been to Apple's success, the argument can easily be made that his health is of much more direct concern than it would be normally.

Atleast one thing is not a secret... (1)

binaryartist (1172973) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446231)

that apple has a "keep everything secret" policy... oxymoron?

Blizzard Entertainment (1)

spydabyte (1032538) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446235)

I would argue that blizzard [blizzard.com] does this quite well [penny-arcade.com] . I don't think this has to do with Vivendi, Blizzard's mother company, either.

Apple is not a tech company (-1, Flamebait)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446291)

Apple isn't a technology company. I know saying that's going to piss off a lot of people, but it's true. They don't sell technology -- they sell experiences, status, and other social intangibles. When you see a commercial of Miller Lite, they aren't selling beer. They are selling sex appeal, social status, and "having a good time".

Please try to remember that when discussing the faux-secrecy surrounding Apple. It's no secret what they do -- they sell computer hardware that in many (if not most) comparisons with competing products has fewer features, and is more expensive. But it's very pretty. And shiny. Oh, and that whole ease of use thing.

Re:Apple is not a tech company (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446461)

"Oh, and that whole ease of use thing."

Don't confuse the marketing tricks with the product. Miller Lite is beer (sort of). They're selling beer. They're suggesting you'll have a good time if you drink it, but they're selling beer.

Apple is selling a computer system. Not a computer, a computer system. They're an integration company. You're perfectly correct, the hardware is not particularly special. Rather, it's the way it's put together and runs. Like pretty much any other company, they use commercials that promise you'll have a good time and be popular if you buy the product.

Deliberate Untruth? (1)

booleanoperator (1067746) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446299)

Just another term for lie when coming from a fanboy.

I've heard this before (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446307)

The article about Apple's secrecy sounds amazingly like North Korea. I wonder how ronery Steve Jobs is?

Deliberate Untruth? (2, Insightful)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446309)

>> Some say that recent reports that Steve Jobs may have had a liver transplant, still not confirmed by the company, now makes one of Apple's assertions from January -- that Jobs was suffering only from a hormonal imbalance -- seem like a deliberate untruth."

Hmmm, I would not classify that as a deliberate untruth since having a malfunctioning liver will indeed cause a hormonal imbalance. I would classify it as a good 'ol half-truth instead.

Definition, please. (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446313)

Apple's assertions from January â" that Jobs was suffering only from a hormonal imbalance â" seem like a deliberate untruth.

Is that anything like a lie?

If I was still an Apple shareholder I would be extremely pissed at the Apple CEO for keeping such an important bit of information secret. How much you want to bet that the very few people who knew the truth made some interesting trades in Apple stock during the period this deliberate lie was in effect.

Re:Definition, please. (2, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446501)

If so, it didn't get them anywhere. Apple's stock price fell a bit in response to the "hormonal imbalance" thing, but it's up quite a bit above that now and holding fairly steady. Particularly so when compared to the rest of the market.

Personally (and as an Apple stockholder) I would have preferred they just said Steve was sick and taking some time off. I don't think owning stock in a company gives me the right to demand personal information about any of their employees.

That's odd... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446327)

I always thought that Apple's biggest secret was the *fact* that we have such a strict culture of secrecy. Oh, wait, I probably shouldn't have said that. Uh-oh! Who is at the door? Hey, just forget this post. No, really, I was just making a little joke. Look, I thought we decided that waterboarding is torture after all! Arghhh.....

i, for one, am glad to see jobs on his feet again. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446373)

now he can resume fucking apple fanbois up the ass.

New Mac Commercial (2, Funny)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446417)

PC: Hello, I'm a PC.

Apple: Hi, I'm a Mac.

PC: Hey, Mac, that's a very professional looking suit you have on there. Quite a change: is it an Armani, by any chance?

Apple: Oh, no. I'm just here to deliver you these papers. See you in court.

*Commercial ends with "Think Different (R)" on the screen.

Anything is better than Microsoft FUD and whining (1, Flamebait)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446421)

I'd sooner have secrecy than having to listen to Balmer and co whinging about Google and talking about suing Linux vendors all the time.

Apple is pretty good in the sense that they don't appear to criticise the competition (or if they do it doesn't make the news). They get on with what they do best.

Re:Anything is better than Microsoft FUD and whini (2, Funny)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446701)

Perhaps Apple IS talking about suing Linux vendors...in secret!

Steve's health affected stock price - NOT (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446437)

If you look at Apple's stock price around the times health issues were declared, then you will see that it mirrors more the general tech market than knee jerk reactions to his health.

iPhone 4G?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28446471)

I heard something about it... no idea if it is just a rumor..

Sometimes their security sucks. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446507)

I recall, back in the mid-eighties, visiting an Apple development site (on business I won't go into here). I noticed that they had a bunch of trays lying around with encouragement for the people to deposit used papers in them for recycling. Lots of rah-rah-eco-responsibility slogans on them. My impression was that these were pervasive throughout the company.

They were full of listings of the software under development.

They were provided by an external service.

OCR systems for stock printer fonts were just getting really reliable.

Soon after that visit the source code for Finder was leaked broadly. It was apparently a development version rather than any of the released versions.

I have often wondered if these facts are related.

G-Damned Hippies!!! (-1, Flamebait)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446579)

They are all about free love and freedom of information when they pass out those silly ass pamphlets to everyone in the street. But you give them some money and power and they go bat shit insane and against their own ethics to try to keep as much as they possibly can.

I would rather deal with someone who is a staunch capitalist from the get go because you at least know what you are getting. Rather than dealing with some back stabbing hippie.

secrecy can go too far (1)

hedrick (701605) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446615)

I don't have any problem with their hiding specific product details. But some of it is just insulting. All mention of ZFS has disappeared. Are they not ready? Have the reconsidered their commitment to it? Why should we be put in the position of Kremlin-watchers in the days of the Soviet Union, having to read meaning into the most minor of wording?

Enterprise customers expect a bit more communication, and as a consumer customer I'd appreciate it as well.

Another big problem is serious product defects. When the newsgroups are full of people who are having problems, would it hurt their image to say "we acknowledge that this is a problem, and we're doing something about it. Stay tuned." The current approach encourages lawsuits by angry customers who think they're being stonewalled.

Steve Jobs is dead (5, Funny)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446673)

He died in a car accident in 2006. The Steve Jobs you see today is a look-alike hired by Apple. The whole illness story was fabricated to explain the subtle differences in appearance between the the look-alike and the real Jobs. What's left of Steve is being held at a cryogenics facility in silicon valley. It's all true. Don't believe me? Play the latest iphone commercial backwards. You can hear a voice say "Steve Jobs is Dead".

Re:Steve Jobs is dead (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#28446711)

You know I can actually believe that and would like to subscribe to your poorly photocopied newsletter.

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