89 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
...which is saying something. I haven't done that since I was a teenager and I'm in my forties. To compare this book to Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, which is arguably the best biography I've ever read, would not be fair; although everyone is going to do that. I struggled with the comparison myself.
Bottom Line: These are two very different books, and this is a great compliment to Job's biography.
Did I learn anything ground breaking? I had hoped to, but I'm not sure I did. (Especially in the "Secrecy chapter - I wanted more!) Still, I did learn a LOT of small things that, added together, made the book feel groundbreaking. I've highlighted several passages in my kindle edition, but I feel like it would be cheating to share more than one with you. My personal favorite has to do with Apple's seeming lack of career paths for their employees; it goes like this:
"...what if it turns out that all that thinking is wrong? What if companies encouraged employees to be satisfied where they are, because they're good at what they do, not to mention because that might be what's best for shareholders?" Well, what if? The Peter Principle is hard to fight against; even more difficult to compete with are the ambitions of people. Adam mentions a saying that I've heard before, "Everyone inside Apple is trying to get out, and everyone outside is trying to get in."
Well, I'm both of those. After reading this book, I still would love to work for Apple; and I'd hate it too. What an exquisite company!
Most revealing to me is that while employees who are entrepreneurs "typically don't stick around for more than a couple of years," the company still manages to thrive in an oddly entrepreneurial way. At the same time, these entrepreneurs had "rich, productive experiences at Apple, where there ... was room for only one..."
Last, there is some speculation and discussion about the struggles Apple will have in keeping it's culture. The consequences of Steve Job's intense involvement followed by his rapid second departure will only really be understood over time - a _lot_ of time. Yet, I found this discussion to be better than any I've read on the web. At the same time, what human could possibly read all that has been written about Apple since late last year?
Despite my desire not to succumb to comparing this book with Isaacson's, I'll end with that comparison: The biography was bigger and the best in its class, and while this book is a quick, easy read, it is the first _real_ book in its class. I probably won't read the biography again, except for reference; I see myself reading Lashinsky's book again and again, cogitating on the philosophies and learning more during each read.
If I could, I'd give the book 4.8 stars, but since I have to round, I don't begrudge it the five stars that I expect most will give. You did a decent job with this book, Mr. Lashinsky, and I'm happy to recommend it.
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2012
This marks the third incarnation of Mr. Lashinsky's "inside" look at the workings of Apple. The Fortune Magazine article was quite good, considering the format limitations. However, as he expanded the story, first in to a short ebook and now the full length version, cracks began to show in the material. What was informative and precise, in short form, began to read as rehashed and bloated, in longer form. Simply put, "Inside Apple" is merely a magazine article which has been padded in to a book.
Now, that's not to say it's a bad read, by any means. Mr. Lashinsky has compiled a commendable briefing on the basics of how Apple operates. He has also added a great deal of analysis and varied opinions, which raise some valid concerns. However, if you have read just about any of the books previously written on Apple/Jobs, you've unquestionably encountered the same stories, concepts, and "inside" information before. What you really have here is a summary of key points from all that has been written about the subject before.
So, a good read, if you want a quick run through of the basic ideology, with some critical analysis thrown in. Just don't expect to find anything particularly new or shocking.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2012
Adam Lashinsky's book Inside Apple; How America's Most Admired and Secretive Company Really Works, is a fascinating look at the company that recently passed Exxon-Mobil as the world's richest private enterprise. The most significant aspect of the book is the delta between the company's public and private personas - much of it attributable to its late and iconic CEO, Steve Jobs. Publically, Apple is a forward leaning, socially responsible mega corporation that likes to be perceived as a small start up. Jobs grew up a political and social liberal who experimented with hard drugs before he dropped out of college; he was a vegan who studied Eastern mystic religions and supported Barack Obama in the 2008 election. Apple's early customers were a distinct minority of computer users who tended toward the eclectic and artistic. Its corporate image is often mistakenly compared to other Silicon Valley tech companies like Google and Facebook, where free gourmet food, collegiality, and an open campus are part of the cultural environment.
