“Apple Computer Inc. generates buzz for its new products by obsessively enforcing a strict secrecy policy. But the policy can sometimes leave partners, big customers and even employees in the dark,” Nick Wingfield reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“Apple, based in Cupertino, mostly keeps its plans for new products to itself. It rigidly compartmentalizes itself so that even its own employees do not find out about coming products. It has fired and later sued workers who leaked information about unannounced products. More recently, it has filed suits against Apple-enthusiast Web sites that publish tidbits about the company,” Wingfield reports.

“While many tech companies assign internal code names to products, Apple goes a step further. It often gives different departments dissimilar code names for the same product, current and former employees say. If a code name leaks, Apple can more easily track down the department from which the leak originated,” Wingfield reports.

“This closed-lips approach is a key underpinning of Apple’s marketing strategy. To the envy of many in the tech industry, co-founder and Chief Executive Steve Jobs uses secrecy expertly to amplify interest in Apple’s products. Regis McKenna, a veteran Silicon Valley marketing executive who worked on some of Apple’s earliest product introductions, says he marvels at how Apple continues to stimulate so much public curiosity about its coming products,” Wingfield reports. “‘There’s a great deal of mystery and speculation about what it will be,’ said McKenna. ‘That’s created a marketing aura for them.'”

Wingfield reports, “The mystery helps Apple attract crowds at its retail stores and generally garner much more visibility than its relatively modest advertising budget would suggest. Apple spent $287 million on advertising last fiscal year, compared with $995 million for Microsoft and $1.1 billion for HP, according to the companies’ filings with securities regulators. While new wares from Dell Inc. or HP rarely get front-page treatment, Jobs has repeatedly appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Fortune showing off a new iPod or Macintosh computer.”

Full article, including behind-the-scenes info on the “Apple iPod by HP” fiasco, how Apple’s secrecy negatively impacts corporate customers and other big technology purchasers, and much more, here.

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Related article:
Apple acknowledges corporate IT workers’ frustration over secretive product roadmap – June 20, 2006