Apple’s recent apologies

Apple's recent apologiesApple CEO Tim Cook’s apologetic letter to iOS 6 customers is the third large-scale apology the company has issued in so many months. Now the web is wondering: is this evidence of a more “human” Apple, or a company with a problem?

On July 13, Apple posted a letter from then senior vice president of hardware engineering Bob Mansfield(currently “senior vice president”) regarding the EPEAT rating system. Earlier that month, the company hadremoved its products from the EPEAT system and announced that it would not be submitting future hardware for evaluation.

Concerned city and government accounts announced their intention to avoid Macs without EPEAT certification. Apple issued one statement confirming its position before pulling a total reversal, just a week after the initial announcement. Mansfield’s letter read, in part:

“We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.”

Meanwhile, Apple’s retail chief, John Browetttold the company’s retail employees that the company “messed up” when it implemented new staffing formulas that resulted in shift cuts and general disarray among workers. While not a public apology, Browett’s message represented Apple implementing another rapid, 180-degree policy change.

Today, Tim Cook is apologizing to all iOS 6 customers for the current state of its Maps app. For many, the apology was warranted. Users in the UK especially are having a hard time with Maps. It’s very unusual for Apple to release a public product that’s subpar for so many. What happened? Aside from the obvious Herculean task of creating a global mapping application from scratch, that is.

Liz Larson, writing for Fast Company, asks:

“How should companies evaluate which functions are better outsourced and which should be maintained in-house? These often mission-critical decisions — when made out of haste or hubris — can be enough to put brand reputation and loyalty at stake.”

She goes on to say that Apple’s strength is in creating an elegant, aesthetically pleasing experience, not cartography:

“The inner workings of digital cartography don’t directly fall under either of these camps. Based on the public’s consensus of the revamped maps, that much is clear.”

Rene Ritche at iMore has another take on what happened. Or, what continues to happen inside Apple:

“This isn’t a case of measuring a response to an unforeseeable situation twice and cutting it loose to the press and public once. This is a case of risk assessment and mitigation gone wrong, and of brand currency expended. Apple doesn’t only have to fix maps, they have to fix the process that resulted in Tim Cook having to write this letter.”

While it’s unusual for Apple of all companies to be so publicly apologetic, it’s satisfying to feel that complaints are acknowledged and generating action within the company. Thanks, Apple.

Now, fix this thing.