Privately however, Apple rivals government agencies like the CIA and FBI for the way it controls information and personnel. "Need to know", "compartmentalization", and internal "non-disclosure agreements" are concepts very familiar to those who work inside the nation's intelligence community, but inside Apple? Absolutely, claims Lashinsky who details how Apple's secrecy applies to every aspect of its business processes. Much of this makes sense; If your business model depends on flashy annual press conferences to launch the latest iPad, or iPhone, you better insure you're making the best use of that buzz as possible. The logic includes keeping your product completely under wraps until the big launch.
However, this culture transcends merely keeping the latest products secret until Steve Jobs has an opportunity to state at the press conference, "And one more thing," before unveiling the newest gadget. For example, Apple forbade its top executives from belonging to other company's boards of directors (except for Jobs). Employees were discouraged from any outside activities that kept them from totally focusing on their work at Apple. At the FBI, agents are still forbidden from engaging in employment outside the Bureau, and for more than 60 years, most of them under J. Edgar Hoover agents were discouraged from attending graduate or law school, even on their own time. "Agents who had time to go to school part time were obviously under assigned," went the FBI's logic. Jobs was notorious and unapologetic for not being involved in any philanthropic causes, and corporately, the company was no better. This was one of the first changes made by Tim Cook when he became CEO and Apple immediately began matching employee contributions to charity.
Much of this was not unknown. Apple was terrifically famous for not hiring from the outside and only promoting from within. Of approximately 70,000 employees, "The 100," a secret group hand picked by Jobs made all the important decisions that Jobs did not make himself. Employees were warned in briefings and internal email, (some personally by Jobs), that discussing Apple business, even with other Apple employees who lacked a requisite need to know about a project, could lead to immediate firing. At the local watering hole outside Apple's Cupertino California headquarters, it was rumored security personnel worked undercover in an attempt to pick up on unauthorized discussions. Whether they really did or not was irrelevant, employees believed they were there. Yet despite its multinational conglomerate standing, with a huge presence in questionably run labor environments such as China, Apple somehow escapes the rue of the Occupy movements and other anti-capitalist causes. One could argue Jobs was as effective at manipulating Apple's public image as Hoover was with the FBI's during the height of his tenure.
Not surprisingly, not a single Apple employee officially commented on, or cooperated with Lashinsky on the book even though he was well known inside tech circles for covering Apple for Fortune Magazine for years. He's a self-described Apple-o-file who came to their products reluctantly after falling hard for the iPod and iTunes. Which leads to my biggest disappointment with the otherwise excellent companion book to Walter Isaacson's recent biography on Steve Jobs:
In 2010 and 2011 Apple was publically involved in two scandals involving lost prototypes of upcoming iPhones. In both cases, Apple's own employees lost the phones while imbibing in local bars, and in both cases Apple aggressively pursued anybody associated with the lost phones. Some thought their tactics were heavy-handed including trying to prosecute an individual who purchased one of the phones on the Internet. In the other case, Apple security officers conducted a questionably legal search of a private apartment (without finding the phone) while police stood guard outside. In both cases, normally velvet-gloved Bay-area law enforcement agencies seemed overly chummy with Apple's security apparatus, and appeared only too happy to protect their wealthiest constituent. That not a word of either incident is chronicled in a book subtitled "How America's Most Admired and Secretive Company Really Works" and which purports to describe the company's culture of secrecy is curious beyond description. Otherwise, the book is an Amazon Five Stars. jamesmcasey.com
33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2012
Adam Lashinsky's Inside Apple is likely to be closely read inside and outside the company. Scheduled to be released this week, it's the most important Apple book since Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs and is, in many ways, the perfect companion to the Jobs biography.
If Isaacson's was the Time Magazine or People Weekly version of the Apple story, what Lashinsky delivers -- appropriately enough, given the magazine he works for -- is the Fortune version.
Lashinsky's goal was to understand the company Jobs built as a business. But unlike, Isaacson, Lashinsky didn't have Jobs' cooperation. Nor did the company make any Apple executives or employees available. So like a correspondent debriefing refugees at the border of a war zone, Lashinsky interviewed scores of collaborators, competitors and former employees after they left the confines of Apple's closely guarded Cupertino campus.
