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BLOG: Tim Cook's iPhone apology to China: Weakness, arrogance or evolution?

Jonny Evans | April 3, 2013
Apple [AAPL] appears defensive in its handling of media critics, with CEO, Tim Cook, delivering yet another apology yesterday, this time for matters raised by Chinese state media. Does this mea culpa echo a more open Apple, a firm on the defensive, or is it reflective of a company seeking to redefine itself?

Apple [AAPL] appears defensive in its handling of media critics, with CEO, Tim Cook, delivering yet another apology yesterday, this time for matters raised by Chinese state media. Does this mea culpa echo a more open Apple, a firm on the defensive, or is it reflective of a company seeking to redefine itself?

Apple says sorry to China and China likes it

Chinese Apple

For a recap of the many voices pontificating on Chinese criticism of Apple's iPhone warranty policies, take a look here. Apple also moved to change the way it handles product replacement for Chinese consumers.

Cook's apology appears to have been well received in China, with state media seeming to pull back from its two-week attack on the company over the matter.

Apple's CEO clearly felt a public statement was required in an attempt to underline the importance with which the company regards its growing Chinese market. This itself reflects Apple's understanding that as developed economies contract China and other developing markets will become the biggest global markets.

China's Foreign Ministry praised Apple for "conscientiously" responding to consumers' demands. "We approve of what Apple said," spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing on Tuesday, as reported by Reuters.

Open to discussion?

Apple's CEO's last apology came in the wake of the Apple Maps debacle, when he said: "With the launch of our new Maps ... we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better."

Since then the company has put work into improving its Maps app. It recently began recruiting staff to act as "Ground Truth" verifiers, tasked with checking the accuracy of the firm's mapping data.

This open handling of criticism isn't new. Apple took a similar approach in its handling of negative publicity generated by revelations of the way its workers were treated by third party manufacturing partners.

Apple very publically committed to improving worker's rights, opened itself up to independent reporting and increased its checks on suppliers.

In all these cases Apple has stepped up to address criticism, making promises and taking steps to resolve problems as they are identified.

This readiness to publically face challenges appears to be a watchword of Apple under Tim Cook. More minor criticisms addressed under his leadership include introduction of a share dividend system for stockholders and a move to match fund charitable contributions made by company staff.

Not as arrogant

This willingness to engage is new. Apple under Steve Jobs appeared less willing to engage in such an open-seeming way, a practice that gave the firm a reputation for arrogance. Apple is finding this reputation hard to abandon, despite its increased openness.

 

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