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Stratagem
 
APPLE INC.: I-CRASH
Is the iOS 5.0 burning Apple’s reputation?
Apple’s latest OS update for the iPad seems to leaving a wake of scathing complaints. Is everything alright?
Issue Date - 15/03/2012
 
“The OS 5 ‘upgrade’ certainly turned my iPad 2 into a piece of crap. If Steve were alive, this would have been fixed a long time ago.” “My iPad’s nearly useless now; this is a giant step backwards with iOS 5.” “Buyer beware. Apple isn’t interested in customer satisfaction.” “This is unacceptable. Apple broke my iPad with their upgrade... It’s been more than 5 months and no fix. I smell class action lawsuit!” “[All my iPads] have been crashing since the [iOS] update in Fall 2011.” “I am so sorry I spent $700 for this door stop!” “I would not recommend an iPad to any of my friends or family.” “Nightmare service [at the local Apple store].” “Not one word of acknowledgment from official sources. A very short term strategy which may lose many, many loyal Apple users.” “Apple has a PR problem as well as a technical problem.” “The people at Apple have told me that I should just wait for an upgrade to the iOS and live with it.”

All the above complaints we’ve mentioned from a single thread are from discussions.apple.com during February 2012. There’re hundreds more for the previous months. But it was not the close to 200,000 odd views of the above mentioned complaint thread that caught our eye. It was the perturbing nature of complaints that were coming up in hundreds on this easily searchable thread (type “iPad crashing” on any search engine; it’s the topmost link) – complaints that couldn’t ever have been imagined of Apple some years back. What’s wrong with iOS’ latest update? Why is it giving off such bad user experiences on the iPad? More importantly, why isn’t Apple rushing in to firefight this threateningly growing controversy?

One of the most significant keynote speeches delivered by Jobs dates back to 1984 – the launch of the Macintosh. The crowd that day gave a standing ovation to Jobs; an ovation he regularly got at most product launches. But of late, the company has started facing some serious setbacks that are deteriorating the very user experience that Apple prides itself with creating. The first can be traced back to the iPhone 4 antennagate episode. The phone’s network reception goes for a toss when it is held in a way so that the antenna panel at the bottom left gets covered. The company has been facing significant issues on the software front as well. To start with, Mac OS X, the operating system introduced for Mac devices in 2010, started giving users nightmares. The OS crashed randomly, leaving the user with nothing but a black screen. There was no way to fix it except to perform a force shutdown. A lot of users even encountered problems while upgrading to the Mac OS X.

One would remember that quite recently, customers had even faced issues when Apple launched iCloud along with iOS 5, as they lost email access. Apple servers recently crashed when users attempted to download iOS 5.

The most recent iOS 5 series complaint episodes (some which we’ve mentioned at the start of this article) are the most sensitive, as they come quite close to Apple’s expected iPad 3 launch in March 2012. As documented above, iPad users running the iOS 5 have reported that the operating system may have critical stability issues that Apple is not even ready to recognize officially. The iPad apparently keeps crashing, and at times, does not even restart. Many customers have documented through their complaints that they are appalled at the lack of interest from the company in resolving the issue at the earliest.

 
These are the sort of mistakes that have the potential to kill any company. But as strange as it may seem, Apple seems to be immune to such threats. Apple never fixed the antenna problem, they just launched a new model after an year; yet, one sees no backlash. Instead of plummeting in the wake of the recent charges, the stock has been rallying like there’s no tomorrow. The stock is trading at an all time high of $535.41 (52-week high, closing price on February 28) in the run up to the launch of the iPad 3. For the latest quarter ending December 2011, the company posted revenue of $46.33 billion (growth of 73.3% yoy) and profits of $13.07 billion (growth of 117.7% yoy).

In an exclusive conversation with B&E, Jeff Kagan, one of America’s most influential technology analysts, affirms regarding the product glitches and Apple’s apparent apathy to user concerns, “I think this is a case of Apple thinking they are invincible or infallible. These things have not jumped up and bit Apple, not yet at least. At some point when Apple’s wave crests, they may start to feel customer push-back.” However, that ceiling may take a while to be reached as Apple remains the true benchmark of a cult brand today. Brands like Toyota and Sony, who have suffered serious setbacks on customer satisfaction metrics in the recent past (the former with recalls and the latter with network security issues) would love to take notes. But firstly, they will need a leader with a credible ‘Reality Distortion Field’. For that matter, Apple must realise that even they don’t have that leader anymore! And if they do not tackle these problems at the earliest, they may gain terrible proportions in the future.

Amir Moin           

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