I’m a big fan of Apple products. But there’s no escaping the fact that Apple has always been, well, arrogant. Which was fine — their superiority complex has always been both partially deserved and one of the company’s motivations to strive for better things. But in the past few months, the company seems to have crossed some kind of invisible line, now brazenly pissing off not just competitors, but its most devoted fans, closest partners and industry supporters.
Is Apple blind to its own arrogance in the same way that Microsoft is blind to its lack of “taste”?
Apple embarrasses Microsoft
Apple competes with Microsoft for operating system market share, but the two companies are also partners, and depend on each other for revenue. Microsoft is one of the largest software developers for the Mac OS, for example, and Windows is the largest platform – by far – for iTunes, QuickTime and other strategically vital Apple applications.
|Mike Elgan Columns|
Lockergnome founder and tech personality Chris Pirillo posted a video this week showing that Apple icons in the beta version of Mac OS X Leopard representing Windows Vista machines actually show a blue screen of death — the screen displayed when older versions of Windows crashes.
Yes, I know. It’s funny. But what other company in the industry would so blatantly embarrass one of its major partners like that? The equivalent would be if Macs on the network were represented in Windows with Sad Mac icons (the symbol shown on older-generation Macs when there was an error that prevented startup). Even Microsoft would never be that arrogant.
It’s one thing to diss Microsoft in keynotes, or build an entire TV ad campaign around the flaws of both Windows and its users. But building slap-in-the-face insults into product betas? I can’t think of any other company with the gall to do that.
Most companies avoid humiliating partners in public. Not Apple.
Apple disses iPhone early adopters
Apple dropped the price of its iPhone by one third just two months after shipping. Enthusiastic early adopters were offered in compensation $100 worth of products they never intended to buy from an Apple store.
So Apple half-heartedly tries to appease its most dedicated, loyal fans by punishing them with a $100 penalty instead of a $200 penalty. I wonder if those customers will ever stand in line again for another Apple product?
Most companies avoid punishing hardcore fans. Not Apple.
Apple shafts unlockers, 3rd-party software installers
Some of the most enthusiastic iPhone users “unlocked” or installed software not approved by Apple on their iPhones. In an act that can only be characterized as “revenge,” Apple issued a software update that can kill these modified or improved phones.
Apple’s stated remedy for dealing with a disabled phone? A spokeswoman told The New York Times: “If the damage was due to use of an unauthorized software application, voiding their warranty, they should purchase a new iPhone.”
You could argue, and Apple has, that every Apple fan should have carefully read the warranty and other legal mumbo jumbo, and obediently adhered to Apple’s commands to allow Apple all control over the phone in your pocket.
Apple hasn’t done anything illegal. But the cold slap in the face is shocking. And the malice! Apple could have handled these iPhones in any number of ways, from code that prevents modified phones from being updated, to reformatting and re-installing the iPhone software. But to permanently break the phone, then sniff that the remedy is to buy another phone?
Next page: The arrogance continues…
Once-loyal and worshipful Apple fans are now calling for boycotts and class-action lawsuits.
Granted, the number of people actually affected is small. But the number of people watching all this with alarm and disappointment at Apple is huge. Every major newspaper, magazine, online publication and mobile-computing blog is covering it, heavily.
|Mike Elgan Columns|
And the headlines! “Apple Hoses Its Own Best Customers” (Conde Nast Portfolio); “Why does Apple get a free ride?” (Globe and Mail); “Is Apple in danger of losing its following?” (CNET); “iPhoney? What Is An Apple If It Loses Its Core?” (Huffington Post); “Will Apple’s Misstep Give Loyalists Pause?” (Adweek); “iPhone Users now Fear Security Patches, say Analysts” (PC World); “Gizmodo says Don’t buy an iPhone” (Guardian Unlimited); “Is Apple on the wrong path?” (Macworld).
So much for Apple’s legendary PR and marketing prowess.
Most companies would be afraid to kill its own products out of revenge for failing to obey warranties. Not Apple.
Apple to boot Boot Camp users
Apple offered users a popular beta of its Boot Camp utility, which helps them install and manage Windows installations on Macs (Boot Camp users can choose to boot either Windows or Mac OS).
But the day Mac OS X Leopard ships, Boot Camp turns into a pumpkin. The only way to fully use it is to upgrade to Leopard. Apple wants your money, and wants it NOW.
Most companies would maintain good customer relations by giving users a little time to upgrade. Not Apple.
These are just a few examples of how Apple arrogantly slaps fans and partners in the face. The company also pushes around carrier partner AT&T, content providers in Hollywood, component suppliers, the press, bloggers – just about everyone the company depends on for its continued success.
Apple’s message to the world: We’re better than you. We don’t need you. And you can’t live without us. So just shut up, do what you’re told and buy another iPhone.
Are they right?