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.