Is It Me, Or Has Karma Finally Decided To Settle Up With Apple?

by James R. Stoup Oct 08, 2007

So, I’ve been reading a lot of criticisms of Apple lately (many of which I agree with) and I was struck my the sheer volume of the complaints. Can anyone remember the last time Apple made this many people scream, this loud for this long? Call me crazy, but it seems like people are more pissed about this than when their laptops were exploding. Yeah, remember that whole laptop-burst-into-flames thing? Apple longs for times when things were that simple. And that right there should tell you something about today’s little misadventure in public relations. When you can look back at a time when your product was bursting into flames and causing massive property damage and think “ah, those were the days” then maybe you have a problem.

Yes, even when Apple was in the midst of people finding out their iPods weren’t made of adimantium (if you don’t know what adimantium is then a) you should read more X-Men comics and b) Wolverine should stab you in the eye) things never looked so bleak. Granted, Apple had more liability in that first case than in the current predicament, but I almost think that is worse. Because as bad as the whole laptop thing was, that wasn’t really their fault. Now, the teflon iPods, that was kinda on them. But even then there were plenty of people rising up to defend Apple with arguments like “I never used my iPod as a flak-jacket” and the like. So all in all, it wasn’t too bad.

However, this latest little incident (I say incident because “dumb-ass decision to freaking waste of 10 years worth of goodwill over a damn phone” doesn’t roll of the tongue quite the same way) is entirely of Apple’s creation. And it is all the more ridiculous because this is the kind of crap you would expect Microsoft to try and pull. I refuse to believe that the same people who were smart enough to create something as brilliant as the iPhone at no point asked themselves what they should do if anyone ever hacked it. How did that not come up at a staff meeting?

I do recognize that Apple had every legal right to do what they did. And I understand that to not update their phone would be a disservice to their users. Furthermore, I get that they are under no obligation to work around the illegal hacks that were made in support of 3rd party hackery, I get all that. I really do. Legally speaking they are in the clear. Hell, you even had to agree to the update even though they publicly said it would probably mess up your phone. So you can’t say they didn’t warn you.

But do you know what? It was still a stupid move.

Especially coming from a company that, otherwise, has always made great publicity moves. How could they not see that this was eventually going to blow up in their faces?

Now, some have suggested that a development kit would suddenly make this all better. I have my doubts personally, but lets all assume for a moment that it will indeed fix their problems. It may bring 3rd party apps back to the iPhone, but it won’t magically erase all the bad mojo generated this past month. But as I said in the title, maybe this is karma’s way of finally getting back at Apple for being so damn smug and perfect. Maybe the universe won’t let you make things as cool as the iPod and iMac indefinitely, maybe one day the piper has to be paid. Yeah, you can buy some time for a while I guess with products like the Mighty Mouse (bonus points for being both a crappy product and having a really silly name) but eventually you will cross an awesome-ness threshold with a product like the iPhone and karma will finally put down its beer, put on its boots and come stomp you in the face.

Or I could just be full of it, you never know. Damn it Jim, I’m a programmer not a philosopher!


  • You assume that Apple went out of its way to brick the iPhone. It is possible that’s true but it is also true that the update may have been so extensive that bricking was a side affect that was unavoidable. Impossible you say? Not in the least.

    Once upon a time I worked for a company that produced Mac software. The company utilized quite a few hacks rather than using the toolbox simply because their hacks were more convenient. Apple had warned programmers not to do this and from time to time these hacks failed as the OS changed. Then came OS 8.5 and soon thereafter there went the company I worked for. Fixing our programs, management decided, would be too difficult, time consuming, and costly. Gee, if we’d only done it right to begin with.

    The hackers who found ways to make things work on the iPhone may well have been pulling the same kind of (brilliant) tricks my former employer did. In fact, it is likely since no developers toolkit exists, other than the web based one. But then the update ruined them, just as OS 8.5 ruined my employer’s software. But the fault wasn’t Apple’s, was it?

    davidwb had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 32
  • The problem is really that Apple’s high-handedness has started to be directed to consumers. I would suggest the lack of developer kit is not the be-all, end-all problem that it seems to be in the blogosphere where developers definitely have a louder voice, but rather it is the consumer unfriendly moves, like the video-authentication chip, the bricking of phones, the incompatible accessories that are really reflecting on an Apple that has decided its consumers are there to pad the bottom line. Why is it, for example, that Radiohead is offering DRM free, name your own price MP3s and Apple is not?

    The revenue streams they are collecting have made them greedy and short-sighted, and they are losing the astonishing goodwill they had built up at a steadily increasing rate.

    akatsuki had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 6
  • There were plenty of valid complaints in the past, most of them prior to Steve & Co’s return. This time it’s invalid. No one was in the dark in any way regarding what the iphone is and what it supports. At least some of what the iphone can do is possible because AT&T gave greater freedom to Apple in what features could be there than had ever been allowed by an operator before. That had a cost attached.

    This is a lot of whining by people who have nothing better to do.

    Jim Stead had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 10
  • I think many of you might be missing my point. I’m not trying to argue that Apple is doing anything illegal. And I’m not trying to argue that Apple didn’t have every right to do what they did.

