Sachin Agarwal, co-founder and CEO of Posterous, wrote on his blog this week that he believe's a great deal of Apple's success comes from the fact that the company puts together small teams of highly qualified people to work on projects. He said he knows the Apple Remote application, available for free on the App Store, is made by one person because the single developer is a good friend of his.
"Apple doesn't build large teams to work on every product they make," he wrote. "Instead, they hire very few, but very intelligent people who can work on different projects and move around as needed."
He continued: "One day you might be working on the Remote app, and the next day you might get pulled on to another project that needs your help."
The Apple Remote (iTunes link) was last updated in November of 2009, to fix bugs associated with Apple TV 3.0 and iTunes 9. It has not been given support for iOS 4, including multitasking, or the retina display of the iPhone 4.
Agarwal said that engineers who work on Mac OS X and iOS often switch back and forth between the two projects to help something get pushed out the door in time for its scheduled release. And employees on the Final Cut Pro team often help out with other pro applications.
"Great startups have small teams that can build quickly and pivot when needed," he said. "When working at a startup, you don't own just one part of the application: you have to be able to work on whatever needs your attention that day."
Apple's startup mentality, even though it is one of the largest companies in the U.S., is no secret. Chief Executive Steve Jobs even referred to his company as the "biggest startup on the planet" in an interview in June.
A few former Apple employees recently offered a peek inside the company's corporate culture revealing that, like most companies, Apple has its share of red tape that can frustrate employees. But the issues go away and projects take on a "startup level urgency" when something is given the attention of Jobs.