Jobs is Dell as warp speed

Steve Jobs is famously not transparent or flexible; he violates every principle we ClueTrainy advocates of customerism hold dear and he can get away with it because we hold his products dear. He’s good, that good. So I find it interesting that when he dissed his most loyal customers, the fools who stood in line for that beautiful iPhone, by lowering his price for the masses (a good move, by the way), he wasted no time apologizing and giving them a $100 store-credit rebate ($200 would have been the purer gesture). I wonder whether Jobs would have done this five years ago. I wonder, too, how long it would have taken for Apple to realize that there was a problem, all the while their customers’ anger would have been festering.

But now the process is instantaneous. Apple could see the reaction in not only the emails Jobs refers to in his apology but also, obviously, in blog posts and forum discussions (not to mention the stock price). All you have to do is listen. And act quickly.

It’s the same lesson that Dell learned about the customer in control. Only now add the element of speed. (Amplified by the fanaticism of the Apple customer cult.) I think we are seeing a permanent change in customer relations and our empowerment: If enough customers think you made the wrong move and you hear them quickly enough, the cusotmers will win. If you’re smart.

But then, of course, Apple people are different. Get a load of this post from Lisa on the proverbial knitting blog — really, a knitting blog! — telling Jobs that she doesn’t regret paying the higher price for the iPhone and asking that he give his $100 to a charity. That’s the Apple cult for you — that’s a brand cult: ‘Please charge me more.’ But the cult won’t make the iPhone into the life-changing device Jobs believes — and I’m coming to believe — it will be. So that’s why he had to move past the cult — while not losing any cultists along the way.

  • http://www.geise.com PXLated

    Or, it was all in the plan…The Puppet Master…
    http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2007/pulpit_20070906_002891.html

  • http://spaceygreview.blogspot.com/ Grayson

    Charity??!!! Oh barf me with yet another zippy e-product. What a brainwash case that consumer is. Classic Stockholm syndrome’s what it is. That said, I too might now drink a Big Gulp of that yummy Kool-Aid for such a nicely reduced rate. But “give to charity?” A sucker’s out there knitting something into nothing everyday. Jeez…

  • http://jonathanpotts.blogspot.com Jonathan Potts

    Years ago, one of the business magazines wrote an article about the challenge of expanding the appeal of a cult brand to a broader consumer base. Apple, of course, was one of their chief examples. (This was before the iPod, just to note.) The very nature of a cult following for a product may drive away others inclined to try it out. I’m sure a lot of people were put off by the idea of waiting in line for hours to shell out $600 for the iPhone. It’s not that people wouldn’t want an iPhone–they just don’t want to be the kind of person who wants an iPhone, if that makes sense.

  • rand

    Acutally, she does get it. She as a consumer made a conscious decision on the day she bought the phone. She asked herself, is this worth (pricehere) to me as it is right now. If the answer is yes, and for her it was, she purchased it.

    People who complain are those who usually didn’t think their purchases through, and believe me, working in a computer store i’ve seen tones of them.

    Price drops happen, nothing has changed on your end. You still have the same product that was worth (xamount) to you the day you bought it, life goes on.

    Basically, take responsibility for your own actions. No matter what the company your purchasing from does, the choice is yours at that time. Live with it and deal with what comes.

    /cheers

  • http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/ Bob Warfield

    The cult matters, the early adopters matter, and they help make the iPhone dominant. He has a good understanding of the art of using the Web 2.0 for Persuasion or to create a Tipping Point:

    http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/2007/08/24/the-psychology-of-saas-and-web-20-persuasion-and-selling/

    These techniques, together with a grasp of Web 2.0 Personality Styles (i.e. which media to use when) are making the web an even more poweful tool for everyone from Steve Jobs to Fred Thompson:

    http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/2007/09/07/twitter-and-fred-thompson-leverage-web-20/

  • Raghu

    What if the apology wasn’t an apology but rather a part of the plan?

    See for instance Cringley’s article today

    http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2007/pulpit_20070906_002891.html

  • Pingback: What Jobs iApology Reveals, #4 « SmoothSpan Blog

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I find it interesting that the ad to the right of this post on Jobs touts an asshole cleaner.

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  • http://billkosloskymd.typepad.com/wirelessdoc/ Bill Koslosky

    Jeff:

    http://www.engadget.com/2007/08/21/dear-palm-its-time-for-an-intervention/

    Also consider Engadget’s “Dear Palm: It’s time for an intervention” post which might have convinced Colligan to 86 the Foleo.

    BK

  • Pingback: The $200 Question - Apple iPhone discount « Kempton’s blog

  • http://goinglikesixty.com Going Like Sixty

    Please explain the point you were trying to make ” really – a knitting blog!”
    Pick one:
    1. People blog about knitting?
    2. Knitting blogs should stick to knitting?
    3. It’s unusual for knitters to know / write about technology.

    I’m guessing it’s 3. If you got out of your ivory tower you might know that the biggest growth in knitting is twentysomethings to offset the preconceived image that they are only iPodding or texting.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    No, knitting blogs are used as the proverbial example of niche blogs and here was one that had something to say about the point at hand. Stop being a conspiracy theorist. A very simple point simply made. Relax. Take up a hobby. Knitting, perhaps.

