Technology News About Apple and Microsoft Offer Lesson In Contrast

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Technology News About Apple and Microsoft Offer Lesson In Contrast

March 4, 2010 Media Persuasion Technology 3

Superman ThursdayHope you’re having a Super day!  This is my second post this week. It’s a work in progress.

Comparison, or contrast, can be used as a signal of persuasion.  It allows us to consider one thing in the light of another.  And in today’s technology news, I noticed two stories that offer several lessons in contrast. Now I’m curious to see how many comparisons can be made.

First up, John Breeden, who writes for GCN (Government Computer News,) responds to an email from Apple Inc.’s  CEO, Steve Jobs, after publishing something that wasn’t true about the new iPad battery life.  I’m beaming just thinking about it.

Second, Microsoft’s V.P. for Trustworthy Computing (I’m not kidding! As ironic as it sounds, that’s his title) offers a suggestion that to clean up the problem of the viruses and hacker networks that plague the Windows OS, we should put a tax on all internet users. I’m a Mac user.  I bristle at the thought.

That’s a bit of contrast.

That’s one kind.  There are many kinds, and the lesson is contrast.  Since comparison is persuasive, it’s useful sometimes to point it out.

Let’s start with  Breeden’s article, and the article he wrote that preceded it in which he essentially claimed Apple was misleading people on the battery life of the soon to be released iPad.

The first item traces back to an article written by John Breeden II on February 1st. Here’s what Breeden initially wrote:

“I’ve been covering and reviewing notebooks and battery technology for the past decade, and I know what the current technology is capable of. There is no way that a 1.5-pound computer is going to be able to drive an IPS display for ten hours as Steve Jobs claims. It just can’t happen. Perhaps if you let the iPad lapse into standby mode, you could squeeze it. But if you are actually using the device, my estimate would be less than three hours of power, and that’s being generous. The display would look amazing, but be quite a power hog.”

That was then, this is now.  Today, here’s what Breeden wrote (and you can read the whole article here.)

“As I was finishing this column, I e-mailed him to say that I didn’t mean to imply that he was lying during his iPad presentation, as several people accused me of in their comments. People make presentations written by marketers all the time that are not 100 percent truthful, and it doesn’t make them liars…I figured that would be the end of it.

Surprisingly, in about two hours, Jobs responded. You could tell it was him, too…. There was even a typo in the reply, as if he were in a hurry. I had also mentioned that one of the comments submitted to my original article had been signed with his name.

Jobs’ response: “Sorry, [it] wasn’t me. And, yes, we are getting 10 hours in 1.5 pounds.”

A brief response, but he was extremely nice about the whole thing. Heck, even taking the time to write back when I know he has plenty of other things to do makes him a good guy in my book.”

Breeden was clearly impressed that despite his inferences and accusations casting aspersions on Apple, Steve had the good graces of responding to him personally about it.  I like the contrast of this image of Jobs with the sharper side of his reputation.

What I would have liked a little more of in Breeden’s article is some sense of remorse on his part for essentially calling Jobs (and Apple) a liar.   More is an implied comparison.

Remember, Breeden started by claiming his authority from having reviewed battery technology for over a decade, implying that he knows what he’s talking about when he says “NO WAY”.   But now, he directs readers’ attention away from that claim by focusing, not on a mea culpa, but instead on his glee at having been contacted by Steve Jobs.  And who can blame him.

Because, ok, I get it.  It’s cool that Steve wrote to him.  The reality distortion field got him.  The glee makes sense.  Happens all the time.

And maybe Breeden works with marketing people who think misrepresentation is acceptable, and in his words, such misrepresentation “… doesn’t make them liars.” If that’s so, then a decade of covering technology didn’t help him to realize that Apple doesn’t operate in the same paradigm as the company Breeden seems to keep.  I’m asking the comparative question, is misrepresentation lying or not?

The fact that Steve took the time to politely straighten him out says a lot about Apple Computer and the guy who holds its vision in the world. The products (just like the service, support, and design) are insanely great.  But Breeden was unable to see it with the iPad, because he was blinded by his own prejudices and had already arrived at the end of the road of thought on the matter.  And there’s the contrast.  Insanely great. Unable to see it.

I’ve been using Apple products for as long as they’ve made them. I’m always happy to say that I find their claims do hold up and their products do just work.  Their design sensibility is organized around the user, as opposed to other platforms and their shills who insist the user adapt to their design.  And their service is world class amazing. (Just this morning, I contacted Apple regarding my wife’s Macbook, which has a week of Applecare left on it.  Through a link on the Apple.com website, they called me, and right way!  And I only spent 5 minutes on the phone to get a repair set up and a postage paid box shipped to me so I can send it in to Apple for testing and repair.)  Clearly, I am a big fan.

So if Jobs says it, I tend to trust it.  Increasingly, that’s true for more and more people, as Apple’s growing market share and user base demonstrates. Now, based on Breeden’s writing, can the same be said for him?  When a person speaks with such certainty and is later proven wrong, as Breeden no doubt will be, it undermines their authority and credibility. Because now people will probably compare his next comment to his last comment.

