September 25, 2014 Last Updated 8:41 am

Apple’s recent debacles will soon be forgotten, but the threat to the brand will remain

It is never a good sign when a business becomes the butt of jokes on Twitter and Facebook, but the cool factor that made Apple a giant is quickly disappearing

There are serious mistakes, little mistakes, and then there are mistakes that hurt the brand. The third category is the combination of both big and small errors that a company commits that add up to less customer confidence. Apple’s bendable iPhones is probably much ado about nothing (unless your phone is the one bent) and probably no mistake at all, but yesterday’s iOS 8.0.1 release is a bigger problem.

One simply doesn’t kill off a customer’s cell service by issuing an untested operating system update (even if there was testing of iOS 8.0.1, clearly there was not enough testing). If anything will destroy a customer’s love of their iPhone it is when they discover it no longer is capable of making a phone call.


But single issues rarely destroy a brand. U.S. auto manufacturers did not lose their dominance when one car maker put out a lemon, while Japanese car makers released more reliable vehicles. It took a concerted effort over many years to get many car buyers to finally make the switch. But once they did, getting them to switch back was, and is, and expensive and long term effort.

But Apple is working hard at destroying its brand.

For me, a Mac mini owner, it does not help my view of the company that it has been over two years since they have issued an updated model of the small desktop computer. My mini runs OX X 10.8.5 because it can not handle OS X Mavericks. I can not run iTunes, Mail and Safari at the same time as Safari stops loading pages and freezes.

But my MacBook Pro does run Mavericks, and it functions fine (for the most part). My satisfaction level is around 95 percent. See, one could say, it is just a matter of constantly buying the newest model (though, really, who can afford to do this).

Then I see what Apple is doing with the App Store: allowing bogus apps in, and keeping them there even after being informed that they are bogus. The Newsstand is a mess and unmanaged, and getting steadily worse – again, Apple knows this and does nothing. Drip, drip, drip. It all starts to add up.

Why is this happening to the world’s largest (or close to it) corporation? That would be speculation, but one should remember what got the U.S. auto industry in trouble: a quarter to quarter management strategy that required that the companies cut corners to make their numbers, to keep Wall Street happy.

I have been an Apple computer owner since early in 1983, an iPhone owner since 2007, and an iPad owner since 2010. But unlike many Apple device owners, I’ve learned not to trust the company’s updates and waited to see if iOS 8.0.1 was safe to install. Many tech site reporters rushed to update and then spent the rest of the afternoon tweeting about their issues, having fun at Apple’s expensive.


Cool brands don’t get made fun of, they make fun of other brands. Apple’s ‘I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” being the prime example of the form. But lately Samsung, which has been throwing haymakers at random, has started to hit some accurate shots. It’s commercial regarding battery life is a good example: I don’t think the iPhone’s battery life is poor, but it is hard to miss all the iPhone owners gathered around outlets at every airport. Sitting at an airport trying to get a charge is not cool.

But what compounds all these little (and sometimes big) errors, is a Press and App Store department locked behind firewalls. It took three phone calls and one email for TNM to receive the same boiler plate response that other media outlets did regarding the its acquisition of Prss. Getting the Press department to respond to the iOS 8.0.1 debacle, though, will require a miracle. The last official press release issued was from the 22nd and brags up iPhone 6 sales. Yesterday, it seems, didn’t happen.

But I’m more concerned with the App Store team. I can not even estimate the number of times a company involved in the business of digital publishing has asked me if I knew someone at Apple they could talk to. Here are companies that feed Apple their business and even they can’t communicate with the company. What business philosophy is the company following that preaches walling off the company from its revenue sources?

There are business consequences. Only a few of these companies have told me that they are now thinking Android first, but a number of them have said that they are working with clients on solutions that can help them avoid Apple altogether by avoiding using Apple as a distribution channel. As one said to me last week “when something goes wrong I need to fix it. If Apple is involved it is like falling into a black hole and not knowing how to get out.” This is business that is lost and probably won’t come back.

While I have been a constant critic of Apple’s App Store policies, its mismanagement of the Newsstand, I have hesitated in joining the chorus of Apple doom predictors. Guess what, I’m still hesitant. Next quarter Apple will probably report record sales and profits… once again. Apple isn’t going away (hey, even General Motors is still around). But Apple’s ties to its customer base, its business partners in publishing, are fraying badly.

Apple stock is down in pre-market trading – but then again, so is the whole market.

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