When will Apple fall (for its attitude almost assures this will happen)?
Dennis Howlett recently wrote about how “Apple is not enterprise class”. His evidence broadly supports his contention. But there is worse to consider. Apple persists in taking minimal notice – though, in this, it is wholly consistent with its behavior with its past – about problems its products possess. In today’s social media environment, Apple is riding for a fall. Which failure to respond will trip Apple up remains to be seen. But expect it to happen.
Arrogance pays for a while, and but almost pays back with a vengeance
Remember BMW’s catastrophic experiment in the Series 7 with a brand new, super-clever in-car entertainment system? Remember the Mercedes-Benz experimentation with too much clever technology in a previous generation of E Series cars. Both car producers thought they knew what was best for their customers, and were then burned by those very same customers (the 7 Series reputation was damaged, with reduced sales, for several years; many still prefer mid-range Audis to mid-range Mercedes, even though Mercedes learned its lesson). Apple has flouted its customers, both consumer and business, for years. In my book Explaining iTunes, iPhones and iPads for Windows Users I explored the concept of AKWIBFY,NY – or Apple Knows What Is Best For You, Not You. This seems to be its (Apple’s) guiding principle, which reaches the state that Dennis described: persistent and continuous problems which Apple seemingly is not equipped (or prepared? ) to solve, never mind acknowledge. Apple just does not seem to want to learn what enterprises need, which is ‘dependability to execute’. Its lack of interest in this persists.
Dennis illustrates how ‘Apple is not enterprise class’. But the situation is potentially much more dire for Apple than it appears to understand. When any organization (think Perrier and Benzene) stands so superior above its competitors the potential hubris and a disaster increases. In today’s digital social media world, one small mistake (almost certainly unintended) that is ’inappropriately’ handled will be magnified by the digital social media generation: the consequence will then be seen by a whole world. Remember the images of Dell laptops catching fire? What would happen to Apple’s sales and reputation if an iPad or iPhone if disaster struck? Android would definitely look better, and even Windows as well. Recall also the cost to Sony when it had to fund massive recalls of defective laptop batteries? Apple’s culture appears to embrace a persistent ability to deny that there is anything wrong – even though the evidence is there to the contrary (as Dennis describes). This suggests that it does not know how to listen to its customers (or, at the least, to persuade them that it is listening). In such an environment the probability that a problem will spin out of control further increases.
I am an iPhone and iPad user, with minor complaints. Technology is a tool and when Apple’s technology works all are delighted. I had been contemplating buying a MacBook Pro (to replace a Sony Windows machine ruined by Sony’s similar attitude that it need do nothing for or about users except deliver elegant-looking products). Just as Dennis is moving back to a WinTel device, so my possible MacBook Pro purchase is now on hold, possibly permanently. Losing two sales, however, is irrelevant to an organization the size of Apple and disaster may or may not arrive for Apple. But all the primary indicators – failure to respond to customers (consumer or enterprise, as evidenced by the scale of the problems and lack of solutions and discontent on the Web) and its AKWIBFY,NY attitude – suggest that if (though I will argue when) the fall comes it will be fast and furious. Nobody want this to happen. Yet it will only take one mistake mishandled that makes it into the digital social medias generation’s awareness to achieve this and, just as BP’s reputation and share price crashed after the Gulf spill, so could Apple’s do exactly the same. Please wake up, Apple. Many enterprises are interested in what you offer – but will lose that interest when you remain so aloof as well as understanding the enterprises’ priorities. Note 1: For perspective, consider that Microsoft has sold 450M copies of Windows 7 alone; Apple claims ‘only’ c. 30M iPads to date Note 2: More about how the ‘Tablet market is Microsoft’s to lose’.