Combustion at Apple and Particle Debris

Look ing back this week, it was a watershed time for Apple. A lot of the news centered on reported problems with the Infineon 3G radio system in the iPhone 3G, and that came on the heels of of an embarrassing MobileMe roll out. Apple found out that when even the smallest glitch appears in a popular consumer device, all the vultures come out, looking for a tasty meal of revenge -- even if served cold.

There is fear swelling in the offices of the IT Managers and the PC pundits. Apple is changing the game with leverage from a massive iPod infusion into the world, to the tune of 150 million so far. Now Apple is clearly using the iPhone and Cocoa touch as a platform for a next generation UI. The concern by the fearful is that Apple is dealing from a position of strength and Microsoft seems powerless to stop them.

Fairly soon now, we'll be using touch tablets with a gesture language and dictionary. The mouse will be gone, and a generation of young people raised on iPods, iPhones and Unix will start carrying around the Internet in their pocket.
Walt Mossberg explained the vision fairly well this week.

As a result, every time Apple stumbles, there will be a witch hunt by people who find it in their interest to put the brakes on this new paradigm.

Part of the problem, and something I learned at Apple, is that a few cases, a dozen cases, a hundred cases make for a tasty meal of sour grapes in print, but it doesn't always reflect the technical reality of the situation.

Apple has a reason for remaining silent. Even though the vast majority of Apple customers are spending their time working, playing, watching the Olympics, going to weddings, having barbecues, and watching their kids soccer games, the Web can get info frenzy mode and appear to have compelling force.
For most users, who aren't professional Internet surfers, they'll simply update their iPhone when iTunes tells them to and think nothing of it. Meanwhile, chicken little journalists will try to make Apple look bad to earn some page views.

I don't think it's a bad idea for Apple to occasionally make some consumer friendly statements. For example, "We are aware that a few customers have been having problems with dropped calls on their iPhone 3G. We're looking into it." The problem is that these statements have to go through corporate attorneys who typically advise that the safest and best course of action is to say nothing, admit nothing, and just quietly fix the problem.

Worse, once Apple opens up and says something, there are journalists who will press and press, dissect every word,
and still put their own spin on it.

Despite all this, Apple is learning, leaps and bounds, what life is like in the fast lane of consumer electronics that go beyond a simple music player. Once a company starts handling personal data, everything has to be perfect or people get really cranky.

I liked Jason Snell's editorial this week. No one is quite sure what Apple needs to change internally to avoid or deal better with these high visibility technical problems, but we all hope they fix things soon.