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  • The Apple Double-Standard Report

    July 26th, 2013

    Imagine, just imagine, that Apple had to take a one billion dollar write-down to cover repairs for the iPod or the iPhone. And, no, I’m not saying anything of that sort has ever occurred. But if it were to happen, you can bet it would be a headline story, carried on all the major, and not-so-major, media outlets around the world. If you think Apple’s stock price was somewhat low now, such a development would have vindicated all of those who claimed Apple was in deep trouble, and that they’d never regain their luster now that Steve Jobs was no longer piloting the ship.

    Yet in 2007, Microsoft took a write-down of that amount to deal with repairing the Xbox, many of which suffered from premature hardware failures. It was reported in the media for a short time, but mostly ignored thereafter. Things happen, and Microsoft was large enough to sustain such a loss without suffering seriously. We forget that, these days, Apple is larger.

    Now segue to 2013, where Microsoft takes another write-down, to the tune of $900 million, because the heavily promoted Surface tablet is an abject failure. The stock price, after falling for a few days, is increasing again. Clearly Wall Street wasn’t perturbed that much by Microsoft’s inability to make a dent in the tablet market. This is the future of PCs, after all, and the company that dominates the operating system business has been unable to demonstrate that the vision of PC anywhere has any basis.

    And, again, if Apple took a comparable write-down because they couldn’t sell, say, the MacBook Air, you can’t imagine how much bad publicity the’d get. Microsoft? Well, that’s just business. Sure, Microsoft didn’t meet analyst estimates for revenue during the last quarter, but it’s no big deal. Maybe they’ll do better the next quarter, or perhaps the quarter after that.

    With Apple, even a perceived misstep, one that has no measurable impact on the company’s sales, is some sort of Big Deal. Will Apple, for example, ever live down the early failure of Maps for iOS 6? Yes, it worked, mostly, but screen shots of every single error could be easily posted online. You could see the melted 3D rendering of the Hoover Dam, and how could Apple get away from that?

    But it was just software and a service. It’s not that an iPhone or iPad running iOS 6 couldn’t run alternatives, such as Google Maps. Besides, how many media pundits ever tell you about the beta warning that you get when you first launch the Google navigation app. Google’s legal team makes a huge effort to remind you that the company isn’t responsible if you get lost, yet that’s the standard-bearer of online navigation services. Curious indeed!

    It’s also fair to say that Maps for iOS has gotten better. 3D rendering has improved tremendously, and locations and directions are more accurate. It is not perfect yet by a long shot, and Apple is still acquiring technology to make it better. You may even soon be able to get public transit directions without having to call up a third-party app. Google? Well, the service sometimes makes mistakes. Are those mistakes as frequent as Apple’s? Well, even Consumer Reports magazine, which is most assuredly no friend to Apple, did a test of Maps for iOS 6 versus Google Maps early on and found both to deliver similar levels of accuracy, although Google had the more polished service. At least then.

    If Microsoft software is buggy, and it often is, that’s accepted. It’s par for the course, so just put up with it and get on with your lives, because that’s how things are. Windows is still ragged at the seams, although it has gotten a lot better over the years, at least until Windows 8 arrived.

    If Apple dared release a version of iOS or OS X that had near as many problems, watch out!

    It’s a sure thing that Apple is supposed to be perfect, and regularly come up with the game changers for the industry. When Microsoft tries to do something daringly different, and it’s fair to say Windows 8 was a huge risk, and fails, that’s not so bad. If iOS 7 fails to pass muster, it’s going to signal a huge problem for Apple, they say. Of course, the very same people complained over and over again that iOS had grown long in the tooth and was in deed of a major transformation.

    Apple delivered one, but they aren’t satisfied. I suppose Apple went to far, or didn’t deliver an interface closer to their concepts. But it’s not that iOS 7 is a finished product. There have been ongoing improvements, including using thicker fonts in some places for better readability. If iOS 7 is released with serious problems, they will have a right to complain. A few early release bugs? Well, let’s be realistic.

    But you have to think Apple’s management must be walking on egg shells. They know that they cannot afford to make even a minor mistake these days without everyone noticing. If any single product doesn’t deliver breakout sales, it’ll be regarded as the beginning of the end. If Samsung has a gadget that doesn’t realize its potential, and you have to say the media expected the Galaxy S4 smartphone to do better, that’s not such a serious problem. Worse, the supposedly responsible members of media don’t seem to realize there is a double standard, and that’s even more troubling.



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    12 Responses to “The Apple Double-Standard Report”

    1. Ted Schroeder says:

      There will always be a double standard because of Apple’s legacy fanbase and their massive appeal.

      Clicks = eyeballs = revenue

      Even the NY Times jumps into it with their articles on Apple’s use of cheap Chinese labor and tax issues.

      They want the clicks.

      On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing how anybody, even Google, makes money from online advertising.

      Of course, I have a hard time believing that any advertising works.

    2. Ted Schroeder says:

      “Advertising better work, or a lot of people will be looking for jobs.”

      Yeah, that’s true.

      And I know that a lot of companies of all sizes advertise, but outside of entertainment, I can’t think of much that I buy where that purchase decision has been influenced by advertising.

