Apple: Will corporate miscues bruise its image?

Summary:Apple may have an iPhone coming, record financial results and Wall Street's good graces, but its corporate flubs of late make the company look arrogant. At some point--and we're not there yet--the Teflon may actually come off that Apple logo.

Apple may have an iPhone coming, record financial results and Wall Street's good graces, but its corporate flubs of late make the company look arrogant. At some point--and we're not there yet--the Teflon may actually come off that Apple logo.

Until now, Apple has been a darling. The story is great. CEO Steve Jobs comes back to Apple, unleashes the iPod and the rest is history. Apple fans love the company and its products. They also treat Jobs like a rock star.

However, since Macworld earlier this month a series of corporate events have unfolded that make Apple look downright arrogant. At the least, Apple could risk alienating its customers--arguably the reason the company is so successful.

To wit, Apple...

--Institutes a Wi-Fi tax by charging $1.99 for a download that enables 802.11n technology. This technology is currently present in almost all MacBooks and MacBook Pros with Intel's Core 2 Duo processor. The kicker: Apple is blaming accounting rules for charging for the Wi-Fi software. At last check, generally accepted accounting practices didn't tell companies how to run their businesses.

--Charges for Boot Camp. MacScoop reports that Apple will charge current users of Mac OS X Tiger for the final version of Boot Camp that will be released at the same time as Mac OS X Leopard, this spring. Now this report may not turn out to be true, but it certainly doesn't foster oodles of goodwill on the heels of its Wi-Fi tax.

--Preannounces products. Apple has preannounced two key products--the iPhone and Apple TV--before the products were ready. This move traditionally has been a Microsoft staple used to freeze the market and control it. Without reading too much into preannouncing products, Apple's latest moves are curious.

--Potentially tramples a trademark. While Cisco's iPhone trademark may be "silly," Apple clearly forged ahead sans any agreement with the networking giant. Apple's legal ground can be debated, but on the surface it appears Jobs would rather forge ahead trademark questions be damned.

--Bullies bloggers. Apple sent out a cease and desist letter to a blogger who merely reported that someone created a skin for Windows Mobile phones that looks like the iPhone user interface.

--Deals with an options backdating issue. Apple has cleared its name in an internal investigation, but the Securities and Exchange Commission will ultimately decide.

--Locks its APIs. Apple is stingy with its APIs and that means developers can't create plug-ins for new products like the iPhone.

--Tries to make iTunes the dominant way to get video and audio. iTunes to Apple is what Windows is to Microsoft. And like Microsoft Apple is being sued for dominating digital music. Apple is undeterred. For instance, Apple TV proclaims that if it's on iTunes it's on your TV. In other words, any non-iTunes content won't make the cut. Meanwhile, Apple uses DRM to handcuff your digital library to its platform.

Perhaps these practices are just capitalism at work. Perhaps we shouldn't hold Apple to higher standards. Perhaps none of this matters to Apple fans. But take the remove "Apple" from this post and replace it with any other company. Then tell me your opinion. What if Microsoft had these flubs in the span of 3 weeks? 

[poll id=45] 

Topics: Apple

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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