Steve Jobs' estranged marriage of hardware and software

During his keynote announcing the iPhone, Steve quoted Alan Kay, "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware… So we're bringing breakthrough software to a mobile device for the first time".[1] After watching the iPhone unveiling, Alan responded in kind to Steve’s homage by stating, “Steve understands desire”.[2]
Steve loves to quote Alan Kay when he’s trying to convince us that the same people who make the hardware should make the software. This is the high horse he mounts whenever he is attacking the fragmented relationship between a HP computer and its Windows software. Steve tries to sell this lovely idea that his hard- and soft-ware guys get together and build a machine as a cohesive team. When the job’s done, they all have a group hug and together they send their baby out into the big scary world. Many hands make light work in a common spirit of integration, right? In reality, Apple is no less fragmented than its competitors. Steve’s obsession with guarding his secret projects means that his “team” consists of a load of people isolated from each other. Each person builds a separate element, with no idea what the final sum of these parts will look like. ''We have cells, like a terrorist organization,'' chuckled Jon Rubinstein, ex-Apple hardware chief, ''Everything is on a need-to-know basis”.[3] Jonathan Ive decried the process in the 2009 documentary, Objectified:
As designers, it’s easy so get so far removed from the actual objects …prototypes can be made remotely  …the actual product is manufactured in another continent [China]. It used to be that it was manufactured downstairs and you would develop the product in such a fluid, natural, organic way with how it was going to be made and that’s not the case anymore.[4]
You can understand why Steve likes Jony to keep quiet about how Apple does business.
Fortune Magazine had this to say about the iPhone launch:
Even some senior Apple managers whispered during the keynote that they were seeing the iPhone for the first time… The software development was done without needing to provide a hardware prototype. In some cases, Apple deliberately disguised software builds, known as "stacks", to keep programmers from seeing the actual interface…  Cingular [now AT & T] worked with Apple software developer on breakthrough features ... Even so, Apple didn't show Cingular the final iPhone prototype until just weeks before this week's debut. In some cases, Apple crafted bogus handset prototypes to show not just to Cingular executives, but also to Apple's own workers.[5]
Veteran Apple commentator, Leander Kahney of Wired reported that Steve’s secrecy tastes like something out of a John Le Carre spy novel:
Recent stories about how the iPhone was kept secret mentioned tactics like nondisclosure agreements, misinformation and phony prototypes… Jobs also keeps information on a need-to-know basis. Different product groups are told only what they must know to finish their parts of the product. It's a classic cell structure, like a spy organization… Take the iPod name. The only department in Apple that knew the name of the iPod ahead of its unveiling was the graphics department, because it designed the product packaging and advertising materials. Everyone else referred to its code name, "Dulcimer."[6]

“I was at the iPod launch,” said Apple systems Engineer, Edward Eigerman to New York Times. “No one that I worked with saw that coming.” [7]
His marriage of software and hardware is one where husband and wife are told to sleep separately to avoid pillow talk. Steve’s paranoia began with the theft of the Mac GUI. His old marketing guru, Regis McKenna explains to New York Times that Steve’s secrecy runs deep:

But what most people don’t understand is that Steve has always been very personal about his life. He has always kept things close to the vest since I’ve known him, and only confided in relatively few people.[8]

Apple’s secretive honeycomb of blind worker-bees resembles a relic from the industrial-age. It has more in common with dinosaurs like General Motors than its open-minded, open-planned egalitarian neighbours in Silicon Valley. Apple has become what Steve always detested: Big Blue Brother. Are his fashionable customers just another part of the Apple hive mind?

[1] Block, R. (2007, January 9) Live From Macworld 2007: Steve Jobs Keynote [Live blog]. Retrieved from

[2] Elkind, P. (2008 March 5) The Trouble With Steve Jobs. Fortune Magazine.

[3] Burrows, P. (2000, July 31) Apple: Yes, Steve, you fixed it. Congrats! Now what's Act Two? Business Week.

[4] Swiss Dots (Producer). (2009) Objectified [DVD].

[5] Lewis, P.H. (2007, January 12) How Apple Kept its iPhone Secrets. Fortune Magazine.

[6] Kahney, L. (2007, June 3) Steve Jobs, Spymaster. Wired Magazine.

[7] Stone, B. & Vance, A. (2009, June 22) Apple’s Obsession With Secrecy Grows Stronger. New York Times.

[8] Stone, B. & Vance, A. (2009, June 22) Apple’s Obsession With Secrecy Grows Stronger. New York Times.


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