OK, I broke down and bought an iphone. My main hesitation was AT&T and true to form, they were very slow in getting me up and running–unlike my iphone which synched to everything I wanted it synched to as easy as…well..Apple. The AT&T problems continued when I got a text message asking if I knew that someone had changed my account password and if I wanted to verify it to call this number. So I did. The worst case of telephone tree hell I have ever experienced. An hour later when I finally talked to someone, they had no idea what that text message meant and whether or not my account was messed with. If only Apple ran a phone company…
But, like others I was curious about how Apple could be selling so many iphones with so much disparity between the 3.75 million iphones Apple says they sold and the 2 million iphone accounts that AT&T has completed. Could it be that 1.75 million were waiting for AT&T to get around hooking them up? No, it turns out that hacking iphones is a lot more common than expected. Here’s the story from New York Times. The story also partly explains why Apple did the deal with AT&T since they are getting a pretty darn good piece of the action on the cell contract.
There is a game going on continually in the technology world–control it to maximize profits vs. those who would force the controls off and make it as open as possible. Certainly it seems smart from a business standpoint (ala music industry) to try to maintain control and maximize profits. Yet, those very efforts seem both doomed to failure in the world of hacking and work arounds as well as seeming out of touch with the way technology is seen today. We live in an open source world, increasingly it seems. Apple runs the risk of losing the cachet it holds among the technology elite when it participates in the kind of non-open source strategies that the iphone-AT&T deal look like. Certainly millions and billions are at stake. But also what is at stake is losing the respect and confidence of the Apple groupies, and ultimately reputation, and ultimate the shift of evangelistic fervor and loyalty to someone else who seems to “get it” better.
My fifth grandchild arrived this weekend. A beautiful girl named Eva Katherine–great job Geoff and Amy! Amy went into labor during my nephew’s wedding and Geoff was supposed to be a groomsman for his cousin–he got through the pictures but got called to the hospital two hours before the wedding started. We were text messaging him like crazy during the wedding and the reception to get updates on progress. He got tired of responding to everyone’s text messages so he set up a twitter site. With that, he just text messaged his updates once which went to a website that everyone could access. Use your cell phone to distribute content via a site or RSS feeds.
Just one more example of the rapidly expanding options for communicators to distribute urgent and critical information.
Here’s another change: iphone makes using the web realistic on a phone-sized computer. That’s what it is, really. A computer in your pocket that also works as a phone. But the implications for communication management when you use a web-based platform are critical. Now, vital communication functions can be managed from your phone. Content creation, editing, approvals, distribution, interactive response management, reporting, media monitoring, etc–all done from your phone.
This world keeps changing–faster than a new baby messes her diaper.
A few random comments.
It really sucks when a favorite toy gets recalled. Thomas and Friends wooden rail cars are being recalled. There’s a boat load of them, and no wonder, because they are made in China. Seems there was some lead paint used. The ABC News story is interesting. First, you can see the anger of parents in some of the comments and the immediate knee-jerk reaction to get a class action lawsuit going. Within the same news story you can see that while the trains with the bad paint are only about 4% of what they sell in the US and have been isolated to one rogue plant in China, the company RC2 is advising parents to take all Thomas Tanker toys away from their kids to be safe. The Consumer Products Commission is loudly proclaiming the danger–even though there are no reports of injuries or any impacts. Now, I am not downplaying the potential dangers of lead-based paint, but it is also possible that the real story here is hidden deep inside the news reports. It talks about the huge increase in recalls in products from China. A recent article in Economist strongly suggested that the US crackdown and China’s exports has to do with the ongoing dispute with that nation over intellectual property protection and other globalization issues. China is responding by starting to turn back US food imports at the border because they are not “safe.”
I’m only guess here, but what if a company like RC2 and an innocent and sweet little train like Thomas are actually caught up in a much bigger battle over fair and free trade on a global scale. What do you do about reputation management then? How can you possibly fight back. It sounds like the old saying, when the elephants dance, the ants had better run for cover.
Whole Foods has a growing reputation problem. It’s the same problem we’ve talked about here in relation to Microsoft. The reputation of the giant suffered hugely when it was viewed as an unstoppable giant with a near monopoly. My theory is the emergence of Google as not just a rival but a potential additional near-monopoly has taken the heat off Microsoft and made them also likeable again if not loveable. Now Whole Foods is loudly, according this article anyway, proclaiming its intention to be the only real player in the organic food retail business. Dangerous ground. Beware of what you ask for.
So, AT&T is gearing up for a huge rush of new business when the iphone is released next week. Apple has done a great job of hyping this including the front cover article in a recent issue of The Economist.
But of course, there is the danger of overhyping. What if the lines don’t materialize at the AT&T store? Is buying a phone really like buying a video game, or will many of us be willing to wait and see how things emerge? It will be interesting to watch, but one thing seems certain, by failing to manage expectations, unless it is an absolutely rip roaring success, Apple’s stock will go down and its reputation will be harmed. I think I would have opted for a little more caution.