Apple may make beautiful products but it resembles North Korea in how it communicates with the world.
Apple is to many the poster child of the Web 2.0 generation. Yet, there are few companies that are as anti-Web 2.0 as Apple. That is if Web 2.0 and social media and all that is about openness and transparency and not trying to rigidly control the message.
"Apple's silence on Steve Jobs' health may have broken federal securities rules," a Los Angeles Times heading stated on June 25. "A Memphis hospital said Saturday Jobs had never been a patient. Then they changed the story," Forbes wrote.
"If I have any serious illness, or something coming up of an important nature, an operation or anything like that, I think the thing to do is just tell the Berkshire shareholders about it. I work for them," Warren Buffett told Bloomberg.
"Speculation over the declining health of Kim Jong Il has intensified after reports that North Korea is trying to buy high-tech medical equipment from abroad," the London Times wrote on June 20.
In 2007, Joe Wilcox, writing for eWeek, contrasted the styles of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates during a week in which they both gave major speeches. "Gates met with bloggers today, while Jobs traditionally limits accessibility to select press," Wilcox wrote. "Microsoft is fairly open with analysts, partners and press about its announcements, while Apple keeps everything secret until Jobs' does the unveiling. Microsoft will stream Gates CES keynote live, while Apple will provide a canned stream hours following the Macworld keynote. Microsoft bloggers will pipe in on the company's announcements, while Apple will tightly control disclosure through its media department."
But isn't Apple the really open, cool company, and isn't Microsoft the secretive, uncool company? Isn't Microsoft supposed to be the company we love to hate while Apple is the company we love to love?
Apple makes absolutely beautiful products that are genuinely simple to use. I used Apple computers until I started a company many years ago. We had very little money and we had to buy lots of computers and set up networks and stuff like that. It was a no brainer. We bought PCs.
I'm a big music fan and I love iTunes and the iPod. Apple and Steve Jobs have done more to humanize technology that anyone. They have continuously championed simplicity in an often complexity-crazy world.
What lessons can we take from all this? Some might say that old style command and control communication still works. Apple has proven that by rigidly controlling the message it can shape how people perceive it. Of course, others might say that Apple is a great brand in spite of its paranoid secrecy because it makes great products.
Is there a paradox between simplicity and closedness and complexity and openness? Is the really simple very closed, and the really open very complex? Is Apple proving that secrecy trumps openness even in a Web 2.0 world? We should note, of course, that Microsoft, who has long had a more open, partner-driven strategy, is also much more successful than Apple.
Perhaps the challenge and the opportunity of the modern world is to achieve openness and simplicity.