      I mean, I liked the Mac vs. PC commercials, but I don’t think it had any influence on my decision to buy a Mac.

      Google AdWords auction system seems guaranteed to make Google money before it delivers sales to customers. But I guess hope springs eternal.

    3. Don108 says:

      I recently saw an article with a picture of Tim Cook looking concerned and a headline that Apple was in trouble!. The article was about how various countries were banding together to make sure foreign corporations were paying taxes. This would affect every company that sold products around the world but only Apple was singled out.

    4. Articles you should read (July 26) …. says:

      […] “The Apple Double-Standard Report: Imagine, just imagine, that Apple had to take a one billion dollar write-down to cover repairs for the iPod or the iPhone. And, no, I’m not saying anything of that sort has ever occurred. But if it were to happen, you can bet it would be a headline story, carried on all the major, and not-so-major, media outlets around the world.” — “The Tech Night Owl” (www.technightowl.com) […]

    5. Tem says:

      A possible conundrum for Apple Inc. is when it hypes their products and services so well that expectations rise to nonsense levels. Then when those expectation levels aren’t met, then it is perceived as a huge failure. It might be safer to under promise and over deliver, but the risk is that sales might be lower than when hyped. Its a short term strategy to hit quarterly profits rather than a long term strategy to sustain profits and offer the best products and services available, I guess. But that, quarterly strategy, is the unsustainable Corporate theory that most companies align themselves with. Which suggests to me they don’t plan to be here in the long run. But that runs against my approach, I plan to be here for the long run, so I invest in companies whose actions are aligned with a strong mid to long term strategy too.

    6. John says:

      I suspect that some of this because MS and some others are perceived to have a near monopoly position in the market. IT people chose the computer you use at work and IT people choose MS. It is hard for Microsoft to fail, because no other company could step in and take their place.

      Apple, on the other hand, is a high wire act working without a net. They see Apple surrounded by lower-priced competitors. Therefore, in their minds every little misstep is an opportunity for Apple to fail.

    7. Google Earth still shows Hoover Dam melted.

    8. JD says:

      Apple products just work. For the most part, this is true. They also look and feel better than any other product out there. They set the bar. They are copied. Over. and. over. again. Its come to the point where companies even copy an idea that hasn’t even been made public. Everyone wants to see what Apple will do next because they all know that only Apple has made such a dent in everyone’s lives. Haters will be the first to tell you that Apple doesn’t innovate… while typing on an Android phone that would never have been more than another Blackberry if it weren’t for the iPhone. Or on a tablet that wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the iPad.. the same iPad they all made fun of. Some still do.

      People that have come to enjoy Apple products understand. They know that feeling you get when you slide to unlock your next adventure. That laptop that isn’t some cheap plastic version of the same one they had 20 years ago, but something entirely different. You could hang an Apple product on your wall and call it art.

      Everyone knows this “magic” though so many make fun of it or even wish it/they would go away for good. Apple has changed our lives and so they now deserve to be held to a much higher expectation than the likes of anyone else, even those that sell more.

      Its hypocritical, its insane, its stupid, and its just too easy for the every-day thoughtless blog on up to the largest media to make a buck off an Apple headline or troll the Fandroid Fanboy community in yet another pointless version of the Ford vs. Chevy we saw our fathers fight about in the 80s.

      Apple somehow created this situation by giving us products that have changed the world. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Samsung (Samesung) … would all be lucky to get such attention. They never will.

    9. StanTheMan says:

      Great article Gene! And great comments from readers, too.

      A comment from “John” contains a key insight that Apple followers don’t normally recognize regarding the implications of its strategy (which to date has worked pretty well):
      “It is hard for Microsoft to fail, because no other company could step in and take their place.  Apple … is a high wire act working without a net. [Critics] see Apple surrounded by lower-priced competitors. Therefore, in their minds every little misstep is an opportunity for Apple to fail.”

      JD also made a good point … Apple is not competing with Samsung (and others), but with its own past achievements. So when it falls short of those past achievements, it gets graded down:
      “Apple has changed our lives and so they now deserve to be held to a much higher expectation than the likes of anyone else, even those that sell more….  Apple somehow created this situation by giving us products that have changed the world. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Samsung (Samesung) … would all be lucky to get such attention. They never will.”

      IMO Apple has the best — most usable, most productive — products in each category where it competes.  On the other hand, Apple’s business/economic strategy needs to be more aggressive in reaching lower-income consumers in developed nations.  The rumored “budget iPhone” will be a big step in the right direction, unless its price is still too high for relevant consumers to afford.  A second “innovation” would be an Apple feature phone priced at, say, $149 that would have no data plan, but include the 10-12 most-useful apps plus a camera.  That device would function as a “hook” to attract more users into Apple’s orbit without “cannibalizing” iPhone sales.  Finally, Apple should also arrange financing (either with credit card companies or through a newly created Apple Finance division) for consumers whose carriers don’t provide “subsidies” (financing) for new iPhone purchases. 

    10. Matthew says:

      I don’t think Apple needs to worry about the press coverage at all, honestly. They keep producing amazing products that fly off the shelf faster than any competitor. Just ignore it and keep making great products. That is the best strategy.

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