    My point is that what they did was stupid from a PR perspective, regardless of whether or not it was legal.

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 122
  • No bad karma (besides, such things don’t exist anyway… LOL!). All this stuff is pretty straightforward anyway. You’ve got a bunch of whiney, weenie scalper/hackers making all the squeaky-wheel noises and thinking that they consist of the center of the universe (and especially Apple’s). What a bunch of losers.

    The overwhelming and vast majority of iPhone users care not one whit for all the whiney antics of a bunch of loser misfits. Tell them to get real and get a life…

    Eliakim had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • What is gay about the name ‘mighty mouse’?

    de_Villiers had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 5
  • I generally agree with this article, however.

    1) Learn to spell Adamantium. Helps with comic impact.

    2) Quit using the pejorative of “gay.” It makes you sound either
    a) like a 6th grader, b) homophobic, c) both. Not really attractive.

    Phyllis Stein had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I’ve suspected for some time that Apple had planned for Leopard to be out before the iPhone shipped, and Leopard’s delays screwed up their plans for handling software on the iPhone.  By forging ahead with the iPhone, they opened the door for these unintended consequences.

    We’ll know next month whether that’s true when we see the impact of Leopard’s release upon the iPhone.

    As an aside, I have little sympathy for those who chose to modify the software in the iPhone and then went ahead and ran Apple’s iPhone software updates anyway, in spite of all the warnings not to do so.

    Other than being more forthcoming about their iPhone third party software plans (beyond the Web 2.0 blather), I’m not sure what else they could have done to forestall the blow-back.  Apple has every right to create the product they want to sell, and control how they want to handle software updates to it.  If their model doesn’t generate the capital they hoped for because it’s too restrictive, the company will suffer from that decision and then decide if/whether they’ll change it.  Apple has no responsibility to sell the products we want, and our whining about it is childish.  Apple over the years has seldom created the products we most loudly announced we wanted (mid-size tower, anyone?).

    Dave Marsh had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 44
  • I’ve suspected for some time that Apple had planned for Leopard to be out before the iPhone shipped, and Leopard’s delays screwed up their plans for handling software on the iPhone.  By forging ahead with the iPhone, they opened the door for these unintended consequences.
    We’ll know next month whether that’s true when we see the impact of Leopard’s release upon the iPhone.

    Very good point, will be very interesting to see.

    Benji had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 927
  • I think the thing that bothers most people is that Apple decided to let their warning about non-stock configurations of the iPhone be the only defense against ruining the device with the update.

    They could have programmed the updater so that it verified that the filesystem was as it was expected to be, and not proceed with the update if things were out of whack.

    There have been a few reports of people who did NOT modify their iPhones’ software also having serious problems after the update. If those reports are legitimate, I would guess that their iPhones’ filesystems were corrupt or modified through no fault of their own, and also caused the phone to become inoperable.

    It might just be force of habit from previous iPod updates, where there was little chance that anyone would have modified the software, but Apple should definitely bring its Mac OS X mindset to this new device instead.

    Zan had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Puh-lease, you’re complaining about the “iPhone update breaks hacks thing” and for that Apple should hang their head in shame?

    Apple has a reputation of dependability and usability to defend and opening up a device to APIs that they’re not ready for would be worse. Combine iPhone 1.0 _with_ API 1.0 and you know the community would angry when things don’t work as expected.

    With every .x revision of OS X they added features and fixed bugs. You can be sure an upcoming .x rev to the iPhone will do the same.

    Somewhat off topic but look at VoIP. iPhone may lack it but there’s a reason for that: It’s too unreliable when you factor in VoIP service providers, client software, and most importantly, consumer routers that don’t awlays handle SIP properly. When Apple feels VoIP is ready, it’ll happen.

    Same goes for an API.

    But really, would you want a device that’s unreliable? Don’t give me the disclaimer “hack at your own risk” because consumers did just that and walked into the Apple Store saying “it broke.” They were warned but did it matter? No.

    Apple shouldn’t be crticized for keeping their devices running as they were designed. They should be commended for it.

    Eric Brodeur had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 23
  • I know it’s nitpicky, but You started that one- it’s ADAMANTIUM, actually… Wolverine seems to have changed his tour of duty, hehehe…

    mat!-) had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 13
  • I agree that Apple is making some bad PR moves. And some of their product moves are bad too.

    For example: I don’t like that I can’t do video from my iPod classic.. but equally important I didn’t like the surprise of it not working.

    Apple runs the risk of losing the incredible good will it has built up.  Many companies take an accounting mentality - saving a penny here and there - to make more money… but that mentality loses them money elsewhere due to moral & internal attitudes. Let’s hope Apple avoids that.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 228
  • (oops Moral should have been MORALE
    HmmM! )

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 228
  • For all the greatness Apple’s consumers dish upon it, if Apple does something to tick them off - all that greatness is quickly forgotten.

    I’m an Apple convert from years and years of Microsoft Windows in home and corporate settings. If Apple was “so much better” years ago then it must have been blissful nirvana because they’re looking damn good today.

    Whatever. I’m feeding the opinion beast and done.

    Eric Brodeur had this to say on Oct 08, 2007 Posts: 23
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