Alex Wilhelm, writing for The Next Web:
If you follow the ebook market you were likely stunned this June when Steve Jobs claimed to have captured 22% of the electronic book market overnight with the release of iBooks and iPad. Many of us who watch this market with careful eyes were leery of the numbers that Jobs was tossing around, they sounded too good to be true.
- If you “follow the ebook market” you’re a fucking dork. Yeah. I said it, and I’m not sorry I said it.
- Assuming you’re a fucking dork, were you really “stunned” by Jobs’s claim? Did your mouth literally hang wide open, as you stared blankly at the words that you could not bring yourself to believe? Was it like a punch to the gut?
- Steve Jobs did not make that claim, and if you think he did, you’re not following the ebook market very closely. Dork status: Revoked.
How do I know Steve Jobs didn’t make the claim? An investigation? A Google search? Did I call Steve Jobs up, because I can do that, and ask him?
No, no, no. I only call Steve as a last resort. I didn’t even have to do any of the work myself. Before I copied and pasted the little snippet from TNW’s article, the word “claim” was a “hyperlink” to this Gravitational Pull article:
As you might have guessed, the word “actually” (which I helpfully emphasized) is a hint that there’s something more to the story. The “something more” was this:
I’ve got a few stats today for you. In the first 65 days, users have downloaded over 5 million books and that is about two and half books per iPad which is terrific. The other interesting thing is the five of the six biggest publishers in the US who have their books on the iBookstore tell us that the share of ebooks now that are going through the iBookstore now is about 22 percent. So iBooks market share now of ebooks from five of these six major publishers is up to 22 percent in just about 8 weeks. And, as we ship more iPads, that number is just going to keep going up and up and up and we’re really thrilled with it.
So, what Steve Jobs “claimed” was merely what he was told by the five biggest publishers who publish on the iBooks platform. The 22% figure is not a reflection of the “total ebook market” and it wasn’t pulled out of Jobs’s ass—it’s a reflection of the sales of those specific publishers.
Yes, I’m aware that a slide from Jobs’s presentation caused some initial confusion, because it read “22% share of total ebook sales” but the entire point of the Gravitational Pull article was to provide context for that slide via the actual words that came out of Jobs’s mouth. Apple doesn’t provide a live feed of its events, so getting a transcript took some time. Time which was used by many in the blog-o-press to flip the fuck out.
Why is it, then, that TNW is trotting out an author who self publishes (one guy whose name is not A. Nick Dotal, alas) to somehow prove false a claim Apple never actually made, even while linking to an article which proves he never made the claim?
Because they can, and no one will call them on it. Because the internet sucks.
On the other hand, the article is written by the kind of guy who would end on something like this:
So much for iPad killing Kindle. I called it.
Way to go, Nostradamus. Where can everyone else get a crystal ball that peers into the obvious?
At any rate: The iPad hasn’t even finished mashing the buttons on the fatality it’s laying down on netbooks and as everyone who follows the technology mortal combat circuit knows, killing things is an art, not a race.
“Get over here!”
I can’t help but think Apple would be an entirely better, more open, less sandboxed, more customer/less profit focused company with Woz at the helm rather than the Steve we’ve got there now.
First, here’s how I summed up what I thought he should say, before the event went down:
…Apple should use sales data, real-world reports—and a little contrition—to give a hard-to-refute middle finger to the negative press they’ve been receiving and then they shouldn’t ever address the situation again.
That is, in essence, what Steve Jobs said. I was pretty close. Of course, he said it with a look of anger and annoyance that was rooted in having to say it in the first place. As I suspected, Jobs made it pretty clear that the Consumer Reports “non-recommendation” article was the impetus for this impromptu discussion.
However, I also thought that Jobs needed to concede his role (and Apple’s overall early PR role) in furthering the so-called “antenna-gate” crisis. That didn’t really happen, much, or at least to the degree that it should have happened. Yes, Jobs conceded that Apple isn’t perfect. Yes, he conceded that they really zeroed in on the “kill spot” for attenuation with the design of the iPhone 4.
