"The Opaque Side of Apple" - Washington Post article

11800506

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 31, 2007
1,060
1
Washington D.C. Area
I saw this article today while I was reading the paper and thought that it was interesting to see how different Apple is from other companies in a variety of ways. I think as the article mentions, that it would be beneficial for Apple if they opened up a bit and gave more updates to their users.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy...AR2008080603568.html?sid=ST2008080700649&pos=

If your computer annoys or amazes you, and you yell at it or congratulate it, you'll be met with silence. But if you direct your feedback to the company that made it, will you have any more of a dialogue?

Calls to tech support can enlighten or exasperate, but they shouldn't terminate a company's interaction with its customers. Over the last month, few tech firms could have received a clearer lesson in that idea than Apple.

The Cupertino, Calif., corporation provides some of the best tech support in the business -- no other major computer vendor makes it easier to sit down with a live employee and get help. But if you're not at the Genius Bar at one of its stores, Apple can be one of the least communicative companies around.

And when Apple's MobileMe online service melted down after its launch last month, subscribers might as well have been yelling at their monitors.

Apple's silence isn't a recent update to its corporate operating system; it's been keeping upcoming releases secret for years. But lately, Apple has also clammed up about current events, from chief executive Steve Jobs's health to the state of its shipping products.

Most tech firms have gone in the other direction. They post updates about their work daily and invite readers to leave comments (see, for example, Microsoft's Channel 9 site, at http://channel9.msdn.com). They ask users to suggest improvements (witness Dell's http://dellideastorm.com). They continue the conversation on popular social networks (note how firms like Comcast scan Twitter for user gripes).


Open-source developers take these practices further, publicly documenting their bugs and letting anybody download and edit the source code of their programs.

Apple does almost none of these things. It's given its users excellent tools to share their thoughts online -- podcasting in Garage Band, blogging in iWeb -- but appears uninterested in those pursuits itself. Instead, this firm confines its public statements to news releases and the occasional open letter from Jobs.

The rest of its Web site can be just as opaque. Apple's tech-support discussion forums, for example, rarely feature contributions by Apple employees, leaving customers to chat amongst themselves.

Even the release notes accompanying its software have become uselessly vague. Would you believe that the latest version of iTunes "includes fixes to improve stability and performance"? That's verbose compared with this week's iPhone 2.0.1. software upgrade, a roughly 250-megabyte download that merited two words of description: "bug fixes."

Making small talk with consumers does not guarantee great products. If anything, the last few years give convincing evidence that Apple's approach of hiring smart people and holding them to high standards of usability and elegance can beat any design-by-committee strategy.

But with MobileMe, the Mac machinery broke down. Users who could no longer check their e-mail or see calendars or contacts wanted to know what went wrong, while the luckier subscribers to this $99-a-year service had to guess if they'd be bitten by these bugs next.

After a few days, Apple posted an apology from Jobs. Then it launched into the most halfhearted sort of blogging imaginable -- brief, no-comments-welcome updates ( http://apple.com/mobileme/status/) attributed to a faceless, amorphous "David G."

Poor communication can sink any gadget, but it's worse on a Web service such as MobileMe. When these things malfunction, they often do so for reasons beyond our control or even comprehension. When a Web-based application misfires, you can't walk up to the data center, knock on the front door and ask if everything's all right inside.

So the companies running these services need to speak up, promptly and with sufficient detail to give users cause for optimism. "Trust me" and "We'll do better" won't do -- not when users paying $99 a year can see the providers of competing, free services offering far more information to their users.

This is not about telegraphing product plans years into the future. Apple's secrecy about future releases may drive reporters nuts, but that's a business strategy it's free to pursue -- and one that is more honest than talking up "vaporware" that ships years behind schedule or not at all.

But don't-look-behind-the-curtain tactics don't work when customers just want to know that their purchase will work as advertised, or when would-be customers want reassurance that they're not buying into a failed experiment.

Last year, Jobs noted how Apple's silence about its environmental efforts hurt the company: "This has left our customers, shareholders, employees and the industry in the dark. . . . Our stakeholders deserve and expect more from us, and they're right to do so."

Apple should think about applying this logic to the other ways it shuts itself off from its users.
 

clevin

macrumors G3
Aug 6, 2006
9,095
1
If SJ meant it, there would be changes happening. Sorry I didn't see it, so I doubt he meant it, another PR maybe.

anyway, see how this article sits with some mac users, essentially, the change only gonna happen under users' pressure, if majority users would like to defend apple under any circumstance, I can hardly image apple doing anything on this topic.
 

11800506

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 31, 2007
1,060
1
Washington D.C. Area
If SJ meant it, there would be changes happening. Sorry I didn't see it, so I doubt he meant it, another PR maybe.

anyway, see how this article sits with some mac users, essentially, the change only gonna happen under users' pressure, if majority users would like to defend apple under any circumstance, I can hardly image apple doing anything on this topic.
I know what you mean, since all the fanboys would say that nothing is wrong. And while the situation is fine as it is, it definitely isn't optimal, but I think you're right in saying that it will only happen under pressure which isn't likely to happen in it's current state.
 

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,889
1,478
Palookaville
This is an excellent criticism of Apple's fortress mentality, which serves the company well only where new product development is concerned, and not at all well in customer relations. Communications with customers and the media are poor at best. The writer accurately describes some of the more quirky inconsistencies in Apple's customer service -- the great Genius Bar tech support approach, vs. their virtually hostile attitude towards the support message boards. Not only do no Apple employees answer questions on their support boards, they have a nasty habit of deleting posts that don't suit their arbitrary posting policy. They're missing an opportunity to make the Apple customer experience better, by a mile.

Apple has a lot of positive attributes as a company, but they need to rethink customer service from top to bottom.
 

satcomer

macrumors 604
Feb 19, 2008
6,906
1,165
The Finger Lakes Region
The real problem either mental illness in the USA started in the late 60s to the early 80s shutting down State runned mental hospitals because of Deinstitutionalisation. Plus with helicopter parents hiding mental of children or not have the resources to send mental kids to private hospitals.

This whole mental health process in the Western world is a modern tragedy! No wonder mental people are getting shot by police when they show up and try to access a person within seconds with minimal information at the time!
 

smithrh

macrumors 68020
Feb 28, 2009
2,491
984
Replying to a 7 year old thread with a totally off-topic reply might also be an indicator of the impact of shutting down state mental hospitals...

(I'll chalk this up to a forum issue - this time)

/s
 
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