Is Apple Losing War Of Words? - InformationWeek
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Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Is Apple Losing War Of Words?

Playing hard to get isn't helping Apple anymore. Here are 4 words it must embrace to fight off hard-talking rivals like Google and Samsung.

Apple is losing the war of words against Samsung and the Android ecosystem, argues former Apple products division president and current Allegis Capital general partner Jean Louis Gassee.

"Besides its ads, Apple says very little, confident numbers will do the talking," Gassee writes in a blog post. "This no longer works as others have seized the opportunity to drive the narrative."

This isn't the first time industry figures have called for Apple to change its ways and open up, nor is it the first time Apple's defenders have insisted that the company remains extraordinarily profitable and that detractors have written Apple off prematurely. John Gruber, who writes the Daring Fireball blog, argues that boredom with Apple's ongoing success has lead reporters to dethrone the company.

[ People do love to dish the Apple rumors. Read Apple iPhone 5S: Best And Worst Rumors. ]

But whether one accepts Gruber's view that Samsung is not on its way to unseating Apple or whether one believes that Apple's decline has begun, Apple clearly believes it has to fight back against the Android invasion.

In a Reuters interview, Apple's senior VP of marketing Phil Schiller recently slammed Google, Android and Samsung on the eve of the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S 4.

And Apple recently launched an new iPhone marketing page called Why iPhone? It declares, "There's iPhone. Then there's everything else." Two years ago, there really wasn't anything that compared very well to the iPhone. That's no longer the case today.

Gassee argues that the blame Gruber places in the media's lap for writing Apple downfall stories should instead be hung on Apple. "If Apple won't feed [the media] an interesting, captivating story, they'll find it elsewhere, even in rumors and senseless hand-wringing," he writes.

In other words, Apple's tendency to hold its tongue is asphyxiating the company in the press.

Perhaps more intriguing is Gassee's observation that Apple's marketing vocabulary is larded with a limit set of hyperbolic adjectives that strain credibility and is almost devoid of terms for acknowledging challenges, failures or competitors. He singles out "great" as an adjective that Apple executives utter to the point of absurdity.

Had he been conducting word counts in Apple press releases rather than conference call transcripts, he might have noticed the overuse of the word "revolutionary," which Apple has applied to more than 30 of its products.

Apple's fondness for over-the-top superlatives like "incredible," "unbelievable" and "amazing" can perhaps be best appreciated in this 2009 YouTube video.

What Apple needs is a new vocabulary, not just to describe forthcoming products, but to communicate on equal footing with its increasingly competent and chatty competition. It needs to learn to use these four words in a context that's meaningful for the present competitive landscape:

1. Blog.

Google blogs. Microsoft blogs. Yahoo blogs. Intel blogs. Twitter blogs. IBM blogs. Samsung blogs. The White House blogs. Apple needs to get with the program. Its executives and employees should engage with the public because there's more to marketing than press releases and rare responses to reporters' queries.

Things were different during Steve Jobs' last five years at Apple. He could send an email to an Apple user and it would be widely reported by the tech press as a significant news story. He'd publish letters on topics like DRM or Adobe Flash and that would be enough. Jobs' successor, Tim Cook, has been a successful, popular CEO, but his public letters haven't been comparable declarations of vision. They have consisted of a remembrance of Jobs and an apology for Apple Maps. And Phil Schiller isn't up to the task either: He's a master of the product introduction but he's a marketer, a corporate evangelist. Apple is a technology company and it needs its engineering leads on the front lines, blogging and engaging with the public.

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Greg MacSweeney
Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/20/2013 | 11:40:01 PM
re: Is Apple Losing War Of Words?
I like Apple products and I own many of them. I don't think Apple's doom is imminent, but Apple does need to do a better job communicating in general. When the last couple of products were less than "revolutionary" (iPhone 5, iPad Mini), people begin to wonder. The iPad Mini and iPhone 5 are still great products (see the sales #s), but they aren't even close to game changing. Competitors are closing the gap.

Also, I don't think market cap is all that an important metric. Apple was overvalued and was due for a correction. Wall Street is extremely short sighted...only caring about the current quarter's earnings. Companies that manage toward the quarterly conference call are rarely revolutionary, or successful long term.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/20/2013 | 7:58:28 PM
re: Is Apple Losing War Of Words?
I'm inclined to agree with Gruber. It has been a while since Apple delivered a "revolutionary" product, but the company set the bar so high in recent years that I feel it's almost irrational for it to continue the pace of innovation it saw under Jobs. To look at the slowed pace of innovation and start predicting Apple will completely fall off is startlingly premature in my mind. It may not be as innovative as it was under Jobs but it still be successful and relevant even if it isn't the most innovative company ever anymore.
User Rank: Author
3/19/2013 | 7:18:44 PM
re: Is Apple Losing War Of Words?
Well, yes, this makes perfect sense. Steve Jobs led Apple to become the most profitable company in the world (or at least the most valuable company in the world) based on breakthrough product innovations -- the "Revolutionary" aspect Tom Claburn and others say is missing at Apple right now. The fact that Apple's market cap has slipped 25% over the past half year is evidence that Apple's owners (and not just Claburn and Gassee) are worried that the company is only incrementally advancing existing products rather than launching brand new, market-changing ones.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
3/19/2013 | 6:17:47 PM
re: Is Apple Losing War Of Words?
Don108, please see:
Personal Attacks ("Argumentum ad Hominem") - the evasion of the actual topic by directing the attack at your opponent
User Rank: Apprentice
3/19/2013 | 2:46:19 PM
re: Is Apple Losing War Of Words?
So let's see. Apple is supposed to take the ideas of Jean Louis Gassee, who failed at Apple, and of Thomas Claburn, who trained in film production but makes his money by giving his opinion, over their own experience which has made them the most profitable company in the world in those areas where they compete. Yeah, like that makes sense...
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