Apple CEO Tim Cook’s banana skins: U2, ‘Bendygate’ and iOS 8.0.1

“Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in Apple’s PR department over the last week. A company that is legendary for obsessive control over its message has watched helplessly as things have spun out of its grasp,” Rory Cellan-Jones reports for BBC News. “First, there was the kerfuffle over the stunt which saw U2’s new album given away free to every iTunes user whether they wanted it or not. That provoked a wave of anger and derision from people who saw the provision of a free download as a massive assault on their freedom and an insult to their taste in music. Then came ‘Bendygate’ with reports emerging that the iPhone 6 Plus, with its ‘dramatically thin anodised aluminium design,’ could warp after being placed in a pocket for some time. Now this looks to be the very definition of a ‘first world problem’ – who, but a very sad hipster, would stuff a huge phone into his impossibly tight jeans and sit on it? But, as with all Apple stories it quickly went viral, with the first video showing the apparent problem, hitting 18 million views by this morning.”

“Finally, and far more seriously, came the botched update to the iPhone and iPad operating system iOS 8,” Cellan-Jones reports. “There had been a few annoying bugs in last week’s release – notably a problem integrating apps with the new Health Kit – so the moment the update was released many users rushed to download it. And within minutes iPhone 6 users found that it introduced a whole new set of bugs, including preventing their phone from connecting to a mobile network. Now while actually making calls is a relatively minor feature for some modern smartphone users, this caused an instant wave of anger and panic. Providing millions of users with software which effectively turns their phone into a brick is hardly a good PR move.”

“Apple has looked surprisingly accident-prone over recent days. The company is adept at building expectations before a launch, and at trumpeting the brilliance of its products in polished presentations and adverts,” Cellan-Jones reports. “It has never been as good at dealing with problems – indeed, it has been arrogant about the need to engage with its consumers and the media.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Once again, as we’ve been saying for years:

Apple’s PR department couldn’t get out in front of something if it were standing still, much less firing at the speed of light around the globe. In some ways, regardless of what’s FUD (“Bendygate”) and what’re actual screwups (iOS 8.0.1, Maps), Apple deserves the bad press they get simply for fielding a colossally inept, largely mute PR effort for, literally, decades. Anyone studying public relations and damage control should look at Apple’s history as an example of how not to do it.

This Jobsian vestige of “let it fester, clam up, hope it goes away, and only deal with it when it becomes unbearable” is not effective damage control. It’s also bad for your health, as Steve Jobs would tell you today, if he could.

For a week or so, Apple was perfectly on message, killing it with rip-roaring iPhone 6/Plus sales and then, of course and as should be expected since it happens every damn major product release, multiple shitstorms hit — some of Apple’s own making (iOS 8.0.1 just stupidly poured gasoline on the already-raging FUD fire), some ginned up by jealous rivals — and Apple Public Relations (a misnomer if there ever was one), as always, stands there “shell shocked,” like deer in the headlights, unable to properly respond.

Someday, we’d like to see an Apple with a modern, effective, responsive, well-staffed, competent PR department. It would be a sight to see.

We gave you the recipe for iPhone FUD yesterday. By now, Apple should know the recipe inside and out. Apple should have a proactive PR team with a wide range of responses ready-to-go weeks before launch. Apple should immediately begin preparing for the inevitable FUD storm that’s coming with the Apple Watch launch. Not days or weeks after it hits.

All that said, Apple’s products and services are, for the most part, so good — assuming iOS 8.0.1 is a one-off brain-fart — that soon enough, none of this will matter.

Related articles:
U.S. government warns of Bash flaw affecting Apple’s OS X, other Unix-based systems – September 25, 2014
Apple CEO Cook goes from record sales to iPhone stumbles – September 25, 2014
Apple: iOS 8.0.2 coming ‘in the next few days’ – September 25, 2014
Rush Limbaugh: How did Apple miss the iOS 8.0.1 bugs? – September 24, 2014
How to get rid of iOS 8.0.1 and revert to iOS 8.0 – September 24, 2014
iOS 8.0.1 fiasco: Apple exec responsible for catching bugs before release has a ferocious door-slamming temper – September 24, 2014
Apple pulls iOS 8.0.1 after users report major problems – September 24, 2014
ALERT: Do not install Apple’s iOS 8.0.1; breaks cellular connectivity, Touch ID support for ‘large number of users’ – September 24, 2014
Apple releases iOS 8.0.1 – September 24, 2014

42 Comments

  1. In a way Apple’s couple of whoops makes one realize how tough it is to get the majority of what they do right. Of course it shouldn’t happen but in a way it’s like getting your arms around a jello man.

    1. Apple’s biggest issues are the timing of releases which are many months if not half a year or more away from making the commitment for venue space.

      You can plan to solve all your needed problems within the last 6 months of coding, but “s___ happens.”

    1. Yeah Sonovabitch! I was just getting ready to sell some stock too!! Heads need to roll with Kim first to go! Man, execution is SOOOO important. Investors don’t need these kind of screw-ups.

