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Jul. 16 2010 - 1:52 pm | 254 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Steve Jobs on Antennagate: ‘It’s all about the love. Also, there is no Antennagate.’

Steve Jobs’ press conference on the iPhone 4’s well-reported reception problems is just wrapping up in Northern California, and I have to agree with New York Times reporter John Markoff’s assessment:

Basically a Harvard Business School tutorial on how to turn a crisis into an opportunity…

Jobs was transparent about the particular rate of reception problems with the iPhone 4 (it drops more calls, by a few, than its predecessor model, the 3GS), even as he deftly made the case that antenna issues are common to all smartphones. He was specific about the reported number of complaints (low, although the number of unreported ones was surely much higher). He issued a short-term fix, ordering no-fault refunds or a free case to anybody who buys an iPhone 4 between now and September 30. (Use of a case alleviates the so-called “Death grip” issue. If you’ve already bought one, you’ll get a refund.) And when he pivoted to a closing disquisition on how “We love our users, we love them… We try to surprise and delight them,” he did with with the smoothness of Ray Allen pivoting for that sweet 14-ft. jumper he couldn’t seem to find in the finals, not that I’m bitter.

Apple isn’t perfect, and the reason I know that is that Jobs showed a presentation slide stating exactly that. (He really did.) But when it comes to not just managing a bad situation but turning it to its own competitive advantage, it’s hard to think of another big company that’s its equal.

UPDATE: The presser is over now. If you haven’t clicked through to the excellent Jason Snell liveblog I linked to in the first paragraph, it’s worth your time. Especially for the tonal shift at the end, when Jobs’ composure started to wear a little and the Kumbaya atmosphere began to fray. Jobs had to be tired if he really expected anybody to believe that Apple’s gotten an unfair ride in the press. I still think the overall performance was masterful, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that, yeah, the boss lost a little something off his fastball toward the end.

UPDATE UPDATE: Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, who was less impressed with the press event than I was, argues that Jobs cooked the numbers on dropped calls.


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  1. collapse expand

    He blew it. Jobs really blew it. He was defensive and unfriendly and obviously on the run. Maybe it’s his health, I don’t know. What APPLE should have done is have one of their seasoned PR pros walk into the presser and very calmly and gently tell the assembled reporters face to face (and via TV feed, the entire world!) that yes, we have some problems with the phone, and yes, we are sorry, and yes, we will fix everything, and thanks for bearing with us and hold on, hold on, everything will be okay soon. Reassuring. But apologetic at the same time.

    Jobs basically said eff you to his customers. Terrible PR. “This is not Antennagate!” – “It’s like having kids, a bump in the road!” wtf? STEVE JOBS, GET THEE TO A NUNNERY!
    WHAT THE PR PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE SAID: As written by Danny Bloom in Taiwan:

    “Look, everyone, we are very sorry about all this, sorry sorry. We will do our best to take care of the problem ASAP, don’t lose faith, keep the faith, we’re here for the long haul. Again, deep apologies. We’ll do better next time. Meanwhile, thank you for sticking with us. We’re here for you! Thank you!”

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    I'm a writer in Santa Monica, CA. I spent some years at Newsweek and some more writing for TV. My freelance journalism has appeared in The New Yorker, Time, Slate, The Boston Globe, Fast Company, Fortune Small Business, Washington Journalism Review, American Journalism Review, American Heritage and TV Guide, and on PBS.

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