The original iPhone represents a watershed moment in both the concept of smartphones, and in the blurring of the line between consumer and corporate technology.
With the stubborn, stumbling response to issues with the iPhone 4, though, Apple threatens to destroy the credibility it has earned with IT administrators, and reverse the progress it has made toward corporate acceptance as a smartphone platform.
Over the past few years, Apple has made significant strides in maturing out of the twenty-something, hipster, consumer gadget mold, and establishing itself as a viable contender in the board room as well as the living room. The iPad is a prime example of Apple’s corporate evolution–coasting to IT acceptance in a fraction of the time it took the iPhone to blaze the trail.
Apple’s refusal to acknowledge and address problems with the iPhone 4, though, will undermine the trust of IT administrators who depend on openness and transparency from the vendors they do business with in order to provide a secure and stable IT infrastructure.
IT administrators do not expect perfection from hardware or software vendors. There is a reason that businesses engage in long-term support contracts with vendors–they know there will be issues and they want prompt, effective support from the vendor to address any issues that may arise.
For an example of how to deal with a defective product or service, manage the public relations storm, and use the fiasco as an opportunity to build and strengthen credibility and emerge relatively unscathed, just look at how McAfee handled the recent virus signature issue–or even the Toyota or BP incidents.
Based on total unit sales, the iPhone 4 is the most successful product launch in Apple history. However, the mounting complaints regarding the iPhone 4–including a class action lawsuit, and a poignant rejection by Consumer Reports–are creating a public relations nightmare for Apple that is growing out of control more with each passing day.
Admittedly, not every iPhone 4 is experiencing every issue that has been discovered–and, in fact, many iPhone 4 users are not experiencing any issues at all and are ecstatic over their experience with the latest Apple smartphone. But, there are enough users frustrated by enough issues that it is not acceptable for Apple to expect to wave a magic wand of denial and just make it go away.
The iPhone 4 issues are a challenge for Apple, but they also represent an opportunity. An honest mea culpa and transparent disclosure of the underlying issues, combined with an expedient and effective solution will win points with IT administrators, while the current stubborn denial could burn the bridge and set Apple back a few years in its progress toward corporate acceptance.