Apple To 'Double Down' On Products Secrecy, Says CEO Tim Cook; Why Steve Jobs Would Be Proud

Analysis

 @redletterdave on May 30 2012 11:12 AM
Tim Cook (L) and CEO Steve Jobs
Apple COO Tim Cook (L) and CEO Steve Jobs answers questions during a press conference on antenna problems with the iPhone 4 at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, July 16, 2010. Reuters

Too many leaked parts. Too many missing phones. Whatever the real reason is, Apple CEO Tim Cook wants to double down on secrecy on products coming out of Cupertino.

We're going to double down on secrecy on products, Cook told the audience at the D10: All Things D Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. I'm serious. ... Secrecy on the product side is so important.

While Cook emphasized his desire to plug the leaks from within Apple, he quickly added that he still plans on making the company transparent in a number of ways.

However, we're going to be the most transparent company in the world on some other things, Cook said. Social change. Supplier responsbility. What we're doing for the environment. We're going to be so transparent in those areas because if we are, other people will copy what we're doing.

Apple fans, and the company's late founder Steve Jobs, would be extremely pleased to know that Cook wants to uphold Apple's great tradition of secrecy. Keeping new products and technologies under wraps until they are officially debuted is one of the keystones of Apple, but it's much more than just keeping secrets.

Steve Jobs always wanted to control every end of the Apple experience, from product conception, to design, to the manufacturing, to marketing, and even to the delivery and packaging of the product. He was meticulous, a perfectionist, and his propensity to drum up hype for his insanely great devices made him the ultimate salesman. But Jobs loved the element of surprise in his presentations, and it was a powerful tool in launching some of his most legendary products, including the Macintosh computer in 1984, and the iPod in 2001. He even liked to use the element of surprise in recruiting his employees. From Walter Isaacson's biography:

Jobs's primary test for recruiting people in the spring of 1981 to be part of his merry band of pirates was making sure they had a passion for the product, Isaacson wrote. He would sometimes bring candidates into a room where a prototype of the Mac was covered by a cloth, dramatically unveil it, and watch. 'If their eyes lit up, if they went right for the mouse and started pointing and clicking, Steve would smile and hire them,' recalled Andrea Cunningham. 'He wanted them to say 'Wow!'

This desire to wow people was no more evident than at Apple's product launches, where Jobs's flair for the dramatic really came out. He loved bouncing around the stage, energized by his own excitement and passion for his products, but the presentations were always highly controlled and planned out. That was the Apple way: Have fun, do great things, but make it great.

When products leaked, including the lost iPhone 4 picked up by Gizmodo, Jobs would still go on stage and put 100 percent effort into his presentation. But now that Jobs is no longer with us, it wouldn't be in Cook's style to hop around the stage trying to build excitement for a product. That's Jobs' style, not Cook's. Instead, if the products are a complete secret, Cook can still create a dramatic product unveiling that would have pleased Jobs, the master presenter. Cook may not have Jobs' fire, but he has a Southern drawl that could work as a perfect slow burn to amplify the drama in the unveiling.

As CEO, Cook has already launched two of Apple's most successful products to-date, including the iPhone 4S in October (just one day before Jobs' death) and the new iPad in March. After Cook's appearance at the D:10 Conference on Tuesday, Cook now looks forward to Apple's 2012 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which will take place from June 11 to 15 in San Francisco. Cook and the Apple team will be talking mostly about the new Mac operating system, OS 10.8 Mountain Lion, but many also to see a new heavily redesigned MacBook Pro laptop unveiled, as well as a new version of the popular iOS mobile operating system, iOS 6, and possibly even a new iPhone. But whatever Apple's next product truly is, Cook better work hard to keep it a secret: According to Apple's lead designer Jony Ive, the company's current project is the most important and the best work we've done.

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