The result is a deep dive into an extraordinary enterprise that has disrupted one industry after another while ignoring -- if not deliberately breaking -- most of the rules of modern business management.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
As a longtime fan of Apple's products, I've read a lot about this iconic company over the years. Apple's willingness to break with the traditions is legendary, and it's this revolutionary aspect of its products that has earned it the iconoclastic reputation that it has. Most of this revolutionary zeal, and Apple's overall approach to business, was, of course, based in the particular vision of Steve Jobs, its founder and the CEO during some of the company's most successful days. My own understanding of Apple's esthetic and business approach was too based on numerous articles and books on Steve Jobs that I've read over the years. However, with his passing, the questions of how well will the company be able to carry on with his legacy and success will persist for some time. In order to better understand what is at stake, it's important to take a closer look at the Apple itself, going beyond the man that was synonymous with it for many decades of its existence.
"Inside Apple" is a book that, as the title suggests, pulls the curtain ever so slightly away from Apple's recondite inner workings and exposes those innards to the wider world. Apple is notoriously secretive about all aspects of its work, and this attitude of secrecy has a spell even over its former workers. Consequently, it has not been easy to gather valuable and verifiable information about the inside workings of Apple. This book, however, manages to present a very convincing and cogent view of what makes Apple unique. It shows how Apple's business and management styles go against almost all business school wisdom that has been taught over the past several decades. Apple has often been accused of being extremely rigid, and it's surprising that anyone form the Silicon Valley would ever want to work there, and little less actually thrive. However, this book makes the claim that the rigidity of Apple's structure and the extreme compartmentalization of different divisions and subdivisions within the company, all serve the purpose of fostering a sense of small teamwork that most big tech companies eventually lose. It is debatable if that sense of teamwork can last, especially now that the visionary input of Steve Jobs is gone.
This is a very well researched and extremely readable account of one of the world's most intriguing, successful and iconic companies. It will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more not only about the current technological trends, but also about how big corporations work. I enjoyed this book immensely and would highly recommend it.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2012
This is a pretty bad book. Clearly written in a hurry, it offers nothing new whatsoever about Apple or the people who work there. The subtitle is thus quite misleading--you'll find no secrets--or even interesting gossip--here, just a death march through the Apple org chart combined with worn-out cliches about Apple and business management. All the content in this book is available on line. Not worth the money.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2012
I pre-ordered this book based on the hype it had created before the launch and going by the author's bio. However, it fails miserably to deliver on the promise. If you have read the Steve Jobs biography and generally read Apple related news stories once in a while then there is very little information you'll find in this book. Most of the content has been a rehash of various news stories rather than based on employee interviews and actual insider account.
I'd not recommend this book. If you have not read the Steve Jobs biography, I'd highly recommend that rather than this book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2012
"Inside Apple" is one of the best books regarding the famed maker of iPods, iPhones and Macs i've ever read. This book explores the secretive nature of the Cupertino California company and highlights things the general public has never known about the development of their products. (The iPad was created before the iPhone?!) This is a well written book and a great read for any Apple fan.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2012
After watching several interviews with the author on Youtube and listening to some radio interviews, I was riveted. I wanted this book (on CD)! I was expecting tons of juicy details about Apple's inner workings.
Wow, what a disappointment! The book did not offer a ton of information beyond what the interviews collectively did. More like 25% more. In addition, the author's incessant whining about how he thinks Apple is about to wither and die got old really fast. One gets the feeling that he personally wants Apple to fail, and is pretending to have deep insights about Apple to match his desire.
He states that he thinks Apple is special but his warnings and speculations about Apple's imminent demise suggests he is really more on the side of traditional corporations.
In addition, on the audio CDs he read the book himself, rather than have a talented voiceover actor do it. That was a bad choice. He is not talented at voiceover. He... read... it... very... slowly... resulting... in.... much... frustration.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2012
i had been anticipating this book as much as i have walter isaacson's jobs biography. i loved the latter, because it was written with a lot of effort, had tons of insider information and the goal of deeply understanding its subject.
this book, in contrast, looks like a long tabloid article on apple - which may suffice for those not knowing the company, but can be truly disappointing for those, who are a bit familiar with the subject. no big surprises, no extra insight, not much relevant research.
to be fair: i quit reading after four chapters. it may get better towards the end, but i felt that keeping on reading was just a waste of time.