Gorilla Glass maker uses secret internal code word to protect Apple’s identity

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Corning's Gorilla Glass 6 can survive being dropped over a dozen times. Ape not included.
Even large primates are nervous of Apple.
Photo: Corning

Cupertino is so ferociously secretive about having its name mentioned by suppliers that Gorilla Glass maker Corning uses a pseudonym for Apple inside the company — despite having worked on the iPhone since the very first model in 2007.

“I have to tell you that it feels not quite right to use Apple’s name out loud,” Corning CEO Wendell Weeks said during the company’s most recent earnings call. “I still don’t think I’ve ever done that. Inside the company, we have a code name for Apple, we never even say ‘Apple’ inside the company. So, if you could see me, I sound like I’m turning a little pink and I am having an anxiety attack, if I read their name out loud.”

Weeks did not reveal the code name used. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting insight into Apple’s obsessive level of secrecy — and the fear that companies have invoking its name — even in an industry that’s built on nondisclosure agreements.

Secretive even by Silicon Valley standards

According to CNBC, Corning has been paid upward of $450 million by Apple since 2017. But Corning’s CEO sounds uncomfortable even discussing the relationship between the two companies.

CNBC says audio chipmaker Cirrus Logic, which received 81% of its total sales from Apple, takes the same tack:

“Cirrus executives rarely say Apple’s name, and for years they avoided it entirely. In 2017, an investor presentation included a slide with a variety of logos of their customers. Apple’s logo was nowhere to be found. Instead, the Cirrus slide included a picture of a brown box with the words ‘#1 CUSTOMER.’ Recent investor slide decks simply say that Cirrus Logic supplies the top seven smartphone makers.”

The article is well worth a read, especially at a time when Apple is reportedly considering a business relationship with Hyundai over the Apple Car. Hyundai recently acknowledged the talks, causing its shares to soar. However, soon afterward it backtracked and stopped mentioning Apple altogether.

Steve Jobs introduced this secrecy when he returned to Apple in 1997. The company was known for leaking like a sieve during the years Jobs was absent.

Today, while there are still leaks, Apple does a great job controlling the narrative. Tim Cook has changed a lot about Apple while being CEO. But this is one thing he’s not altered. And why would he? It works very well in Apple’s favor.