Every company blows it occasionally, even Apple.When Apple rolled out its first cloud service, Mobile Me, a few years ago, the service sucked. It was hard to use, and it didn’t work right.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs quickly apologized publicly for this and fired some of the people responsible.
Then Apple fixed Mobile Me and morphed it into iCloud.
Compare that behaviour to Apple’s reaction its current dud product, Siri.
Siri was unveiled with great hype with the iPhone 4S. Even then, it seemed more of a gimmick than a truly useful tool, but for a few weeks reviewers amused themselves by asking Siri all kinds of questions to see how she would respond. And because Apple’s engineers did a good job of anticipating these questions in advance, the responses really were funny and entertaining.
But then the reality set in.
Siri’s voice recognition isn’t very good, and her response times are often lousy. Basically, she just doesn’t work very well.
Apple protected itself by launching Siri “in beta” (very, very odd for Apple), but you had to work hard to find the “in beta” labels in Apple’s marketing materials.
And if Apple had just backed off Siri until they fixed it, this would have been fine. Again, everyone launches duds once in a while.
But Apple has not backed off.
Instead, Apple just launched a huge new iPhone 4S ad campaign centered around… Siri. The ads feature two celebrities, Samuel Jackson, and Zooey Deschanel, using Siri, and they show Siri working flawlessly.
We’re guessing here, but we think it is highly unlikely that Apple would still be flogging Siri if Steve Jobs were still in charge of the company.
We think Steve Jobs would have either killed Siri or fixed her. And we imagine that he’d have given the Siri engineering team a piece of his mind as well.
We assume that Siri is a critical piece of Apple’s forthcoming TV product and that the company is therefore committed to making Siri work and building the Siri brand.
But that’s still no excuse for continuing to flog a product that’s not ready for prime time.
One of the big risks to Apple in the post-Jobs era is that the company’s standards will begin to slip. Given that Apple seems content to lean into a product that we doubt Steve would have found acceptable is therefore worrisome.
In the meantime, Apple’s stock continues to slip…