By and large, though, there was no mention of his “don’t hold it that way” email quip, directed at a user who would probably say that he doesn’t feel particularly loved by Apple, despite Jobs’s repeated claims that they love every customer.
This is disappointing because the assembled members of the press were given an opportunity to ask questions, and Jobs’s early involvement was the elephant in the room that everyone ignored.
I also didn’t predict the bumper giveaway, primarily because I feared it would come across as a somewhat contradictory gesture if Jobs was going to argue that the phone was as good as they’ve been saying all along. (It did.) As predicted (by just about everyone) there was no recall announcement.
As part of my job, I see the way a lot of corporations defend the products they make and believe in—often despite allegations which go far beyond anything customers are facing with the iPhone 4—and I knew that Apple would never announce a recall based on the flimsy “design defect” claims that have surfaced.
So, Jobs did what I thought he needed to do: He used statistics and evidence to show that customers (99-ish percent of 3 million customers) aren’t seeing the problems that the tech blogs, the pundits and some in the press want them to see. We now know that iPhone 4s aren’t really being returned, and that complaints aren’t pouring in to Apple’s support line.
(Carolyn made a good point, though: How many people call AT&T to complain, rather than AppleCare, given that the complaints are related to reception? Dunno.)
While a lot of the numbers we saw as well as the impressive shots of the testing facilities were clearly meant to combat some of the concerns that have been voiced over the last couple weeks by members of the press, I saw an even bigger target for those reveals:
Lawyers who have filed class action lawsuits against Apple, regarding the iphone 4 antenna issue.
After what we saw today, there is no way that a lawsuit will ever prevail in court, and I’m certain that Apple used today’s press conference as a way to make it very clear that this isn’t a smart fight for anyone to pick.
Even so, I fully expect a few of these money chasers to press forward with their claims: Any lawyer who files a class-action lawsuit before even a single consumer is beyond the 14-day return policy of the product in question, or who contacts someone to see if they’ll testify as an expert witness, even after that person has admitted to not being an antenna expert, isn’t going to be deterred just because their claims have been undermined by a mountain of compelling evidence.
Michael Arrington (TechCrunch) questioned the news-worthiness of the test facilities, which is odd given that a lot of media outlets (and a lot of commenters) have been making a lot of really stupid comments about whether Apple did enough testing of the iPhone 4 outside of stealth cases. It should now be very clear that Apple tests their products well beyond what even Consumer Reports utilized in the test that drove them to walk back their recommendation. And, again, it doesn’t hurt that this information puts class action lawyers on notice as well.
Bloggers can (and will, I’m sure) continue to write about the issue, but the story can no longer be “what’s Apple going to do about this” or “is Apple ignoring the issue” or “did Apple neglect to test the iPhone 4” because the onus is now on the consumer, and the future is in their hands.
Jobs has essentially asked iPhone 4 owners to call his bluff:
“If you’re unhappy and if you think a bumper case isn’t enough to make you happy, if you think the iPhone 4 is defective, if 3 million of you are as unhappy as the press that has been speaking on your behalf seems to think you are…return your phones. We’ve made the process as easy as possible by extending the return policy, waving the restocking fee, and you’ll even receive an AT&T contract reset.”
The early adopter return rate Jobs mentioned was something like 1.3 percent, and that number will now either go up, or it’ll hold steady, depending on how right Jobs is concerning his theory that people really love their iPhone 4s. (I imagine the number will get slightly higher, because some people were probably holding off, wanting to see how Apple would respond before making a decision to return their phone.)
A product that is selling like crazy, which is back-ordered because of its popularity, and which is not seeing an above average return rate (indeed, which is apparently seeing a below average return rate) simply isn’t a product that can be portrayed as defective or worthy of a recall, especially given that the claims do not involve safety issues. (Whether the antenna crisis has affected anyone’s sanity is debatable.)
I’ve seen far too many variations of “I’m not seeing a problem with dropped calls or any real issues in day-to-day usage, but I’m upset just knowing that my phone has this problem” and have even seen people who claim to be upset about the antenna issue while conceding that they’re getting better reception than on their previous iPhone.
The perception of unhappiness and the very idea of an imperfection seems to be Apple’s biggest enemy at this point.
