Apple's Focus on Product Secrecy Thwarted by its Massive Supply Chain

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
47,584
9,377



It's no surprise that the vast majority of Apple product leaks come from the company's massive supply chain, but Ars Technica takes a closer look at how secrecy at the company has evolved under Tim Cook in the areas where the company can exert its greatest control. The report suggests that security has indeed been tightened somewhat, in line with Cook's claims that the company has been working to "double down on secrecy", but the supply chain involving hundreds of partner companies and hundreds of thousands of workers remains a difficult channel to secure.
According to a handful of Apple employees who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, the leaks are simply a byproduct of globalization.

The employees all told us that security at Apple remains as strict--if not slightly stricter--as ever. (Several engineers said that general security practices appear to be tighter now, a year after CEO Tim Cook took over, but "tighter" is a difficult metric to gauge at a place like Apple.) [...]

"Apple's security practices are targeted at making sure US employees don't leak stuff, but everything comes out of China now," one employee told Ars. "I think Apple's secrecy mode is really outdated."
The report details a number of examples of tightened security for Apple's own employees, including reductions in off-campus testing of prototype devices and retail store changes such as reductions in the amount of advance access store employees have to OS X and iOS system updates.

Still, Apple's supply chain obviously represents the weakest link in the chain of product secrecy, with an assortment of vendors producing parts months ahead of a product's public launch and numerous opportunities for security to be broken along the way. Ars Technica notes that product security is an ingrained part of the culture at Apple, with employees honoring that secrecy out of respect for their coworkers' efforts.

But that sense of loyalty is largely lacking in the supply chain where companies churn out millions of parts on a contract basis with relatively little investment of loyalty. Apple naturally keeps a close eye on its supply chain and its partners are undoubtedly concerned about losing Apple's business should excessive leaks be found, but it seems to be nearly impossible for Apple and its partners to keep everything under wraps.

Article Link: Apple's Focus on Product Secrecy Thwarted by its Massive Supply Chain
 

mankar4

macrumors 6502a
Aug 23, 2007
624
0
USA
I'm honestly surprised that supply chain leaks come as late as they do. The 13" retina leaked just a week before it is announced, but they have got to have been making these things for a while.
 

student_trap

macrumors 68000
Mar 14, 2005
1,879
0
'Ol Smokey, UK
It would be nice to have a little more surprise in apple keynotes. Just doesn't happen like it used to.

I'm not complaining though, it's just a byproduct of getting bigger
 

liavman

macrumors 6502
Sep 22, 2009
462
0
No surprise there. That is why Apple can keep software secrets but not hardware.
 

justinfreid

macrumors 6502
Nov 24, 2009
489
1
NEW Jersey / USA
I wouldn't be surprised if Foxconn mandated that its employees work in underground "product secrecy lairs" for a year or so at a time to keep Apple's goods under wraps.
 

lighthouse_man

macrumors 6502a
Mar 13, 2005
602
1
This leakage didn't happen with such intensity a year ago when Steve was still around. I don't get how in one year things can get so far and I still believe that the suppliers are undermining Cook's authority, testing the water to see what reaction they'll get but apparently Apple is now very dependent on its suppliers that they can twist its arm a little. And by the way the news about a 13" rMacBook Pro were already circulating before the 15" was announced.
 

TheEndless

macrumors newbie
Jun 22, 2010
11
0
I love how Apple employees are speaking "on the condition of anonymity" about internal policies regarding secrecy. Ironic much?
 

lighthouse_man

macrumors 6502a
Mar 13, 2005
602
1
I wouldn't be surprised if Foxconn mandated that its employees work in underground "product secrecy lairs" for a year or so at a time to keep Apple's goods under wraps.
With the salaries they're getting, I'm surprised there aren't more leaks. And to put them all underground for a year? I think that would tarnish Apple's reputation even further. Talking about slavery bascially.
 

chuckd83

macrumors regular
Jul 12, 2010
169
15
give me a break...this is not national security here. It's a friggin computer. You end up pissing off customers unclear on when the next iMac is coming out. :rolleyes:
 

monaarts

macrumors 65816
Jan 16, 2010
1,164
50
Kennesaw, GA
The good thing is that we typically don't find out too much about half of what matters with Apple products... software features. :)

I am hoping for iTunes Match with movies and TV shows (or atleast some sort of hulu/netflix competition).
 

iGeek

macrumors newbie
May 14, 2003
16
4
Anyone else seeing the irony in interviewing employees anonymously about the company's secrecy?
 

dkersten

macrumors 6502a
Nov 5, 2010
589
2
I thought by now this would be common knowledge. I mean almost every product release since the iPhone 4 has been leaked is some way, shape, or form; sometimes just specs, sometimes parts, and sometimes entire products.
 

barkomatic

macrumors 601
Aug 8, 2008
4,068
1,856
Manhattan
It's not just Apple products, but any highly anticipated gadget usually gets leaked at some point on the internet prior to its official launch. I don't really think it hurts sales later on down the line.
 

ConCat

macrumors 6502a
I'm honestly surprised that supply chain leaks come as late as they do. The 13" retina leaked just a week before it is announced, but they have got to have been making these things for a while.
I think the 13'' retina taking so long to leak is due to the fact that there's more money in leaked iDevice parts. Such are the times.
 

OrangeSVTguy

macrumors 601
Sep 16, 2007
4,114
57
Northeastern Ohio
Besides secrecy is very important. Imagine if all these other companies knew about Apple working on the iPad months or years before it came out? It's because of the secrecy is what got Apple to dominate the tablet market.
 

Jayderek

macrumors 6502
Jun 28, 2010
468
831
Madison, WI
the only way to counter this is to announce products and THEN start manufacturing them...leading to at least a few month waiting time. I'm not sure people would want that
 

st1y

macrumors newbie
Aug 27, 2012
16
0
It's not just Apple products, but any highly anticipated gadget usually gets leaked at some point on the internet prior to its official launch. I don't really think it hurts sales later on down the line.
but that's the difference between everyone else and apple... this is what drives apple... I don't even remembering hearing anything about the surface before it was announced...
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.