Apple fans are hard to sate—will there ever be enough new products, rumors, or details regarding the inner workings of this notoriously secretive company? Fortune Magazine’s Adam Lashinksy has set out to feed this hunger with his new book Inside Apple How America’s Most Admired—and Secretive—Company Really Works ($27), which was today published by Business Plus in hardcover, iBooks, and Kindle formats; the digital versions are $13 each, less than half the physical version’s price. Updated with thoughts on the book’s actual value to readers, below.
The book is far from official, but it’s full of interviews with plenty of people who have worked at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters and know the inside scoop; several key personnel provide direct quotes regarding the company’s marketing and development efforts during the company’s iPhone and pre-iPhone eras. With over 240 pages, Lashinsky outs not only many of the company’s minor secrets—including the fact that an employee was dedicated to test-opening boxes in an effort to perfect the iPod’s product packaging—but also leadership and management techniques used by Apple’s executives, most notably including Steve Jobs. Much is made of Apple’s work environment, which is summarized by employees as one that people inside want to escape but people outside want to join. Many staffers are portrayed as horses wearing blinders, assigned to specific missions without the opportunity for advancement; Jobs is even described as having limited nearly all of his executives’ ability to grow outside of Apple, at one point half-joking that software chief Scott Forstall wasn’t even allowed out of the office. But upsides are also presented, including an internal culture where budgetary concerns are not imposed upon most creative workers, enabling designers and engineers to come up with great products rather than focusing on cutting costs.
Inside Apple also discusses how new CEO Tim Cook does and should differ from Jobs as a leader, though the discussion is brief; the book appears to have been finalized in late 2011, as the text predates Jonathan Ive’s knighting in the United Kingdom. After going through the entire book, we found perhaps 10 total details that were not already known about the company and its key personnel, though a handful or two of others were made public in advance excerpts, and the author occasionally offers insights that go beyond the raw factual details. It’s noteworthy that the book is interrupted several times with pointed references to Apple’s lack of official cooperation with both the author and academic researchers, including highly plausible accusations that the company only cooperates with outsiders who deliver its official message without tarnish. The end result is a book that doesn’t feel wholly original, yet will bring occasional Apple watchers up to speed with some facets of the company’s culture and history, while giving experts a little new meat to digest. Note that both of the digital versions start with a problematically low-resolution image that will hopefully be fixed in a free update.