In the end, people who don’t have issues shouldn’t complain about the issues they’re not having, and people who do have issues should return their phone and get a refund, if their grief can’t be assuaged.
I recently bought a new Mr. Coffee brand coffee maker and because I’m not an aficionado, I bought one based on a few basic wants (stainless steel carafe, detachable water tank, etc.) and, well, how it looked: I like my appliances to be pretty.
It’s definitely been serviceable, but it has two bothersome flaws: When the lid is open on the water tank (in order to fill it with water) the lid actually covers the measurement numbers on the side of the tank, so there’s no way to know how many cups of water you’ve filled it with, past 4 cups. (It’s a 10-cup coffee maker.) It also doesn’t brew coffee as hot as I’d like. So, I risk making coffee too weak or too strong at too low a temperature.
Both of these issues sort of frustrate me, but I was still well within the 30 day return policy when I discovered them, and if they had been deal breakers, I’d have a different coffee maker on my counter. Of course, I could bitch and moan and do everything in my power to bring down Mr. Coffee, all the while sipping coffee brewed by my defective Mr. Coffee coffee maker but then, what kind of douche would do something like that?
Michael Arrington, in this presser post-mortem with John Gruber and MG Siegler and some guy who looks like he’s there primarily to give me the impression that he wants to lick Arrington’s anus, can’t wrap his mind around the fact that Jobs seems to concede that the iPhone 4 has a problem area while simultaneously saying that there’s not a problem with the iPhone 4.
Meanwhile, he’s perfectly willing to talk up an Android phone (the 4G EVO) that, as he concedes, “gets 20 minutes to the charge” while simultaneously saying that it’s a great phone. Beyond the dismal battery life, this is a product that is marketed for its 4G capabilities but which most people can’t actually use as a 4G phone, due to the low availability of Sprint’s 4G network. To make matters worse, customers are required to pay extra for a 4G data plan, whether they can use a 4G network, or not.
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t seen as a defect, or an issue worthy of litigation.
The iPhone 4 will have a “problem” when it has an issue (be it with the antenna or any other shortcoming) that compels a significant percentage of Apple’s customers to ask for their money back. According to Apple, that day has not yet come.
A couple things I noticed:
- Jobs actually said something nice about Google when he lamented the way they’ve been “unfairly” treated, though he didn’t really get into specifics.
- At one point, Jobs hinted that they’re working on a way to get around the laws of physics by saying they haven’t done so…yet.
- John Gruber’s question during the Q&A was a softball lob but was balanced out by whoever it was that asked the goofy and unfair “I’m holding a BlackBerry Bold right now and can’t make it lose signal” non-question. (I have a BB Bold, and you can definitely make it drop several bars based on the way you hold it.)
- Michael Arrington is a total cock. Why does MG Siegler put up with it?
I don’t think this is what Steve Jobs will say, but having read almost every article ever posted about the iPhone 4 reception issue, I think whatever he says can be based upon a handful of facts:
- Apple has sold well over two million iPhone 4s, by this point.
- There’s definitely an attenuation problem, caused by the new antenna design.
- The issue has become a PR nightmare, based largely upon Apple’s craptacular response.
I think those facts are fleshed out by the following:
- If Apple has sold well over two million iPhone 4s, and if people are having massive real-world issues with their iPhones, there is no way that we’d not know about widespread returns. I don’t think it’s possible to hide customer dissatisfaction at that level.
- Despite the fact that the iPhone 4 has a very real attenuation problem, it’s commonly reported that in real world use, it’s a better phone than any previous iPhone. Engadget even posted the opinions of several tech personalities on the subject of real world use, and most backed up the thought that attenuation is real, but not necessarily a factor in day-to-day usage.
- Despite the fact that Consumer Reports “can’t recommend” the iPhone 4, they rate it higher than any other phone on the market and even rate “voice quality” as “good” and “phoning” as “very good”.
Regarding number three, if CR hadn’t walked back their recommendation, I believe Apple would not have scheduled this press conference. I believe we’d be seeing the usual trickle of updates from a few of the tech blogs, and Jesus Diaz would continue to rape the story’s now gaping asshole for all its worth, to the surprise of absolutely no one, and that the story would have eventually fizzled out.
