Friday, March 21, 2008

My Take on Leander’s Piece AKA Apple Is Evil by Hadley Stern

My reaction isn’t as angry as Jon Gruber’s over at Daring Fireball. However, when you put aside that anger one can’t help but agree with Jon’s assessment of Leander Kahney’s piece in Wired, “How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong.” Leander’s article is a curious one for him, because he is usually so spot on when it comes to Apple. But this article is just....odd, especially as the cover piece of Wired.

Google Isn’t Nice

In Leander’s piece Google comes across as this kind of lah-lah place where no one does any evil (their corporate moniker, after all, is Do No Evil, so that must be so, right?!) Wrong. Google, like Apple is a business, not a philanthropy. Not that they are evil, they aren’t, but neither is Apple for taking a different approach to product development.

In Leander’s world secrecy is somehow a bad thing. But almost every business requires some level of confidentiality in order to function. Is Wired transparent about its business plans? About what features and products it plans to release? Of course not. Indeed the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is defacto standard for any conversation in the corporate world. The reason is is because there is business value in the ideas a company has. There is for Apple, and there is for Google. This is not evil.

Think Secret Wasn’t Just a Fan Site

Leander also paints a picture of Nick Cearlo of Think Secret as victim of Apple evil empire. Not so. Sure Nick may have started out the site as a hobby but it soon grew into a serious business. Anyone with even a basic understand of online advertising knows that given his site’s popularity this wasn’t just a hobby site. He was making some serious money. And he was making it by republishing confidential secrets broken by people who had probably signed NDAs. Notice that Apple has not gone after Jon Gruber or myself. This isn’t because Apple likes the blogosphere, they very may well not. But Jon and I aren’t revealing trade secrets. We are not profiting from people breaking the rules. Nick could have chosen to express his interest in Apple in a way that didn’t breach confidentiality contracts. He chose otherwise. This doesn’t make Apple evil. Yes, we may disagree with the company, but still going after Think Secret was well within it’s rights.

One of Apple competitive advantages comes from its ability to surprise and delight the marketplace. It is a key business advantage (and not only because of all the press it gets) and Apple must fight to preserve it.

As for Leander’s issues with the cliche of Steve Jobs the micromanager, again, this is not evil. Apple is not some sort of prison-camp where people have to work. I know people who work at Apple, and they are energized and excited by what they do. I’m certain there are people who hate working their too, just like any other company. But something tells me that the teams who worked on the iPod, iPhone, and the Mac are pretty darn proud of what they did.

Probably the most unfortunate thing about Leander’s piece is that is, at best, a superficial look at Apple. A cover piece of Wired is such an opportunity. And a piece that panders to cliché’s about the firm is an unfortunate waste of such exposure.

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