Apple's press conference today announcing how it will handle the iPhone 4 antenna came as no great shock to me. Disappointment; yes. But shock; no!
Apple will not be recalling the iPhone 4, despite a flaw in the antenna design and a software bug that causes the proximity sensor to drop calls (to be fixed in an upcoming software patch, hopefully). Nor, will Apple temporarily stop selling the iPhone 4 and fix the problem at the factory before shipping them out in the first place. I'm thinking of my small business owner friend, Zelda, in Austin who pointed out that she had to wait an extra six weeks last year to get a new Nokia phone she had her eye on. There was some glitch with the phone and Nokia just stopped selling it for six weeks until they worked out the bug. Voluntarily. Hey Apple, what a novel idea!
Anyway, those are the two things Steve Jobs should have announced today, along with a big mea culpa and a "I'm sorry".
Still waiting on the "I'm sorry", too.
Here's what Steve Jobs did offer:
1. Free bumpers to cover the exposed outer band antenna. Cost to Apple: $1 a bumper, even though they retail for $30. How generous! If you bought one already, they will refund your money.
2. You can return the iPhone for a full refund. (Whoopee!)
The rest of the press conference was pretty much Jobs poo-poo'ing the whole thing. There was a long diatribe about this wasn't a big deal because so few have returned their phone and while admitting that there is a problem he lamely tried to make a case that it happens with other smartphones too. (They just have the good sense to put the antenna inside the phone away from direct grip from a human hand, so not like this, Steve. P.S. I don't see Consumer Reports recommending that we don't buy a Droid or a Blackberry.).
By the way, in other Apple news today...
The San Mateo, CA DA's office has quietly withdrawn the search warrant used to raid Gizmodo.com blogger, Jason Chen's personal home. About half a dozen computers and servers were seized in the raid in the wake of Chen getting hold of a leaked prototype of the then not-yet-released iPhone 4 and writing a review about it. An Apple executive sits on the board of directors of the cybercrime public agency that jointly filed the search warrant. P.S. California has a shield law that requires a subpoena and a damn good reason to seize a reporter's materials. There wasn't one in this case.
One last footnote as we drift into the weekend...
Apple is Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs is Apple. Steve Jobs is Apple's greatest asset and liability. That's just a fact. Steve Jobs is a genius, a visionary and history has demonstrated that Apple can't lead the blind in prayer without him (anyone besides me remember the John Scully era - insert shiver up spine). To the Apple legions, Steve Jobs is a messianic-like figure. That's dangerous. This week we got a glimpse of it.
Really big publicly traded companies need to behave like really big publicly traded companies and not like a petulant teen who can't admit a mistake, much less take FULL responsibility to fix it and make amends. Offering a limp work-around for a high end product and packaging it in a slick big screen presentation that invalidates the problem in the first place is the response of one dysfunctional person. It is not the actions of a collaborating crisis management team acting with cool ration.
One thing Apple is not, is a "flat organization". That's what I saw today.
Last updated: Jul 16, 2010
RENEE ORICCHIO is a technology writer and former supervising news producer for CNN Financial News. She has been covering the computer industry since 1987. @oricchio