Insert balloon deflating sound here.
(Interesting side note: Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz has been hammering this story from day one, well beyond the posts of any other outlet, including other gadget blogs and even Apple-themed sites. It wasn’t until mainstream outlet Consumer Reports issued their report that the shit really hit the fan for Apple. One report from a respected mainstream outlet had the power to do something that 50 Gizmodo rants couldn’t.)
The Consumer Reports non-recommendation managed to shake up a hornets nest and even spurred some analysts to declare that a product recall was imminent and/or necessary. That’s the sort of bluster that makes it onto The Early Show. Apple simply can’t ignore mainstream reports questioning whether there will be a recall of their most popular product.
Which brings me to Friday’s press conference. (I’m operating under the assumption that there’s not going to be a magic software fix.)
Steve Jobs may announce a product recall based on pressure from the media, but—with only one exception—shouldn’t.
Instead, he should address all of the above. He should concede that the antenna design does add an attenuation issue that can be a factor in certain circumstances—even above and beyond normal attenuation issues experienced by most phones—and then he should say that those circumstances are outweighed by the overall improvement in voice quality.
Most importantly (and I think this would go a long way towards ending this) I feel Jobs should admit that they fucked up the response from day one. He needs to anticipate how his words will be covered and get out in front of that coverage.
There’s only one reason for Jobs to actually announce a recall: If Apple is indeed seeing a return rate or a negative response that is above and beyond the industry average. We won’t know that until Friday.
I think Apple’s best-case scenario is that they’ve figured out a manufacturing fix, at which point they can then issue a voluntary recall: Exchange your phone if you want, keep it if you’re happy with it.
If that’s not an option, Apple should use sales data, real-world reports—and a little contrition—to give a hard-to-refute middle finger to the negative press they’ve been receiving and then they shouldn’t ever address the situation again.
As anyone who reads tech blogs and/or the technology section of select mainstream outlets knows—ie, as less than 10% of the population knows—Steve Jobs has been trigger happy of late with short, pithy responses to customer emails. Having followed the resulting shitstorm caused by many of these, I’m now offering an annotated version of a typical (but hypothetical) back and forth with Steve Jobs:
Familiarity right off the bat. The goal is to put Jobs at ease. This flows nicely into:
First, let me just say that I’m a huge Apple Mac fan and I love your products.
Probably not and if so, who cares? This is a pretty common “street cred” strategy that you’ll see whenever someone wants to complain about something without seeming overly hostile right from the start. See also: “I have a ton of black friends but I really think black people have a bit of an entitlement problem” and “Some of my best friends are gay, but I just don’t think they should be allowed to destroy the sanctity of marriage.” In other words: “I’m not unreasonable, but…unreasonable comment to follow.” You’ll also see this used in comment threads: “I’m a huge Apple fanboy, but blah blah this just goes too far blah.”
I read that (insert issue) is a problem with the new (insert Apple product).
In other words, this person read an article on Gizmodo, or on CNET, or wherever, and they’ve also heard that Steve Jobs sometimes personally responds to people who send an email to email@example.com. As a result, they’re banging out a quick email, based on whatever it is they read, to complain about a product that they’re either 1) using with no intention of returning or 2) not using (and weren’t planning on ever using) in the first place. In all likelihood, the response, and the 15 minutes of fame they’ll receive when Boy Genius Report posts their email alongside Jobs’s response, is what they really care about.
Is this true? I’m considering purchasing (insert competitors product) and if this is a real issue, I’m probably going to have to switch, even though I really want (insert Apple product).
Otherwise known as “the threat”. The person who wrote the email knows full well that “the issue” is real, because they’ve read 50 articles on Gizmodo detailing every nuance of the issue. The real point of the threat is to add a bit of urgency to the email with the thought that it might increase the likelihood of a response. They also know full well that Steve Jobs isn’t going to say: “Yes, it’s true. Our product is lackluster and you should switch.” Likewise, Steve Jobs is never going to promise something specific in an email.
Steve Jobs’s response:
It’s not a big deal.