I think the way Breedon could set it right is by recognizing that he owes Apple AND his readers an outright apology. That’s how my Mom brought me up.  She said it takes character to admit to a mistake and apologize for it.  Breeden’s fanboy breathlessness, which, again, I completely understand, still falls short of an apology and does nothing to restore his credibility. A mistake with an apology almost always works out better than a mistake without one, in comparison.

An apology might sound like this. “I was wrong to dispute a claim about battery life in the new iPad based on nothing more than my limited way of looking at things. I am sorry to have misled you, my reader, rather than inform you. If you give me the chance, I’ll do better next time, by either waiting until I know what I’m talking about, or doing enough research to have an informed opinion.”

How different that is from what Breeden actually wrote, comparatively speaking.

“I look forward to testing it in the lab.”  Yeesh!   Well, we all do, actually.  But in the meantime, where’s the benefit of the doubt?  Which goes for me in what I’ve written too.

Now, the second part of this post on contrast has to do with this story from PCWorld. Apparently, a Microsoft V.P. believes that all of us internet users should pay for cleaning up the mess of bad bahavior (hijacked computers, stolen numbers, and plagues of viruses) created by the buggy code under the hood of their Windows operating system.  Buggy code, by the way, is exactly what you might expect to find when someone has reverse engineered a functional system (Mac OS).

Typical of the reactions to this idea is the following comment from keimanzero:

There’s a special club that MicroSoft bigwigs and other big high muckety muck execs in business belong to. It is called ‘Idiots R Us’ and a ‘net tax’ should be filed in the circular file under idiotic lamebrained moronic ideas!

What I see here is a beautiful lesson in contrast.

In the latter case, we’re to never mind the fact that Microsoft continues to be a profitable company that raked in $14.569 billion in 2009 net profits and is sitting on a hoard of  $31.5 billion in cash on-hand. The solution offered is that the problem isn’t their responsibility, it’s ours.

In the former case, the CEO of Apple is responsible right down to the details of the claims he makes for products. But the technology writer, who most likely uses a PC instead of a Mac, fails to take responsibility for his behavior.

Let’s say that another way.  On the one hand, you have a company, Apple Inc., that is responsible in its behavior and for its behavior, that speaks up when someone says something that isn’t true, that fixes problems it creates quickly and without justification, and that doesn’t allow the marketing department to make claims that don’t hold up in the real world.

On the other hand, representing Microsoft, a key person floating the idea to shift the cost of the mess their stuff created onto the rest of us, like it could happen.  Of course I hope that’s not the case.  That’s not the Apple way.

While I’m a mac person, I have friends who make Microsoft products and friends who use Microsoft products and like them. They tell me it is a powerful greenhouse for really smart people. But as to accountability,  there are two ways of doing business. Either your purpose is to serve others, or it’s to serve yourself.  And while these two articles, when considered together, fail to offer a clear contrast between the two companies, still, they offer a powerful lesson in contrast.

Rather than remain silent, I’ve had my say. Now I’m heading back to the Apple.com homepage to stare, er, look at the iPad again!

Your comments and feedback are welcome.

Rick

 

3 Responses

  1. Here’s a beautiful video from Transparent House that visually scans Apple’s design sensibilities starting in 1976
    http://vimeo.com/9820827

  2. Cheryl Rudy says:

    Glad to hear Steve Jobs has matured so well. My parents did business with him in the 70’s and felt he was a bit of a pain. As for Mac users–I wish I was more of one. Sounds like the greener choice for sure. The ones I tested our apps on were always older models–and didn’t handle the bulky code well but to their credit they were still around, up and running and many of our customers were using them.

    • Cheryl, thanks for the comment. I believe the ‘bit of a pain’ description. Jobs is known as a real stickler for details, and from all accounts has a low tolerance for unclarity, ignorance and stupidity.

      But there’s no denying his ability to hold a strong focus and provide technological leadership, as the company he helms has been one of the main agents of change in the computing paradigm for the last 30 years. From the mac to the powerbook to the imac to the ibook to the iphone and now the ipad, his influence continues to shape our world.

      Though I’m clearly an Apple fan, my main purpose is writing the above blog post was to highlight the persuasive contrast of the two stories coming out in a single day. On the one hand, Jobs personally got involved and set a writer straight when the writer, John Breedon, misrepresented the capabilities of the iPad in an online article (using contrast). That’s a high level of personal ownership and responsibility for the products his company makes.

      On the other hand, a key person at Microsoft brought forward the idea that everyone should pay a tax to clean up the mess that resulted from the adoption of the Windows operating system as a standard. That, to me, represents a very low level of personal responsibility and ownership for the products his company makes.

      Contrast and comparison are effective persuasion tools, because they allow you to highlight important ideas.

      Best wishes
      Rick

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