You just know that lots of so-called journalists and industry analysts promise to deliver the straight news about the goings on at Apple. But for a number of reasons, including the extremely secretive nature of the company, they fall down on the job big time.
Consider just speculating about new products. Back in the early days, Apple was pretty open when it came to feeding stories to the media. Magazines would get an early look at new hardware, so they could write feature stories that would coincide with the release dates.
With the Internet onslaught and instant journalism, Apple couldn’t depend on a standard print deadline. The story could be published minutes after it was written, and can you really trust the media to keep a secret? Well, to some degree you can. A handful of selected journalists are often given early access to stories and products from Apple, with the understanding they won’t release the information until the gadget is actually released, or perhaps a day or two earlier to build anticipation and fuel sales.
However, Apple will no longer trust dozens of journalists to keep secrets. All they need is for one to break a company nondisclosure agreement for news about a new product to be released prematurely, thus making it easier for the competition to deliver instant responses and make attempts to build similar gear.
Not to mention the surprise factor.
Nowadays, Apple is regarded as utterly paranoid about secrecy. The suspense about a possible new product can be overwhelming, and special media events get major coverage. Indeed, during that last-minute press conference over the Antennagate affair, cable news stations were broadcasting news alerts on the scene in anticipation. And all this about a fancy smartphone?
That plays into Apple’s marketing plans, which is why people line up for hours — or days — to get a new iPhone or some other highly-anticipated gadget. It also explains why, as I write this article, you still have to wait several days to get an iPad, and there’s that three-week wait for an iPhone 4.
Without any solid information, some members of the press find it convenient to just make things up, although the articles might masquerade as informed speculation. So there are loads of stories about what Apple might do, should do, can do, and shouldn’t do. None of these writers, so far as I know, have actually run a multibillion dollar multinational corporation. They haven’t a clue how to manage all the disparate elements of marketing, manufacturing and accounting that are required of the seasoned business executive.
This is not to say that the press shouldn’t criticize Apple when they do something wrong. Certainly the lame handling of the Antennagate issue is a prime example of mishandling the message. If Apple had been front and center about the real issue when it was first raised, that pretty much all smartphones anyone cares about are susceptible to death grips of one sort or another, the issue would have been over and done with. End of story.
Instead, Steve Jobs used sarcasm rather than attempt to be helpful to a concerned customer. Indeed, a few proper sentences then and there might have ended the issue. Sure, perhaps Jobs caught the letter when he was up late and didn’t pay much attention to how he crafted his response. That’s no excuse. The message he conveyed was that Apple just didn’t care about customers who had problems with the iPhone 4.
The press release announcing the alleged problem with displaying too many bars was also screwed up. This was yet another opportunity to explain the extent of the problem, rather just that the display was incorrect and it took several years for Apple to figure it out. Doesn’t that sound unbelievable to you? It sure did to me, even though it may have been perfectly true.
But that doesn’t let the media off the hook. Both media and industry analysts have shown again nd again they can’t predict what Apple might do, or how successful a product might be in a given quarter. Sure, it’s not that Apple is terribly forthcoming about product plans and sales, unless there’s reason to post a press release about it. But you have to wonder how one ill-informed analyst decreed that a mere five million tablet computers would be sold during all over 2010.
When Apple moved 3.27 million in the first three months the iPad was on sale, the people who delivered that original figure, plus similar low numbers, had lots of explaining to do, and they surely had make some really fast recalculations.
The truth is that the iPad, though in the same general category as other products, is sufficiently unique not to play by the rules. The success of the iPhone may have been a harbinger of what was to come, but even Apple admitted to being overwhelmed about the initial and ongoing demand of the iPad.
Even as they have figured a way to match production with demand — more or less — there’s no true indication yet how much traction the iPad has. And certainly nobody knows whether any of those alleged iPad killers will catch on. A tech industry analyst can say all they want about the subject, and even sound confident of their estimates. But they haven’t a clue. Maybe Apple does, but they’re not talking.
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