Sent from my iPhone
Jobs may be dismissive, and I wouldn’t even argue with anyone who thought he was a dick, but he’s not stupid. The emails we ultimately see probably represent a very small fraction of those he responds to, and far less than 1% of the emails he receives. I’ve no doubt that he knows which emails are likely to be republished on Gizmodo and Engadget, and my suspicion is that he answers those emails as though they’re written not by an individual, but by an individual who is asking a question that’s been suggested by pundits and informed by comment threads. I think he takes his responses about as seriously as he suspects the emailer takes the issue.
The fact of the matter is, whether Steve Jobs cops to the issue or not, if a person is having trouble with their iPhone 4 (or any other product by any other manufacturer) there are two options: 1) Decide that the issue doesn’t outweigh the good things about the device and keep it or 2) RETURN THE FUCKING PHONE.
The iPhone 4 is fragile. It’s made out of glass. (Reinforced glass is still glass.) If you’re concerned about the reports that dropping your iPhone is likely to shatter the glass on either the front or the back (depending on how it lands): Return it, or don’t buy it if you have yet to do so. If you’re accident prone and you can’t avoid dropping your iPhone, Apple still sells the 3G[S]. Or, buy a phone from some other manufacturer. Given that it was never a secret that the front and back were made out of glass, you’re probably going to take a hit on a restocking fee, because the fact that glass shatters upon impact isn’t a design defect when you’re talking about expensive crystal champaign flutes and it’s not a defect on the iPhone 4. Changing your mind based on a known issue isn’t the same as discovering something like…
The iPhone 4 antenna has issues. It’s real. It’s even been demonstrated to be worse in some scenarios than other phones which exhibit similar symptoms, due to the design of the iPhone 4. There’s no way that early adopters could have known this. (I’d argue that anyone who buys an iPhone knowing the issue has no recourse if they’re affected by it.) If it’s causing you to drop calls and you’re unable to use your phone as a phone, well, every single person who has the new iPhone is still within the 30 day return policy. This isn’t an issue which waits two or three months to manifest. A lot of retailers won’t even ding you with a restocking fee. (If you can demonstrate your phone not working, I’m not sure how they could hit you with one even if they normally would.)
If you’re unhappy with your phone: Return it. It’s that simple. If you need something so bad that you are willing to put up with something that (allegedly) makes it not work, I don’t see how the problem is the device.
If you’re not willing to do that—and it looks to me as though there’s not a very large percentage of people who are—then it would seem as though it’s not that big of a problem after all.
(My guess is that the class action lawsuits which are popping up will fail based on the same reasoning.)
Or, you could go for broke and write an email to Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs’s best response would have been a short, pithy variation of what I just said:
People seem to like the iPhone 4. If you’re unhappy with yours, return it. Not a big deal. We think it’s great.
One famous story recounts an outraged phone call made by Herbert Johnson, an important Wright client, to report that at a dinner party in his new house, water from a leaky roof was dripping on his head. Wright suggested he move his chair.
If Blogging is Taco Bell and Traditional Journalism is Authentic Mexican Cuisine: Where Can I Get Some Chipotlé?
Oh, that Steve Jobs.
The thin line between blogging and journalism is a debate that will probably never end, but which is (SPOILER ALERT!) far more boring than the noise would lead you to believe.
XKCD recently posted an excellent Venn Diagram regarding the difference between geeks and nerds, which I shall now shamelessly rip off:
Speaking at the D8 conference, the Apple CEO said he wants to help save journalism because “I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers myself. I think we need editorial more than ever.” Ahem. Regardless, “what we have to do is figure out a way to get people to start paying for this hard-earned content.”
Anil Dash (I know the name even though I know nothing about him which leads me to believe he’s earned a solid reputation for whatever it is that he puts his mind to) tweetorts:
I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of narcissistic CEOs.
Except, Dash’s snap commentary is kind of…stupid. It doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny. The fact is, love him, hate him, whatever, Steve Jobs is pretty much a genius. Go ahead and deny it. You’re jealous, and I get that. But the fact remains: He’s a legend in the industry.