  • http://lisabee.typepad.com lisa

    how irresistible. :)

    i’m a 40-something, actually. i did learn to knit as a 30-something, though. and it was partly to relieve stress (SO true), but mainly because i really hated a lot of the clothing options out there.

    i doubt that apple will respond; i suspect that it’d be too much to manage rebates going to multiple destinations, and, frankly, it has to cost them a *lot* less than $100 a pop to give us $100 in store credit. so…it’s okay.

    the sadder development for me is that the person i wanted most to honor in all this–my sick friend joe–died the day i wrote that letter. in fact, 12 hours later, almost to the minute. (so for me, grayson, it wasn’t at all about drinking kool-aid and just wanting to give away money to charity because i’m a simp, if that’s–sadly–what you think of people who give. it was about being so consumed by the idea that i was powerless to save my friend combined with the reality that commenter rand summed up so well: i paid what i thought it was worth, and i think that, frankly, it’d pretty whiny to claim otherwise. if i hadn’t thought it were worth that, i wouldn’t have bought it. it’s what we in the consuming business like to call “rational decision-making.”)

    that’s enough opining from me for one night. i got a sweater to knit! :)

  • http://deleted Tansley – addendum

    People commonly make the mistake of assuming that Steve Jobs is a genius.

    He’s not. In fact, what he is, is a brilliant tactician. He bullies people into giving him what he wants, for the most part, and he basically bullied the company into going back into the black when he was brought back onboard a few years back, but in one particular case he is responsible for one of the biggest marketing blunders in history. I am referring, of course, to the fact that early-on, Apple (read: Jobs) decided NOT to franchise-out the hardware manufacturing end of the Apple and later MacIntosh computers, keeping them in-house instead on the hardware end…while IBM released the rights to others to dupicate the PC hardware, with the result we now see today: namely that the world is ruled by PCs, and the Mac occupies an approximate 1% or less global market niche.

    This is what is commonly referred to as stupidity.

    Brilliant tactician though he may be, Steve Jobs is NOT a STRATEGIST. Bill Gates IS a strategist, and we see the overall results of that particular talent in Microsoft.

    Now, the kicker: The Mac is STILL…THE…superior system. Always has been. They WERE cranky and often in the past needed regular rebooting, but with the advent of Max OS X that problem has disappeared, and overall the Mac OS rules. I run a G5 at my job, and I LOVE it. At night, I go home to my PC and use THAT for about 99% of everything I do, and I’ll occasionally fire up the old Quadra 800 on the right side of my desk and reminisce for a bit, but most of the time I’ll go back to the PC.

    The real genius at Apple was Steve Wozniak…not Jobs. This little ploy with the rebate on Jobs’ part merely exemplifies his skills at marketing tactics…and little else…

    A public service announcement of the ‘Kick Steve Jobs Foundation’…twenty years and still kicking him…

  • http://deleted Mike G

    The $100 was fair. Anyone who doesn’t know by now that technology prices, and Apple prices right before a Steve speech in particular, drop early and often deserves to pay $100 for either the lesson, or their need to be first with a new product in hand.

  • http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com David Cushman

    Jeff, you are right to point out that speed is the essential difference. I think of the recent HSBC case re overdraft charges for students and the facebook group that self-formed at lightning speed.
    Students were always able to organise to protest. Now they can do it in an instant.
    Critically, they now have a way of reaching people with a shared interest or purpose immediately, too.
    Most of the students who were impacted by the HSBC decision had left university and were dispersed.
    Facebook meant they could be reassembled.
    There’s a story about Noel Edmunds returning to a stint on radio recently. He was told the most important screen to watch was the one showing text messages from listeners.
    In seconds the first one came in: “Get that beardy tw*t off the radio!”.
    He commented it used to take a week to get feedback like that, in listeners letters. Now it’s immediate.

  • Eric Gauvin

    This doesn’t show consumers are in control. It shows Apple is in control. It doesn’t have anything to do with customer complaints. It has to do with Apple trying to meet sales targets. In June 29th they estimated people would pay $600 for the iPhone. Sales are not what they planned. Now they changed their mind (two months later) and estimate people will pay $300 for the iPhone. Clearly it’s because the iPhone sales are not what they expected. Apple made a pricing mistake and is correcting it and including some damage control for the early adopters. Apple made a pricing mistake. That’s all. (of course you could make the argument that simply all supply and demand puts the consumer in control, but I don’t think that’s the “power to the people” point that Jeff Jarvis is trying to make)

  • bytten

    UGH! Apple superior and the Iphone worth 600 bucks? Give me a break!!!
    Hey, I’ve got a handy little device that’s worth 4 million but I’ll let the first thousand go for only a million, so who’s first in line? Granted the Apple OS
    is less of a hassle than M$soft most of the time but it does crash and is still
    susceptible to virii and other malicious code but tell me how their power supplies or other components are worth up to 1000 percent more than comparable pc hardware. It is sad that some people have more money than brains. Put linux on your PC or Apple and enjoy your computer more and scream less.

  • Dude

    # Grayson Says:
    September 7th, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Charity??!!! Oh barf me with yet another zippy e-product. What a brainwash case that consumer is. Classic Stockholm syndrome’s what it is. That said, I too might now drink a Big Gulp of that yummy Kool-Aid for such a nicely reduced rate. But “give to charity?” A sucker’s out there knitting something into nothing everyday. Jeez…

    Do you use Windows? If you do, enough said.

  • http://www.no0n.com Apple iphone netbook

    The Apple rumor mill is once again running overtime on the topic of netbooks. If you believe the reports, Steve Jobs is himself leading the charge. My take: Whatever Apple does, it won?t be a netbook in the usual sense, I also bet that Apple, if it does anything, will itself avoid using the n-word to describe it.