Don’t give Apple a pass2008-08-15
I was embarrassed today during my presentation at New Media Expo in Las Vegas. John C. Havens, the co-author of my new book , and I were delivering a talk on the the theme of the book, “Tactical Transparency.” When discussing the notion of being transparent about business processes and problems, I used Apple’s Mobile Me as an example, showing a screen shot of the MobileMe Status page on the Apple website.
As soon as I started talking about it, a hand shot up. Allison Sheridan said the MobileMe status page was a terrible example.
I was confounded. After all, the inaugural post to the MobileMe status page made my point precisely:
Steve Jobs has asked me to write a posting every other day or so to let everyone know what???s happening with MobileMe, and I???m working directly with the MobileMe group to ensure that we keep you really up to date.
But Allison explained that updates to the site had stopped. David G., the site’s author, did not make good on his promise. Her husband, she said lost weeks worth of email and looked to the status page for information that was never posted. I had added the screenshot shortly after the third update was posted because John and I were required to meet a deadline for delivering a copy of the presentation. I hadn’t checked the site since then. Big mistake.
When I got back to my room, I visited the site. There are still only three posts there, the most recent from July 29. That final post concludes with these words:
“Next post later this week.”
Is David willing to blow off Jobs’ instructions to “write a posting every other day or so?” (That would take some chutzpah.) Has Jobs decided to return to Apple’s traditional opacity when it comes to communicating with customers? I can think of a dozen or so other reasons the updates may have been suspended, none of which excuse the shrugging off of a commitment made to customers to keep them informed. To make matters, worse, there have been continued problems with the service. Still, no updates.
But, hey, that’s just Apple. We’ll let it go because they make such cool products, right?
In fact, Apple frequently gets a pass for atrocious communication practices (among other things) because the manufacturer of such cool products can do no wrong. The Apple faithful turn a blind eye to any flaws, excusing the company because, well, we all just love our Macs and iPods.
Personally, I prefer Windows to the Mac. I had a Mac for 15 months and wound up giving it to my daughter and returning happily to the Windows world. But I have several other Apple products that I do love. And I still don’t think that makes the Mobile Me situation acceptable. Any organization that makes a public commitment to communicate and then clams up is, more than likely, hiding something. Even if they’re not, that’s the perception that will be created by their sudden silence.
MobileMe was (and continues to be) an unmitigated disaster (particularly compared to the relative trouble-free launch of Microsoft’s Live Mesh). The company launched a status page and promised updates “every day or so.” The company provided three updates, then went silent. And there has been barely a whisper of protest. (I say “barely” because there have been some reports of the sudden halt to updates, but not many…certainly not nearly as many as there would have been had it been Microsoft in the hot seat.)
Yeah, Apple’s products are cool. But it’s time to stop giving them a pass.