November 4, 2012
Applesauce: All Things Apple – November 4, 2012
In one week, Apple showed just how much they’ve grown in the past year, making the tough calls and moving ever onward.
Then, days later, they reminded us where they came from, releasing a snide and snarky “acknowledgement” which cheesed off Samsung and those British legal beagles.
This week’s Applesauce best consumed on an iPad mini. For those without an iPad mini, just try squinting until your Retina’d iPad looks fuzzy.
Kicking Ass and Taking Names
Think about this: What are the three largest Apple gaffes in the past 13 months?
Maps, Retail, and Siri.
And who was in charge of these teams? Scott Forstall and John Browett.
Steve Jobs wouldn’t allow this my ass.
If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we’d admit that the past year hasn’t been without a few potholes for Apple. As mentioned above, Siri entered this world with great excitement as many began to ask her all sorts of ridiculous questions about the meaning of life and where they could find a prostitute and if Siri would call them Master. There were even those who asked Siri legitimate questions, like “Can I have pizza delivered here” or “Will you remind me to hit the gym in 3 hours.” For some of these people, Siri just flat refused to work, and Apple, clever bunch that they are, hid behind that orange beta tag, mentioning that Siri only gets better the more we use it. Siri did eventually get better, though it’s likely the service isn’t as strong as the folks at Apple would have liked.
Earlier this year, the New York Times decided to do some investigative journalism on the “iEconomy” of Apple; How they send jobs overseas, how they use legal tax loopholes to get out of paying millions in taxes, and, more specifically, the changing atmosphere in their retail stores. The story touched on the low pay for Apple retail employees, as well as the lack of opportunities for advancement. The stores had become a different place since the iPhone. Rather than only sell computers and iPods, now more and more people were coming in to look at and buy the smartphones, and once these smartphones became a huge success, even more people were coming in the stores, some just to look, some with questions like “How do I turn the clicky keyboard sound off?”
In August, rumors began to surface that Apple was beginning to layoff many of their retail employees, just months before a new iPhone release and the holiday shopping season. John Browett, the new retail chief who was brought in after Ron Johnson left late last year to revive JC Penny, claimed there were no such layoffs. He explained the sudden drop in on-floor coverage and empty schedules came as a result of their fidgeting with the retail formula, later adding that they’ve gone back to the old way. Though he apologized and allegedly fixed it, the damage was done. A report was released later which claimed Tim Cook had been pushing Browett to run the stores lean, cut back the fat and stock the cubes with fewer employees. (Also regarding retail blemishes, Apple released those ridiculous Genius ads during the Olympics. Perhaps Browett was responsible for those, too?)
Finally, the most recent of Apple Gaffes: The whole Maps fiasco.
This one is still so fresh I dare not pick the wound, suffice to say this little issue smacked of the iPhone 4 antenna issues AND the Siri issues, all wrapped in one. Not only was it incredibly embarrassing, (and so very easy to demo) but the lack of public transportation forced many users to find another navigation app, one which Cook may have possibly suggested in his open apology to iPhone users. The edges were beginning to fray at Apple, and many began to wonder when the first rip would show in the seam.
(It’s probably fair to say many thought Maps was that first tear.)
So, on a Monday, after the markets had closed, Google announced their new Nexus models and Microsoft announced Windows 8; when the tech world wasn’t watching, Tim Cook dropped the axe. Scott Forstall, the man who is said to be a polarizing personality at Apple and John Browett, the man who never saw a holiday retail quarter, were let go. Normally, this would frighten analysts, investors and the gathering crowd of Apple watchers. Any fear or trepidation which may have arisen from this announcement was set at ease with one name. Sir Jony Ive. The one man Steve Jobs saw fit to put under no one is now in charge of what they’re calling “Human Interface” on ALL products. When Jobs was in charge, many praised his “the buck stops here” approach to Apple’s products. If Steve wasn’t happy, the thing didn’t get released. Now, it appears as if Sir Ive will be fulfilling this role, placing his stamp of approval on anything Apple releases.
This, my friends, is a very good thing.
Siri and Maps will now be overseen by Eddy Cue, the man whom Jobs trusted to fix Mobile Me after its truly horrendous release. According to an article in MacDailyNews from 2008, the fact that Cue was put in charge of Mobile Me meant the product was going to be fixed. “Eddy’s name isn’t familiar to most apple people, but he’s in his way as important to apple’s success as Jonathan Ives [sic]. His specialty: the back-end infrastructures that make Apple’s online universe tick. His groups did the Apple online store, iTools (later .Mac), iTunes store, etc, etc. It’s the not-sexy part of the company, but it’s the guts that make all of the sexy front ends actually work,” said Chuq Von Rospach. Mobile Me later became iCloud, of course, and though it too has had its struggles, Apple’s been gradually rolling it out to mostly positive reviews. As for retail, Tim Cook is taking this responsibility upon himself until a replacement can be found. At first glance, this looks like a strong move from Cook, his way of communicating that retail is still very important at Apple and he is willing to personally carry it through the holiday season. Those reports of Cook looking for a leaner retail experience still ring in my ear, however.
