Apple and the impression of being small

Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch at the C4 conference in 2007 defined indie as simply “non-large”. This covers not just the small, one- and two-person companies, but also the bigger software development shops like Realmac, Smile, Panic, and Omni that have 10-40 employees but still feel independent. They’re all part of the community. Panic may have a bunch of employees now but it appears from the outside like it’s not that much more complex of a company than if Cabel Sasser, Steven Frank, and their friends were building great apps out of someone’s apartment.

Small is personable, nimble, and bright. Small makes customers feel like a company is not that different than the rest of us.

One of the magic tricks that Apple has pulled off is somehow maintaining a similar feel even as they have grown to be the world’s largest tech company. They’re bigger in revenue than Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and a dozen other software companies that have a much more obvious over-sized, bureaucratic feel. But you walk into an Apple Store to chat with an employee at the Genius Bar, or browse apple.com looking for a product, and it’s almost as if nothing has changed in the last decade. The complexity of the supply chain, of too many products, of layers of management — it’s all hidden.

Why aren’t Apple employees allowed to blog? Part of it is secrecy, sure. But too many voices also creates noise, and noise makes simple things messy, confusing. Apple still gives the impression of being smaller than they really are because our view of them is heavily filtered. What we see is the beautiful tip of a massive iceberg.

And maybe that’s why pundits keep waiting for Apple to fail. Because the company doesn’t look that different, the doubters just can’t comprehend how big and unstoppable Apple has become under the surface.