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Why is everyone picking on Apple?

Robert Palmer

A spate of bad news surrounding Mobile Me and iPhone 3G quality problems paired with renewed vigor from competitors Microsoft, Dell, and Nokia has Apple running out of slack from the normally fawning press (TUAW certainly not withstanding).

Forbes has a story about why Apple seems to have lost its luster recently. The New York Times is waxing nostalgic with a retrospective article titled Apple Imperfect. The National Post cites TechCrunch's Michael Arrington saying Apple is "rotting" and "flailing badly at the edges."

Consider the parable of the friend. Say you have a good friend, who's trustworthy, reliable and generally happy to be around you. If that friend suddenly isn't glad to see you anymore, swears at the elderly and starts drinking cheap bourbon from a hip flask in meetings, you'd say something, right? At least you'd worry that your friend was on the wrong path.

That's where we find Apple today: A friend on the wrong path. Many have noted that a lack of transparency in admitting its mistakes is hurting its credibility. The fact that it's making mistakes in the first place is generally forgivable, but we've been spoiled by Apple's pristine track record of consistently delivering quality. As consumers, we want the quality back. If anything, our expectations are even higher now to properly correct the various perceived injustices we've suffered.

Taking the long view, Apple will pull out of its funk. Knowing Steve Jobs, it will do so in a spectacular fashion, too, with new products, product improvements, or both. Apple isn't suffering from a lack of talent or innovation. It's suffering from management problems that any company of its size faces on a daily basis: scheduling new products, preventing employee burnout, and managing logistics.

We're nowhere near Apple's nadir under Gil Amelio, over a decade ago. In fact, investors don't seem to be fazed at all, with stock prices rebounding to their levels in May. Apple may already be back.

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