On the other hand, Apple is a company who learns from their mistakes.
I doubt it very much that Cook will try to bring in someone else who plans to trim the fat even further. Also under the personal oversight of Cook is Forstall himself, likely a measure to bide their time and get out of paying him extra stock, salary, what have you. I can’t help but see this as a sort of corporate dunce cap, with Forstall having to report promptly every morning to Cook’s office with a sack lunch and an iPad full of busy work tucked under his arm. There, in the corner, is a rickety chair made out of rejected iPad prototypes, and here Forstall will sit, steering clear of Ive and the rest of the gang as he thinks about what he did. This is silly, of course, but the Apple presser only says he will serve as an “advisor” to Cook. What the hell does that mean?
Yes, it’s bright days ahead at Apple. I’ve said it before, but it needs to be repeated. Steve Jobs handpicked his executives, and placed Cook at the helm for a reason. He also told them to never consider what he would do in their decision making process. Forstall was brought in with Jobs when Apple acquired NeXT and, according to some reports, likely thought he was heir apparent to the Apple throne. With Jobs gone, he lost his protection and, based on reports, began rubbing many the wrong way. Anyone who thought Cook to be soft, to be lacking in the testicular department has been soundly proven wrong. It takes massive stones to take two members of your executive team to task over their missteps and send them packing. It also takes incredible courage and faith to use proven men to fill in the void. Cook led courageously this week, and at a time when Apple truly needed a strong leader.
How to Anger the British In 2 Easy Steps
My kid brother, god love him, was a giant pain in my side when we were younger. In most “normal” sibling rivalries, it’s the oldest whose responsible for making the younger wish they were never born. I have 2 crooked toes and plenty of stories as testimony that this is clearly not the way things worked in our household. It wasn’t so much that my brother was a bully, (he was) but he was just plain smarter than me. Street smart. He knew what to say, when to say it, and most importantly, HOW to say it.
Me? I preferred opening my mouth and letting the thoughts flow, like the worst kind of bathroom disaster. If my parents ever made him apologize, he was clever enough, at the age of 12 and 13, to somehow get one last little jab in before my parents felt as if he had fulfilled his moral duty.
The matter of the UK courts forcing Apple to “apologize” (or more accurately, acknowledge the facts) for suing Samsung over design infringement felt so intrinsically familiar to me. And they were really clever, weren’t they?
Let’s be fair. Judge Birss gave Apple all the ammunition they’d need to pull of their clever little stunt. It seemed so odd that Judge Birss would go out of his way to, more or less, give his own passive aggressive ruling about the case between these two tablet makers.
“Sure,” Judge Birss seemed to say, “There’s no patent infringement. I mean, Apple’s product clearly has a better design. No one is going to mistake this really cool thing for this cheap, plastic thing.” Can you really fault Apple for essentially parroting a UK Judge? Apparently, yes…yes you can.
A brief recap: As a part of the ruling which stated that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab couldn’t have infringed on Apple’s designs because it wasn’t cool enough (again, Judge Birss’ words…not mine) Apple was told they’d have to publicly acknowledge (many have taken this to mean apologize…it’s a subtle yet important difference) that the two tablet are different, so sayeth a court of law. Apple appealed this decision, because admitting defeat is a total buzz kill, but ultimately lost. It’s completely biased and judgmental to think this way, but Apple’s first admission of the facts read exactly how I figured a company like Apple would “apologize” when they were forced to do it against their will.
“Yeah, we lost this court case because the judge said we were just TOO awesome and TOO cool. And by the way, no other court felt this way and agreed with us, so now you know.” And everything Apple said was 100% true. However, it’s also true that Apple 100% missed the spirit of the ruling here, and the court (and Samsung, of course) were none too pleased.
“I’m at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this,” said Judge Robin Jacob in a statement. “That is a plain breach of the order.” Apple might be the most valuable company in the world and globally recognized, but they still have a bit of snobby kid in them. The judges probably shouldn’t have been so surprised by this. Samsung also had their feelings hurt by Apple’s little stunt. After all, no company would want THAT ruling making headlines again. In a filing to the court, Samsung pandered, saying Apple’s acknowledgement on their Web site created the “impression that the UK court is out of step with other courts.” To be fair, Samsung, the UK court was out of step with the other courts. No matter, Apple had clearly tried to play clever with the courts, and they were told to try again. One day after they were told to remove the witty acknowledgement, Apple had another go at it, this time posting an advertisement (pronounced with a short “i” because this is the UK, after all) in Friday morning’s edition of the Guardian. Though this apology was without the biting snark of the previous attempt, they did manage to include a link which is easier clicked than read. After all, how many people do you know (parents not included) who would bother to type out “www.bailii.org/cases/EWHC/Patents/2012/1882.html?” The same statement has yet to make an appearance on Apple’s UK Web site, but it should be forthcoming, should they plan on remaining inside the law.
My brother and I get along swimmingly now, by the way.
Image Credit: Photos.com