Apple's Top 20 Public Apologies - InformationWeek

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9/28/2012
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Apple's Top 20 Public Apologies

Apple Maps mea culpa continues a tradition of atonement. Here's a list of the company's top 20 promises to do better.

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Responding to criticism of Apple's iOS 6 Maps app, CEO Tim Cook issued an apology to Apple customers Friday.

Apple strives to make world-class products, but "fell short on this commitment" with last week's launch of the new Maps, Cook said in an open letter, adding that the company regrets any frustration users have experienced and is doing everything it can to improve Maps.

Apple's efforts in that regard can be seen in the eight software engineering positions on Apple's Maps team that have opened up in September alone.

Cook promises that Apple will keep working on Maps until it meets the company's "incredibly high standard."

This is not the first time Apple has expressed regret for an unanticipated or undesired outcome. Public apologies long been a way to dissipate public criticism, for Apple and other companies. But they appear to have become more common in the Internet age, perhaps because silencing online critics often requires answering them.

[ What will security look like in a post-password world? Read Mozilla Persona Aspires To Kill Passwords. ]

In Apple's case, more than half of the public apologies we could identify have occurred since 2010. This isn't necessarily evidence of an increasing rate of apologies. It could just as easily mean that evidence of Apple's contrition is easier to find in recent years than a decade ago or more, when less information existed online.

It may also be worth noting that CEO Tim Cook is off to an error-prone start, with four apologies coming from the company since his took over in August 2011 and one pending--see number 3 below. However, one year does not define a trend, and Cook could end up making fewer apologies after the inevitable regime change hiccups get ironed out. Also, apologies aren't necessarily a bad thing--they could reflect a growing willingness among Apple's leaders to engage with the public.

Beyond Cook's Maps apology, here are some other incidents that have elicited regret from Apple or a commitment to change.

2. For Reducing Apple Store Employee Hours, August 16, 2012
An Apple Store staffing plan put in place earlier in the year by John Browett, who became SVP of sales at Apple in April, led to the reduced hours for some Apple Store employees and understaffing at some locations. After reports began appearing that Apple was cutting employees amid ongoing strong sales, Apple reversed course. "We recently implemented some changes in retail staffing," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told the Los Angeles Times. "Making these changes was a mistake, and the changes are being reversed." Technically, this is an acknowledgement of error but not an apology.

3. To Samsung, For Name Calling (Maybe), July 19, 2012
British Judge Colin Birss in July ordered Apple to run ads for six months in British newspapers to apologize to Samsung and to disavow its claim that the South Korean company copied its iPad. Apple really does not want to do this and has appealed. So this apology may never happen, and even if it does, it probably shouldn't count because it would be issued under duress.

4. For Seeming To Be Less Green, July 13, 2012
In June 2012, Apple informed Robert Frisbee, CEO of Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) certification program, that it would no longer submit its products for EPEAT certification. When word reached the public, the ensuing criticism prompted Apple to reconsider. "We've recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system," wrote Apple hardware senior VP Bob Mansfield in an open letter. "I recognize that this was a mistake." Mansfield said that " all eligible Apple products" would once again be submitted to EPEAT, leaving out the ineligible MacBook Pro Retina model, which was designed to be thin at the expense of being easy to disassemble--making it difficult to recycle.

5. For A Buggy Thunderbolt Software Update, June 19, 2012
After releasing Thunderbolt Update 1.2 on Monday, June 11, 2012, some Apple customers reported that their Macs were crashing or frozen. Eight days later, Apple responded contritely, noting that it had identified the problem and withdrawn the update. The company said that it had discovered "an installation compatibility issue with a previous Thunderbolt update applied by some customers" and apologized "for the disruption this caused for customers with affected Macs."

6. For Charging Some OS X Lion Buyers Multiple Times, July 30, 2011
Some Apple customers who bought OS X Lion from the Mac App Store last year got charged several times for the $20 operating system update. The company apologized to those affected in an email "for any inconvenience this situation may have caused."

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