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They Held It Wrong

Came off like stale beer.

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CUPERTINO (Rixstep) — Leander Kahney said Apple might go under if they handled the 'antennagate' scandal wrong. Now we shall see.

Apple gave the media 24+ hours to get to Cupertino for what Steve Jobs said would be a fifteen minute presentation that turned into seventy five minutes instead - a presentation that began with Jobs admitting Apple weren't perfect.

But that's as far as it went. Jobs did not directly cite the iPhone 4 issue for quite some time and he certainly refused repeatedly to admit there was an issue with it. 'There is no antennagate', he concluded over an hour later.

Marketing No-Nos

Instead of immediately and directly addressing the issue - the reason so many people flocked to Cupertino on such short notice - Jobs started breaking all the PR rules. As if he really felt his back up against the wall. Steve Jobs started bashing the competition.

In a chapter taken out of the Daniel Eran rule book, Jobs started assimilating the fanboy tack that 'Apple are Apple because they're better than the rest and when they're not that good, then at least the other companies aren't any better - which is why Apple are always better'. He bashed the BlackBerry Bold, the HTC Droid, the Samsung Omnia, and others.

But things didn't stop there. Steve Jobs also tried to convince the audience he had no clue what was going on and that all he and his company could offer up was his own private 'theory'.

I have a theory: when the iPhone 3GS came out, it was the same shape as the iPhone 3G, so people could use their old cases. And people could use old cases already in stores, so people could buy cases when they bought the phone. So iPhone 4, radical new design, not many cases, limited supply of bumpers.
 - Steve Jobs

And after that he immediately went on the counterattack against those mean guys in the media.

But I think it's important to understand the scope of this problem. Because the data leads you to the conclusion that it's been blown so out of proportion, it's incredible.
 - Steve Jobs

But people didn't want to hear his theories of how he and his company are being attacked - they wanted to hear - they flew out on short notice to Cupertino to find out - what the issue is and most importantly: what Apple are going to do about it.

All they got was a free 'rubber'.

If you put that rubber thing around it, it works - but it didn't work for Levi Johnston.
 - Joy Behar

Co-host Whoopi Goldberg destroyed her iPhone 4. Co-host Stephen Smith said phones are supposed to work as phones.

Goldberg was doing a live broadcast with Smith from her car. But the calls weren't coming in, her replies were getting dropped, and the device was even losing email. She said there were more issues than 'antennagate' and has since gone back to the 3GS.

The 'free case' deal is valid through 30 September. When asked why that date, Steve Jobs insisted the company needed time to further collate data.

Not Breaking Down Doors

Jobs insisted his teams have visited afflicted iPhone 4 users in the field, traveling out to meet with them in their homes, but that they didn't break down any doors, clearly in reference to the Gizmodo scandal.

Apple don't have enough bumpers to go around but they will be collaborating with third party suppliers. And anyone who still prefers a refund can get it - and he 'believes' AT&T will also release customers who want out.

Class Act

Perhaps the biggest joke of the (California) morning was John Gruber's. Claiming he flew out at his own expense, he asked Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and Bob Mansfield when they'd taken the stage for the Q&A if they used bumpers on their phones. This after Jobs had already explained an hour earlier that none of them would need the rubbers in the Frisco area as signal strength generally was excellent.

Do any of you carry your iPhone 4s with a bumper? (Tim Cook, Steve Jobs, Bob Mansfield take out their phones and show them to the audience.) I don't have one either.
 - John Gruber

The fifteen minute presentation wore on. Steve Jobs tried adeptly to change the topic after a while, despite the media having flown out to hear about this issue and only this issue. And then as the presentation was ready to segue into the Q&A and the audience still had not been granted clarity on a single thing, Jobs starting winding up for his final counterattack.

The data supports the fact that the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone in the world, and there is no 'antennagate', there is a challenge for the entire smartphone industry someday to improve so there are no weak spots on any phone.
 - Steve Jobs

Translation: shut the fuck up.

Steve Jobs also attacked a number of media sources - again: horrible PR.

I assume you're referring to the Bloomberg article? Yeah, it's a crock. Certainly what was portrayed in that article never passed my consciousness. And I talked to Reuben and he agrees it's total bullshit too.
 - Steve Jobs

And the mere use of the world 'bullshit' in a formal setting shows Jobs was rattled. He even lashed out at Engadget - very unprofessional.

I'm citing the Times article.
 - Joshua Topolsky

You like to talk to yourselves a lot.
 - Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs continued to unravel - even Woody Allen got into the picture.

Reminds you of the Woody Allen movie. The food here is terrible and gosh the portions are so small.
 - Steve Jobs

When All Else Fails - Wave the Flag

And then in one of the most egregious pieces of psychotic babble ever, Sobs tried the nationalistic tack. Steve is known for being US-centric ('I don't want our country descending into a nation of bloggers', citing the big media companies of the world as only US-based) despite most revenues coming from outside the US, but still and all.

I guess it's just human nature when some organisation gets successful, there's someone who wants to tear it down. I see it happening with Google. Why are they doing that? Google's a great company. Google invented all of this great stuff that we love to use. And I see them jumping on us now. Would you rather we are Korean companies rather than American companies? Do you not like that we're innovating here in America?
 - Steve Jobs

And so it went - like stale beer. Unsatisfying, never to the point, attacking the competition, breaking every rule of PR ethics in the book, stating the meeting for which all had jumped to attend on such short notice would be only fifteen minutes long, then going off instead onto an hour long sob story... Leander was probably right.

'taxloss' at T3 asks the inevitable question.

So is there a fault or what? Steve seems to be contradicting himself all over the place. He is saying all smartphones are the same and there is no problem. But then he says we are human and we have made a mistake, we will try to find a solution. I'm seriously confused now.
 - 'taxloss'

But one thing is not confusing: the bumper giveaway is a tacit admission that something is wrong - something Steve Jobs studiously avoided talking about all morning. For Steve Jobs it's either a free rubber or a total recall. And there's no way he'd consider the latter.

They Held It Wrong

So what happens now? Will iPhone 4 users be mollified? Will Whoopi Goldberg try again?

Consumers can maybe tolerate a big screw-up - as they did for the Sony battery recall programme. But Sony came clean and recalled the bad batteries. Apple aren't admitting anything and they're not recalling anything either.

So what will 'ordinary' iPhone users do - those who unlike some of the worst fanboys don't want to brag they don't have antenna issues? Will they still purchase the iPhone 4?

And what will happen to Steve Jobs' and Apple's credibility down the line? Did Apple hold this conference wrong? The consumers will decide.

Thanks to Diem at the Rixstep/7 forum for valuable input.

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