      My local radio show KFI in L.A. is totally ragging on Apple right now with little in the way of caveats except making fun of that microwave charging stupidity. Apple better reign this in FAST. Test, test and test hardware & software again and again!!!

      1. It again appears that Apple don’t understand how to do the basics. All the Apple fanboys are landing with a bump as they rejoin the rwal world…Apple is no more special than any other tech company…period.

        1. Yeah that’s all you Fandroid got left as Samsung falls in market share and company profits. A minor Apple blip is played as WWIII by the clueless Samsung fanboys. Not even remotely much of a short term issue, let alone long term. With Android, you just can’t fix stupid.

  2. This happens as a direct result of the holdover culture of arrogance at Apple. I’ve never liked it, complained about, and declared Tim’s failure to change this culture as one of the reasons he is not a strong leader. Response on this site is to trash me, call me a troll, and characterize me in profane and obscene terms. I don’t like being right about this, but MDN’s take is about the best thing that ever said in their long history of supporting all things Apple – which will, certainly continue but it’s refreshing to see the critical commentary when the cause is so compelling.

    1. Your vote has never counted JM because you’re usually over the top. Apple isn’t perfect and neither is anyone else. Oh and you’ve never been right about anything though even a broken clock is right twice a day. All these things will pass. Hopefully Apple will learn.

    2. Hey Jay:

      I left you a response (the link is below) along with our discussion and I’d like to bring it up at this time.

      You said: “Response on this site is to trash me, call me a troll, and characterize me in profane and obscene terms.”

      I’d sure like to know what category my replies fit in. You are missing something Jay, that there are people, members of this MDN community that have tried again and again to engage you in civil dialogue that have tried at some point to show you some empathy. You’ve been so engaged with the hateful troll profane and obscene that not only your reason has been blinded, the expression of your emotional state regarding care, joy, bliss, happiness is a wasteland.

      You’ve either failed to see it, chosen to ignore it, fail to mention is as a means of hurting those that have shown you some kindness, are too arrogant to even cosnsider it or some other reason/excuse. You could be absolutely right about Tim Cook, but the way you are perceived by a great many is indeed as a troll. It could be them, but Jay, it most certainly could be you and your approach. It’s not the message Jay, it’s your delivery. And that’s not Tim Cook’s fault of leading Apple, it’s your fault leading your posts and your replies.

      You want to be a good leader to your ideas, then lead, don’t troll like you do. Be eloquent, engaging, respectful, insightful, empathetic and you’ll see much different results than you do now. The leading you’ve done so far ostracizes you from the community, not for your ideas Jay, but for you personally.

      Case in point, my recent attempts to be kind, civil, and respectful are totally ignored or tossed out with your statement. “Response on this site is to trash me, call me a troll, and characterize me in profane and obscene terms.”

      That’s really ignorant Jay. You know it, I know the folks at MDN know it, and it’s not Tim Cook’s fault, it’s yours. Had you said “most of the response on this site”, have you said “with few exceptions” it would have been different, but you are demonstrating a cold black heart with a predicative map that has little to do with the territory. Tim Cook won’t fix that for you, you’ll have to lead yourself to where you want to go…by yourself, cause you certainly have not made any friends here with the way you’ve treated people. It is ironic that you criticize the leadership qualities of Tim Cook while illustrating time and time again that you have none when it comes to cultivating respect.

      This is the link to the last post I wrote to you. I hope you take time to read it, think and start feeling about the consequences of your apathy, vs. the consequences of empathy. Tim Cook won’t lead you there, so the choice is yours Jay Morrison.

      At Apple, there’s no need for Tim Cook to be revolutionary

        1. And thank you, you made my day. Sometimes you get something unexpected for trying and your post is definitely it. I find that very valuable.

          Enjoy, and thanks again.

    3. Jay, this is one Apple fanboy that recognizes when you are RIGHT. Certainly not always, who is, but certainly not immediately discarded just because someone calls you a troll.

      I agree 1,000% on tone-deaf Apple arrogance. But we live with it because they are second to none.

      Keep telling Apple when they fall down and hopefully they will get up and change for the better …

  3. MDNs take is irrational. What, exactly, should Apple’s PR have done about preening jackasses whoring for hits on YouTube by sitting on their phones and then blithering about “mysteries”?

    That’s rhetorical. The answer is “fuck all”. Apple’s one of the largest and most successful technology companies on the planet. Responding to jerk offs on YouTube is beneath them. Responding to whiny hipsters bitching about free music is beneath them. Time and time again we have seen straightforward, earnest interviews Apple has granted turned on their heads by crass sensationalism. There is absolutely nothing to do about “Bendgate” other than to let these idiots burn themselves out and be forgotten by everyone except the standard forum commenter that thinks every criticism or perceived issue with Apple is equivalent to the Rosenberg scandal.

    1. Agreed. And furthermore, individuals posting stupid stuff on YouTube will not be worth the time of the lawyers to assail. Apple, on the other hand, has to get everything right, all the time, or lawyers come after them for class action lawsuits and the like.