That’s the reputation Anil Dash has to work with when he snarkily says “I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of [Steve Jobs]”.
Steve Jobs is right though, as dismissive as it sounds.
Has blogging produced its Steve Jobs? When someone rips on blogging, what stellar reputation does Anil Dash or anyone else prop up to defend it? Hell, pick someone who is or who was universally thought to be a “great” journalist, and I’ll ask the same question.
Dan Lyons made his reputation as a “quality” blogger—and probably is most well-known for that stint—by pretending to be Steve Jobs. Irony, thy name is Fake Steve Jobs.
At what point did blogging match the consistency, the accuracy, the reputation of mainstream outlet journalism?
How did I miss this?
More importantly, and as always, why the fuck do bloggers even give a shit? What great product has ever been the result of people spending time caring what other people think about their efforts?
Whether you’re a blogger or a journalist, if you’re wasting much of your time in that middle segment of the venn diagram, if you care about the distinction…
- …as a blogger, you’ll probably never be of lasting consequence or produce anything revolutionary.
- …as a journalist, your days of consequence—if you were once consequential—are probably numbered.
If you’re a blogger, and you’re “doing good things” or “producing journalistic content” then you shouldn’t give a shit what Steve Jobs has to say on the subject and you certainly shouldn’t be wasting time whining about his opinion on the matter when that time could be better spent proving him—and popular perception—wrong.
Adobe fell into the same trap when executives and evangelists started to publicly whine and bitch and moan about Apple’s stance on Flash, instead of working to prove the stance wrong.
If Blogging were Journalism (note the capital letters, there) we wouldn’t need both terms, would we?
Wikipedia isn’t a real encyclopedia. It’s not held to the same standards, and there will always be some people who think that this means Wikipedia can never be more useful than, or as important as, a traditional source of curated, edited “factual” information found in an encyclopedia.
I could write a thousand words about why that’s annoying, why it’s a stodgy point of view, or I could put my head down and contribute to an evolving source of up-to-date information that, in many very important ways, a traditional encyclopedia will never be able to touch.
Suffice it to say, if I want information about the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, I’m going to Wikipedia, not an encyclopedia. Topicality for the win.
In much the same way, Blogging is not Journalism, and it shouldn’t aspire to be Journalism.
When Gizmodo isn’t ripping into and mocking “traditional” outlets regarding their slow pace, their adherence to ethics, etc., they’re decrying their critics for dismissing their efforts as something less than “traditional journalism”. Not only is this annoying by virtue of being contradictory, but both arguments are incredibly mundane—not to mention a waste of Gizmodo’s time and effort.
Worse yet, Gizmodo is so wrapped up in the story that sparked this debate—and Jobs’s D8 commentary—that 1) they’re currently (largely) unable (or simply unwilling) to report on Steve Jobs’s appearance at the All Things Digital D8 conference and 2) much of their recent Apple-related content reads like the spiteful ramblings of a spurned lover.
This is journalism?
Blogging, when done well, offers something that we can’t get from traditional outlets precisely because it is not rooted in traditional Journalism. (Note that I am not arguing that Gizmodo constitutes blogging done well.)
Bloggers, then, would be well served to stop worrying about whether they’re considered relevant or whether they’re “as good as” journalists who write for mainstream outlets, and should just spend time actually being relevant.
Most people (non-bloggers and non-journalists) aren’t accounted for on the Venn Diagram because most people just want relevant information, from relevant outlets.
Newsvine, an outlet which at one point held the promise of straddling the interesting and untapped divide between stereotypical blogging and mainstream journalism, eventually settled for a bunch of boring, stereotypical bloggers and a handful of sterile mainstream journalist wannabes and neither side produces anything of any real interest. Certainly not consistently.
Therein lies the problem: Blogging has a reputation and it earned it. The perception (right or wrong) is there that blogging is inconsequential because, for the most part, it is.
The sweet spot is that divide, the middle ground that Newsvine ultimately failed to deliver.
I don’t think Steve Jobs dismissed that segement, I just think there’s no point in addressing a segment which, by and large, doesn’t really exist.
If you’re upset with Steve Jobs: Shut the fuck up and do your part to carve out that niche.