Inside the secretive Apple University training program

Inside the secretive Apple University training program

Summary: How and what is taught at Apple's internal training programs, and what does Picasso have to do with it?

TOPICS: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad
Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 6.15.04 AM
Credit: Apple

Apple's university-style training program is no secret, but details have been sketchy -- until now.

A profile of the so-called Apple University, a year-round training program which allows students to enroll in a number of classes, has now exposed the company's teaching practices thanks to a feature published by the New York Times,.

The college-style training was originally created by late co-founder Steve Jobs and american sociologist Joel Podolny, who also served as an Apple executive. In February, Podolny left this role to focus on Apple University as a full-time Dean.

According to the NYT's sources, three employees who have attended classes -- and agreed to talk on condition of anonymity -- say that art, simplicity, function and beauty are concepts drilled into students who elect to attend recommended courses.

As an example, the iPad and iPhone maker compares the 11 lithographs that make up Picasso’s "The Bull" to the way the firm develops its product lines. In the series, Picasso gradually erases unecessary detail until the last lithograph which is elegant and simple, but still is obviously a bull. The sources say that this kind of design method is key; in the same way that Picasso focused on only essential components, Apple believes that function and beauty come from "elegant simplicity."

Classes are taught at the Cupertino, California campus in buildings dubbed the "City Center," and the rooms are described as "well lit," with attention to detail ranging from trapezoid-shaped rooms with elevated seats to luxury toilet paper. Occasionally, courses are also taught overseas.

Courses are not required, but enrolling is encouraged. Students can sign up for classes on an internal website, and classes are available depending on positions and background. The publication writes:

"Unlike many corporations, Apple runs its training in-house, year round. The full-time faculty -- including instructors, writers and editors -- create and teach the courses. Some faculty members come from universities like Yale; Harvard; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; and M.I.T., and some continue to hold positions at their schools while working for Apple."

While one class might teach those specifically working on the Beats project, another could focus on how to successfully merge acquired companies into the tech giant's existing infrastructure.

Randy Nelson, formerly from animation studio Pixar, is a teacher of the "Communicating at Apple" course, which is taught to boost clear communication and the sharing of ideas at the tech giant. In addition, Nelson occasionally teaches the "What Makes Apple, Apple" class. In the latter, Nelson uses the example of a Google TV remote in comparison to the Apple TV remote. Google's remote is equipped with 78 buttons, while Apple's has only three.

The reason? Nelson explained that Apple's designers began with an idea and debated the concept until they had just what was required -- buttons for play and pause, selecting media, and another to reach the main menu. In comparison, the lecturer says that the Google TV remote has so many buttons because all the designers and engineers on Google's project "got what they wanted."

Finally, another course taught is titled "The Best Things," and attempts to integrate a culture which prompts staff to be pro-active in surrounding themselves with the 'best quality' peers and materials, in order to get the best out of them.

Earlier this month, the iPad and iPhone maker said it has created or contributed to over 600,000 jobs in Europe, and over 500,000 of these roles are based on the app economy -- an industry surging in growth due to the popularity of mobile applications.

According to Apple, over 75 billion app downloads have taken place since the launch of the App Store, and European developers alone earn $6.5 billion a year.

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad

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  • Unnecessary

    Erases unnecessary detail = dumb it down.
    Buster Friendly
    • Yep

      and a few times I've missed dedicated buttons for certain functions - like stand by!

      Press MENU for 2 seconds, release, right half a dozen times, down half a dozen time, Select... Or on any other system, just press the red button.
    • K.I.S.S.

      Keep it simple stupid. It works. I'm not an Apple fan, but they do this and it works. They invest in their employees from what I read. That is good for employee retention.
    • Obviously, you're not

      a Picasso fan!
    • Engineers, in general, don't like "elegant simplicity"

      How do I know? I am one. I've observed that techies actually like more complexity in a design: more features, more buttons, etc., etc., etc.) It isn't uncommon for techies to get impatient with people who don't adapt to complex designs as easily as they do. What they forget is that they are in a minority in the general population. It isn't that non-techies are "dumb". It's that they just prefer gadgets to be easier to use. IMHO, Apple is wise to make ease of use a primary design goal. That philosophy has served them well!
      • you're right

        Whenever I hear stroustrup (c inventor) put down Java, I always give my head a shake at how smart he is and how he just doesn't get it: elegance trumps power so very much of the time.
        • ++

          Actually, C++, not C.
          • yes I am aware of that

            Ritchie invented C. Zdnet for iOS strips the plus plus characters.
  • When you abandon your creation you can better appreciate/copy others.

    Look at it this way, if your start appreciating others creations more than your own, it becomes easier to copy others.

    When Steve Jobs got a woman pregnant, and had Lisa, he abandoned parental responsibilities for a computer. This must be the indoctrination that the cult gets as part of training. The message is "Give Up Your Children, Make Something For Me".

    This is a great way to run a business if your crazy like Steve Jobs.
    • Guess what?

      I tried to vote for you and it didn't register although there was a message saying it had. So I randomly voted for one of the other posts and it registered. Kudos to the Apple police!
    • nobody cares

      I could care less if Steve Jobs battled James Bond in his spare time.

      Like the old joke about virgin wool: "for that price, what do I care what the sheep do at night?"