      MDN’s take is juvenile herd mentality. First, claim that Apple should test, test, test everything, and then claim that PR should be out-gunning the YouTubers, et al, instantly. Well, guess what, MDN? The “wave” scandal, the “bend” scandal and now the “shell shock” scandal are all outside of Apple’s control, so they have to actually formulate a response *after* the scandals break and gather momentum. The “8.0.1” scandal was totally in their control and look how they immediately handled it: They pulled the update and posted an 8.0 installer.

      I would recommend everyone breath deeply and think about Tim Cook’s history with Apple so that history can be used to predict his response to September of ’14 — He came to Apple and straightened out manufacturing processes to make cash turnover into a corporate asset instead of a drain in operations (in other words he took a problem and crushed it into a huge positive for the company). Then, as the coffers began filling up again, he watched competitors mimic Apple’s iconic hardware designs and the legal system fail to protect the company; with a response of investing in (not buying) supply partners so they were ill-advised to duplicate Apple designs for others. Then he bought up all the manufacturing capacity to ensure others couldn’t do what Apple was doing. So again, he took a problem and crushed into a huge positive for the company.

      Do we really think he’s not going to spend a few morning workouts figuring out the several steps ahead needed to take September of ’14 and crush it into a huge positive for the company? Think of YouTube bloggers as “the competition” and I think he’ll crush them, too. I don’t know the how, but I don’t have visibility into the resources he has available to him now just like none of us saw him having the capital available and the intention to buy up all the aluminum machining tools.

  4. These “Gate issues the been, security, patch issue, and more” are to be expected and APPLE Executive should have what is commonly known as “Disaster Recovery” Plans. It would require dedicated team that would co-ordinate across teams dev, sales, marketing, PR, Board.

    The DR team would form a facility called “WAR Room” i.e. a response mgmt facility where all information coming in and going out can be managed.

    Most importantly, they should have thought about what “Gate” issues will be fabricated and how they would respond quickly.

    I think this is Apple’s Executive mistake. The actual issues highlighted are symptoms of not planning for Disasters happening.

    1. I’m sorry, but that’s just plain wishful thinking. They should have contingency plans for anything that can happen?

      Have you ever produced a product? If so, how did you feel about the tradeoffs you had to make to finish the product and move from R&D to sales/profits? Every single tradeoff is a risk — every single one. And there are thousands in any sufficiently unique product to build a barrier to entry for competitors.

      Should Apple have thought ahead of the Twitterers and included small text everywhere that said “Do not microwave your iPhone: It won’t charge the battery and will likely result in significant damage to your phone, your microwave, your insurance rates and your friend base.”

      I’d go on, but I’m sort of just dumbfounded by all the out-pouring of responses lately that boil down to “I’m smarter than Apple executives because what I propose is basic common sense and they obviously aren’t practicing it.”

  5. I think the bend thing is stupid. Why are you putting your phone in your back pocket to begin with? I see people do that and I’m like sure for a small phone but 1 is it not uncomfortable to sit on. and 2. why something as expensive as the iPhone would you not want to put it in a case or at least something.
    Other phones bend to and i assume that when you get something light weight and thin those things happen

  6. BASH, U2 album, iCloud, Bendgate

    These events occur because of “blind spots.” We all know the main causes. Arrogance, lack of imagination, lack of thoroughness, hasty release of products (some overlap on these).

    Let me expand.

    Bendgate is FUD. Let’s skip that one.

    U2, Bash, iCloud

    1. iCloud. Overall, Apple though it was doing enough for iCloud security. No — customers expect the premier company to do a premier job. Who fell down on the job ? Everybody. PR, Market research, security research, customer outreach.

    2. Bash. I have not read enough to know what’s going on, but I sure do NOT like it.

    3. U2 song overload. Who stumbled here ? Many. Market research, PR and the Apple execs. Overall, its a tiny thing. But it is highly symptomatic that Apple makes decisions without really knowing what customers think.

    Summation:

    Corporate secrecy and pride took first place ahead of customer needs and system security.

    1. I’m not really sure I understand your complaint about iCloud. If you are referring to the targeted attacks against iCloud users, you really should understand it wasn’t a systematic issue, it was a careless user problem. At what point does having a week password and putting naked photos of yourself on a server you will never see become stupid?

      I agree the U2 ALBUM shouldn’t have automatically been put in iCloud. However, that was another situation that was remedied within days. It wasn’t a stumble.

      Summation:
      Apple does listen to their customers, corporate pride is always a good thing and (again) iCloud security was not a systematic issue.

      1. Yes, Apple users were careless.

        1. weak passwords
        2. hackable info
        3. putting nude photos in the cloud

        Also, Apple was weak.

        4. Apple’s method of verification is weak in more than one way.

    2. Really, the U2 thing isn’t even a new concept – my phone still has 3 (I think) songs that were there when I first set it up. They’re not anything I would have bought, and they take up space, but it bothers me so little that they are still there. That was also a total non-issue that blew up just because it was Apple.

      (I’ll always be stuck on Windoze at work – Media Player similarly comes with “sample” tunes, as well. Not worth griping about any more than being stuck on Windoze in the first place!)

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.