Revealing how Steve Jobs runs Apple is like exposing the secrets behind a magician’s tricks. And several of the magician’s “assistants” just broke their code of silence.
In a lengthy feature titled “Inside Apple,” Fortune magazine’s editor at large Adam Lashinsky paints a clear picture of what it’s like to work at Apple, based on dozens of interviews with current or former employees at the company. In a nutshell: It’s a lot like working for a giant startup with a low tolerance for imperfection.
Take for example, the launch of Apple’s MobileMe web service in 2008, which was riddled with bugs and an embarrassing e-mail blackout for thousands of customers. This product release was so poor that critics labeled it “MobileMess.”
Jobs didn’t take it very well, according to Fortune.
“Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” Jobs reportedly asked the MobileMe team after the fumbled launch. When he received an answer, he continued, “So why the fuck doesn’t it do that?”
Jobs didn’t stop there.
“You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation,” he reportedly told the team. “You should hate each other for having let each other down.”....Jobs immediately named a new executive to run MobileMe, and shortly after the meeting, most of the team was disbanded.
Apple’s mercurial CEO is well-known for running the company like a ruthless dictator, on a level of secrecy comparable to the CIA. Fortune’s article does a thorough job unraveling the company culture at Apple, which recently surpassed Google to become the most valuable corporation in the world.
The last ambitious piece analyzing Apple’s culture came from Wired alum, Leander Kahney, in his 2008 cover story “How Apple Got Everything Right by Doing Everything Wrong.” Kahney interviewed several former employees, including Guy Kawasaki, who described Jobs as a manager who proved that “it’s OK to be an asshole.”
Kahney elaborated on why Apple’s culture of secrecy is good for the company: “… [T]he approach has been critical to its success, allowing the company to attack new product categories and grab market share before competitors wake up. It took Apple nearly three years to develop the iPhone in secret; that was a three-year head start on rivals.”