Engineers poke holes in ‘fake Apple projects’ myth

By , Feb 15, 2013

iPhone 5 alternative future (CiccareseDesign 001)

A lot of urban myths have popped up around how Apple goes about designing its products and protecting its famous paranoid secrecy. Through mindless repetition, these unconfirmed facts tend to become kinda public knowledge, some of them so compelling we cannot help but believe those overly romanticized Apple stories without questioning them or even consider asking the subject of whom the rumor is about.

One journalist thought different and sought to apply a healthy dose of skepticism to one of the most popular myths – that Apple assigns engineers to fake projects. He set out to separate the wheat from the chaff by interviewing several former and current Apple engineers who – surprise, surprise – apparently have absolutely no knowledge of fake projects being a regular occurrence at Apple…

Blame that myth on Fortune editor Adam Lashinsky’s book titled “Inside Apple”.

In it, the author claimed several engineers were “hired into so-called dummy positions, roles that aren’t explained in detail until after they join the company” and cited an unnamed Apple engineer who said he wasn’t informed of what he would be working on until his first day on the job.

Ars Technica‘s myth buster Jacqui Cheng (via The Loop) has the story:

I was prompted to look into the question after several friends – Apple employees, no less – expressed disbelief at the claim. Their skepticism matched my own experience; in my years of reporting on Apple and speaking to many of its employees, I had never heard of such a practice.

When I sought answers by interviewing current and former Apple engineers, I found that “fake” projects are certainly not a regular occurrence at Apple—and they quite probably do not exist at all.

Even if it’s true that Apple doesn’t go to such lengths to waste resources on fake projects, the company is still experimenting with products that sometimes don’t see the light of day.

The monster Apple v. Samsung U.S. trial in August 2012 gave a rare glimpse into Apple’s design process. Testimony after testimony came various tidbits of how a handful of Apple’s designers gather around a kitchen table to dream up new products.

We’ve also seen some pretty crazy iPad designsearly iPhone prototypes and various other products that were eventually abandoned. Vague evidence even suggests Apple at some point was exploring a curved-glass design for the handset.

Did you believe (even for a second) there were fake projects going on at Apple?

Although these people say the myth isn’t true, it wouldn’t shock me if it were.

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  • http://twitter.com/Kira_RaiGek Carlos Arrieta

    I know this probably is not the right place for this but i want to know, Jeff or anyone, is there a working or semi working ds emulators for the idevices? thanks for any help.

    • http://twitter.com/iPod_touch Jordan Dixon

      No. The guy that makes the emulators has said that he wants to finish the N64 and PSX emulators for iPhone, and then he’ll look at creating a DS emulator.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dwight.thomas.589 Dwight Thomas

    Not on Steve Jobs’ watch… But now anything is possible.

    • Daniel

      Steve was monitoring Bill Gates also and…

  • 2008crna

    Never even heard of this rumor until this article. Guess I am not keeping up with Apple news too well.

  • http://twitter.com/researchrants Research Rants

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were people hired into secretive jobs who didn’t know exactly what they’d be doing until they were hired, but I think it’s more likely that some people in those positions were working on real projects that were abandoned, as opposed to completely made up ones. If you’re brand new at the company and get hired to work on an iDishwasher prototype and then a year later get reassigned to the iPhone group, it doesn’t necessarily mean iDishwasher was fake.

  • http://www.facebook.com/liamsagooch Liam Googolplex Merlyn

    I’ve heard this rumour a lot these past couple years. Good to see its been disproven.

    Also, what’s the deal about curved glass? People talk about it like its this big, noteable feature

  • http://twitter.com/chaoticbuddhist The Chaotic Buddhist

    I worked for Apple from 1986 to 1989. During that time I worked on two projects that became actual products, and I worked on one fake project. It had funding, head count, we were required to deliver milestones on time and only a few of us knew that the only outcome was to throw Intel off the scent of what became the first generation of the Power PC chips…. I can’t tell you if they still do this, but I can tell you they have.

    I also remember the day Gorbachev came to visit the plant. An hour before he was to tour the facility we had a “power outage” on campus and we were all required to leave while it was being looked into.

    Of course there was no power outage…. They’re sneaky those Apple folks.

  • Daniel

    Yes, there are “fake” products. Actually ideas for products without shape, or simply said projects to test creativity AND loyality of new employes.