2Two Major Companies Making Mistakes
Perhaps the first major similarity between the iPhone 4 debacle and the mistake that was Windows Vista is that both products come from major companies in the market. Many tech lovers expect flawed products to come from small companies that don’t have the cash or employee talent to deliver top-notch products, whereas major companies are expected to offer robust products that don’t have big issues. And yet, both Microsoft and Apple delivered products with problems. And there is no excuse.
3The Predecessor Was Major
The products that came before the iPhone 4 and Vista were wildly successful. Windows XP was a huge success for Microsoft that helped solidify its position in both the corporate world and the consumer market. Apple’s iPhone 3G and 3GS were arguably the best smartphones ever released. They delivered most of the functionality users wanted, plus a design that has yet to be matched in the marketplace. Then Vista and the iPhone 4 hit store shelves. Although both performed well at launch, issues arose. The products aren’t as dissimilar as Apple and its supporters want to believe.
4Problem? What Problem?
Unfortunately, it seems as if Steve Jobs examined what Steve Ballmer did when Vista’s issues started arising, and followed his lead. The iPhone 4’s problems are being dismissed as minor inconveniences that consumers should live with. When Vista turned out to be too resource-heavy and was experiencing security issues, Microsoft said they would all be addressed over time. When Apple admitted that the iPhone 4 had antenna problems, Jobs said it was an industrywide issue that hopefully would be addressed in the future. As both companies pretended that their products’ problems weren’t significant, they made themselves look worse.
5Other Companies Complain
Neither Microsoft nor Apple handled other companies well in regard to their respective products’ problems. Microsoft, for example, continued to force Vista on vendors that didn’t want to get bogged down with software that no one wanted. And Apple pointed to products from competitors to prove that the rest of the smartphones on the market have the same antenna issues as the iPhone 4. The companies basically took aim at others and have been forced to listen as those companies shot back with complaints of their own. Microsoft had to hear from HP and Dell, while Apple received a retort from RIM. As the competition fired back, it made Apple and Microsoft look worse.
6It Starts Small
With both the iPhone 4 and Vista, the issues started small. For Vista, it was simply that the operating system was too new, too resource-intensive and too insecure. For the iPhone 4, there were complaints about signal reception. But those issues grew as more consumers complained and neither company, at least in the eyes of its customers, responded well enough to those complaints. And now, both companies are trying to work their way out from under the mistakes they made.
7Sales Are Robust
As troublesome as Vista’s problems were, it’s important to keep in mind that Microsoft’s operating system still did relatively well in overall sales compared with other Windows operating systems. Admittedly, Vista was never the success that XP was, but it still helped Microsoft generate billions of dollars of profit. The same can be said for the iPhone 4. As vexing as the product can be to consumers, Apple’s smartphone is sold out online. It’s one of the most coveted devices the company has ever sold. If nothing else, Vista and iPhone 4 prove that product issues are not a death knell.
8Fight for It
Apple CEO Steve Jobs made one thing clear at his iPhone 4 news conference July 16: He will fight any and all opponents who say the iPhone 4 is flawed. As a CEO of a public company, that’s to be expected (and commended, to some extent), but it follows exactly what Microsoft did with Vista. As the complaints about the operating system piled up and Vista became a laughingstock, Microsoft continued to say it was a fine OS that was misunderstood by stakeholders. Only after Windows 7 was released did Microsoft finally admit that Vista wasn’t what the company had wished it would be. When will Apple admit the same about the iPhone 4?
9The Issue Is Fixable
Let’s not forget that the problems with Vista and the iPhone 4 could have been addressed before the products were released. After all, Microsoft could have built a more lightweight and secure operating system. And Apple could have changed the design of the iPhone 4. But both companies opted against such moves. And when their products hit store shelves, they were forced to deal with the consequences of those decisions. Apple might say a free case is a fix, but it really isn’t. There is more to handling the iPhone 4’s problems than slapping a case on it.
10Placing Blame Elsewhere
Microsoft and Apple have both done a fine job of diverting the blame for their flawed products elsewhere. Apple, for example, has placed blame on the industry at large, AT&T and even consumers for handling the iPhone 4 with a “death grip.” Microsoft blamed vendors and the enterprise for poorer sales. Both companies eventually placed some blame on themselves, but it was clouded by their desire to pass the buck.
11The Competition Gains
As Vista continued to experience troubles and the consumer unrest piled up, something strange happened to Microsoft: It watched its chief competitor in the operating system market, Apple, start gaining market share. Partly that was because of the value of Apple products, but Vista’s troubles were also a significant factor. In the smartphone space, there is a good chance that the iPhone 4 is having, and will continue to have, similar market-share challenges. The Motorola Droid X is sold out, the HTC Droid Incredible is back-ordered and Google has Version 2.2 of its Android OS on the way. The competition is doing well in the face of the iPhone 4 snafus. It looks like Vista all over again.