Here’s a interesting story about secrecy and making mistakes at Apple. The story is told by Woz, Apple employee number one (check out his hilarious shirt).
While Woz was waiting in line to buy the iPad last month, an Apple test engineer showed him a prototype iPad. It was just a few hours before the device went on sale. Woz, who is still an Apple employee, fired up the Numbers app. Little did he know, the unit was 3G test prototype, and was not to be shown or used outside of secure areas at the company HQ. Unfortunately, Woz’s playing with it must have somehow sent up a warning flag at Apple.
“… I can tell you that the test engineer who showed me an iPad after midnight, for 2 minutes, during the iPad launch was indeed fired. I opted to spend 2 minutes with Numbers on this iPad, trying some stunts I’d seen on Apple’s website demo video. I was not told that it was a 3G model and I had no way to know that. I was told that this engineer had to wait until midnight to show it outside of Apple’s secure area. And I’m an Apple employee who he was showing it to. My guess is that he was allowed to take the iPad outside of the secure area but still not supposed to show it.”
The test engineer was fired for betraying Apple’s ironclad rules on secrecy. The device was not to be shown to anybody — not even Woz. (And worse, Woz told Steve Jobs about seeing the iPad that night. Jobs himself said it was “no big deal.”)
On the other hand, Gray Powell, the Apple engineer who lost an iPhone 4G prototype at a bar, is still employed at Apple.
“Product secrecy is good for Apple and should be strictly enforced, but maybe 10% of niceness and 90% of strictness is OK too,” writes Woz.
It seems mistakes are forgiven, but betrayals are not.