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Do We Care About Corporate Lies and Dirty Tricks?

When two local store owners play tricks against one another to get extra business, you don’t like it, but you sort of expect it to happen from time to time. But somehow it’s believed that corporations must adhere to a higher standard, though that doesn’t seem to happen all that often. So you have situations where some drug companies might inflate claims for a new medication, and perhaps even sanitize test results, in order to get approval by the regulating authorities in a given country.

Now when that happens, people might get sick. People might die, so cheating is not just immoral, it may be illegal as well.

However, in our little corner of the world, does it really matter if one company exaggerates the advantages of a product against the competition? So what if a certain handset maker puts in code in a smartphone that makes it run faster, but only when you run certain benchmark apps. After all, does that really hurt your experience in actually using the thing? Sure, maybe you were led to believe it was a better product as a result of those speed ratings, but it’s not such a big deal — or is it?

Advertising? Well, how many of you believe ads anyway? Sure, some ads may help influence a buying decision towards a particular company or retailer, but you still have the chance to check things out for yourself. And, no, I’m not going to get into get rich quick schemes, or the latest claims about whether you must invest in gold or silver because of the coming global financial Armageddon. This isn’t the place for you to get investment advice. However, if a company is shown to be bilking people out of their money, you hope the victims will actually be able to get refunds, assuming the company is around long enough for them to collect.

When it comes to tech ads, you know about those recent TV spots where Microsoft attempts to entice you to buy a Surface tablet. Sure, it’s not going so well, witness that $900 million dollar inventory write-down to cover the cost of products that Microsoft couldn’t sell. But the ads always make the iPad seem smaller than it really is. I suppose Apple could complain, but why bother?

In addition to programming a smartphone to deliver inflated benchmarks, Samsung continues to tout features that often don’t work, or when they do work, they don’t quite function as advertised. So there’s that TV ad showing how you tilt the Galaxy S4 to make it scroll automatically. Yes, the Tilt to Scroll feature sometimes works, but scrolling speed, even at the fastest setting, is glacial.

One of our readers posted a comment the other day revealing a litany of questionable actions by Samsung or Samsung executives. So we know how a certain executive allegedly stole billions of dollars from the company’s subsidiaries, destroyed evidence and bribed government officials. There are reports of paying off shills to denigrate the competition, or perhaps even hiring an analyst firm to report false information about the company’s profitability compared to Apple’s.

Not the paragon of corporate responsibility.

It’s not that Apple isn’t above a few questionable claims over the years. So there were those famous Mac Versus PC ads mentioning hundreds of thousands of viruses on the PC, but not on the Mac. True, the Mac never had hundreds of thousands of viruses, but it had a few, so call it a gray area deception. Some also felt that, when Apple was demonstrating how PowerPC-equipped Macs were faster than Intel-equipped PCs, they cooked the benchmarks to deliver results that were inflated.

Now in those days, I actually ran some of Apple’s benchmark tests, the ones they supplied to the media, and they seemed reasonable enough. So there you go.

But don’t forget the stock options backdating brouhaha that occurred when Steve Jobs was in charge of the company. Sure, a couple of executives took the fall, and faced SEC charges as the result, but Jobs claimed plausible deniability. It didn’t hurt him or the company, and certainly not Apple’s customers. But it wasn’t a very nice thing to do.

Apple also faced a possible backlash in the U.S. Congress because of keeping tens of billions of dollars overseas to save on taxes. But that’s nothing very different from what other multinational corporations do, and it would require changes in this country’s tax laws to address such behavior. In any case, Tim Cook’s appearance at a Senate hearing resulted in even the crusty maverick Senator John McCain fawning over him.

But when it comes to corporate deception and dirty tricks, Apple’s doesn’t quite make the grade. Samsung, on the other hand, is not above pulling some stunts when it’s appropriate. And don’t forget how Microsoft would routinely seed bloggers with free note-books and other stuff to make them feel warm and fuzzy about saying good things about Windows. Only it didn’t help with Windows 8 or the Surface tablet.

Besides, it’s not as if the public cares much one way or the other.