Secrecy & Delight

Two of the major talking points about Apple as a company and the products they create are their near CIA-level of secrecy and their unabashed predilection to create products that delight those who use them.

The secrecy part, in large, is described as a strategic way to have an advantage over other companies. Companies who would love to beat Apple to market with their knock offs interpretations. Secrecy prevents Acme Company skipping the months or years of development and research, in which Acme saves a ton of money and beats Apple to market with an, admittedly, mediocre product.

Apple is often heralded (and mocked) for its claims of delight and surprise. Upon its initial unveiling, Apple described the  iPad as being “magical”. Apple products continuously rank high on Consumer Reports and other customer satisfaction charts.

There’s another part to secrecy that I think ties into the idea of delighting someone. In our hyper connected age where sharing information is approaching diarrhetic levels, the idea of being surprised about anything is becoming rare. Running robots? Boring. Traveling to the depths of the ocean? Yawn.1 Apple uses their secrecy to actually deliver the delight and surprise, not just predict and pontificate on what might happen. Most product launches are quickly followed by the product being available. Not a watered-down version of a prototype, but the actual device down to the silicon.

There’s something to be said for the emotional impact a surprise party has over one that has been known about for months. Don’t get me wrong, a good party is still a good party, but a good party is overshadowed by a good surprise party.

Part of the secrecy that Apple holds helps to heighten the delight. For many people, getting an Apple device at launch is an experience. Ordering as soon as humanly possible or standing in line on launch day, you know that your new Apple device literally came straight to your home mere hours after being minted. You didn’t have weeks to prepare for its arrival. Half your fiends didn’t even know a new device was being released. That’s how new it is. Only Apple can deliver on that delight and experience and largely because of their secrecy.

Nintendo, Sony, Intel, Microsoft and many other consumer tech companies share their product roadmaps months, if not years ahead of time. There’s still delight, but it’s similar to reading the Plot to a movie on Wikipedia before watching it. You might still enjoy the film, but you kinda know what to expect. Apple could do the same, but if they were to do so I think it’s no secret that we’re so jaded that no one would be delighted or surprised.


  1. I’m being a little tounge-in-cheek-in-cheek here. I, in fact, find these examples to be quite awe-inspiring.