Think Apple is becoming more open? Think again, as Tim Cook is “doubling down” on secrecy

Tim Cook at D10, by Asa MathatThe late Steve Jobs loved his own privacy, and similarly loved to keep Apple’s new products firmly under wraps until he was ready to unveil them. It’s very different from the practices of some other tech companies, who either orchestrate strategic leaks, or don’t overly concern themselves when information escapes without permission.

While it was always unlikely Apple would change drastically once Tim Cook took over as CEO, there was always a chance a few secrets previously locked away in the vault would find their way out into the world.

This week alone, we’ve seen some images of possible next-generation iPhone parts, and a screenshot allegedly taken from iOS 6. Could Apple’s approach to keeping everything secret until the last moment have changed so soon?

The answer, according to Tim Cook, is absolutely not. Speaking at AllThingsD’s D10 Conference, the Apple CEO repeatedly displayed the same level of denial concerning questions on new products as his predecessor, and promised to increase secrecy even further.

Cook was being interviewed by Kara Swisher and Walk Mossberg, who asked questions such as what Apple was launching during WWDC, to which the reply was “that’s a great question, I’m not going to answer it,” and when quizzed about whether Apple was making a television, Cook answered simply “I’m not going to tell you.”

Doubling down

While few CEOs would answer any differently, it was when Cook was talking about changes inside the company that he said this: “We’re going to double down on secrecy on products,” that it became clear he was as dedicated to maintaining Apple’s legendary air of mystery as Jobs.

The doubling down strategy extended to company acquisitions too, with Cook telling his interviewers that if he didn’t have to reveal anything, he wouldn’t.

So, Tim Cook will be putting the company’s vault inside another vault, but as any blackjack player knows, while doubling down can be profitable, it’s also very risky.

While withholding details for as long as possible works well when building hype and excitement, everything can go badly wrong when the stranglehold on information is broken. Just look at what happened during the notorious iPhone 4-lost-in-a-bar episode. It can also be a problem when new products end up not living up to expectations, much like the iPhone 4S.

Ultimately though, whatever the outcome of Apple’s love of secrecy, it just wouldn’t be the same if we knew all about its products before they became reality.