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Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 05:25 am PT (08:25 am ET)

Book details Apple's 'packaging room,' Steve Jobs's interest in advanced cameras

Apple has a secret room devoted solely to designing product packaging and what users experience when opening a new product, a new book reveals. It also gives details on Steve Jobs's interest in a startup camera company before he died late last year.

Fortune writer Adam Lashinsky's "Inside Apple" goes on sale Wednesday, Jan. 25, and an advance copy was provided to AppleInsider. One of the key themes of the book is the company's "obsessive" focus on its products, all the way down to the packaging of them.

Apple's packaging room is located in a walled-off section of the company's main marketing building, Lashinsky's new book reveals. It's said to be "so secure that those with access to it need to badge in and out."

In the room, employees perform "the most mundane of tasks — opening boxes." It is said that one packaging designer spent months in the room doing just that, opening hundreds of iPod box prototypes trying to get the experience just right.

"How a customer opens a box must be one of the last things a typical product designer would consider," Lashinsky wrote. "Yet for Apple, the inexpensive box merits as much attention as the high-margin electronic device inside."

He goes on to note that showing attention to detail at even the smallest level communicates to customers that "the manufacturer cares about them." Customers then feel a bond with the company, something that transcends price points.

"Inside Apple" also reveals that only months before his death, Jobs met with the CEO of Lytro, the maker of a new "light field camera" that creates "living" pictures. Lytro's technology gained considerable attention last October, at All Things D's AsiaD Conference, for its camera that lets users focus a picture after it has been captured.

But well before Lytro was on the public's radar, Jobs requested to meet with the company's CEO, Ren Ng, in June of 2011. Ng met Jobs in Palo Alto and gave an in-person demonstration of Lytro's technology to Jobs.

Inside Apple


In its current form, Lytro's relatively large, tube-shaped camera is not a candidate for use in an iPhone or most of Apple's other thin products. But Jobs did reveal to biographer Walter Isaacson that photography was one industry he hoped to reinvent, along with televisions and textbooks. Apple unveiled its new digital textbook initiative last week, and rumors continue to persist that the company is working on a full-fledged television set.

A deal was never struck between Lytro and Apple, but Jobs did request that Ng send him an e-mail outlining three things he wanted Lytro to do with Apple. The young 32-year-old CEO complied.

"What struck me the most was how clear his communication was," Ng said, according to the book. "His eyes were just so brilliant. His glasses kind of levitated off his nose. I told him we drew a lot of inspiration from the iPad. He really smiled. It was clear it resonated."

Earlier glimpses at the new book detailed Apple's "cultish secrecy," as well as the fact that there are no free lunches provided to employees on the company's corporate headquarters after first-day orientation. Lashinsky's book include claims that Apple's iOS chief, Scott Forstall, is viewed as the company's "CEO-in-waiting, while the head of Internet software, Eddy Cue, is portrayed as a "dealmaker" crucial to the company's negotiations with outside partners like content providers and wireless carriers.

"Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired — and Secretive — Company Really Works" is available to order from Amazon in hardcover, as well as a digital Kindle edition and an unabridged audiobook. "Inside Apple" can also be read on iOS devices by purchasing the title through Apple's iBooks.