July 20th, 2010 by Tim Greenhalgh
If nothing else, the antenna problem on the iPhone 4.0 has prodded Apple into a more open, web-embracing approach to its communications strategies.
Itâ€™s still about controlling the messages but a multi-way conversation has been started â€“ and that means letting go of the command structure. Apple has, rightly or wrongly, been seen as anti-web and seeking to dominate, closing off the areas where it operates online.
The PR campaign around the iPhone 4.0â€™s problems has a different flavour. Commentators are saying that Steve Jobs was prodded into a reaction by the spectacular online/offline criticisms of the wildly popular handset and certainly an un-timetabled Apple press conference is a very rare event.
But what was most intriguing about Steve Jobsâ€™ session in Cupertino on Friday was not the apology or the free-case offer; rather, it was his contention that other Smartphone manufacturers had models with signal problems similar to those of the iPhone 4.0.
Now, Steve could have followed the classic Apple tactic of not mentioning the competition, promoting the advantages and innovations of the handset. This time he opened the door to the walled garden and practically invited the world and their cousin to respond. He stoked an external debate â€“ almost unheard of at Apple.
Not surprisingly, the rival handset manufacturers have come out with communications guns blazing as CNETâ€™s Caroline McCarthy reported.
They are more than miffed by Appleâ€™s statements but significantly at the moment they all stop short of claiming that there are no antenna issues on their models. While their responses are very robust, they are on the back foot now, as Apple releases its internal tests on rival handsets, delivering a video website http://www.apple.com/antenna/ with detailed comparative information.
Ah, but hereâ€™s where the Apple openness stops short. The site, while informative and stylish, is a one-way street. No chance to comment or share, which is a missed opportunity and one that I hope Steve Jobs reconsiders. Right now, heâ€™s winning the PR battle by using openness effectively â€“ and maybe Apple will recognise the enormous benefits of opening the door to walled garden even further.