Nibbling at the Apple

Blighted apple

It’s becoming fashionable to take a bite out of Apple. There was Jean-Louis Gassée’s scathing article in the Guardian. There was Jon Gruber (of Daring Fireball) damning Apple with faint praise: blaming the media for cherrypicking the news to weave a narrative about Apple’s slow demise. I expect the chorus to grow louder before it weakens. Blood in the water, and all that.

Apple doesn’t do itself many favors. Its trenchant secrecy used to seem cool – and I daresay it would still be considered cool – if not for the fact that a) competitive technologies are legitimately “catching up” to the iDevices and, b) the company’s accounting tricks seem increasingly slinky and mean-spirited.

Bloomberg reported: “Apple avoided as much as $9.2 billion in taxes by financing part of a $55 billion stock buyback with debt rather than offshore cash that would have been billed by the U.S. government.”

Juxtapose that legal money laundering with the typical mindset of the prototypical iConsumer. I daresay most of Apple’s biggest fans are Obama supporters, and certainly the media tastemakers skew more liberal. At some point the corporate accounting chicanery will sound a discordant note that continues to toll. “These guys at Apple? These are not good guys. They are not pro-American. They’d go to any length to avoid paying taxes that would benefit America’s defense, infrastructure and education. And worst of all, sin above all sins: their tech is now only on-par with everybody else.”

In other words: not cool. Not anymore.

What do you do about this if you work at Apple PR?

Find out my suggestions on the SHIFT Communications blog.

Todd Defren

Posted on: May 7, 2013 at 7:22 am By cpenn
5 Responses to “Nibbling at the Apple”


  • Apple is now being treated as any other large corporation. The media constantly attempts to knock down companies they deem have gotten to big. Very frustrating for Apple and any other big company. The same thing happened with Boeing about the 787 issues!!!

  • Eran Malloch says:

    Accounting ethics aside, I’d have to take 1 very big exception to this article, and that’s the intimation that Apple’s products are better than the competition &/or the competition is “catching up to” Apple.

    As a former iPhone user, I had to come to the realisation that it was NOT the market leader (in terms of technological capabilities) anymore at least 2 years ago.

    Samsung in particular has been out producing Apple in both the phone & tablet market for some time now, and there’s nothing Apple seem to be able to do about this.

    Add Google’s dominance in the portable OS market space with Android (which just keeps getting better & better) and Apple are in big trouble IMO.

    Long version short: they’d better innovate like a mad man FAST or they risk losing their market leadership completely…

  • Kyle Jones says:

    I agree with David King. The media loves a downfall as it makes for better “news” than does “Apple continues to strive.” I am also an Apple-fan.

    It is a sad coincidence that this proverbial downfall coincides when Tim Cook took the reigns post-Steve Jobs.

  • bonnie says:

    While it seems to be more of a management issue riddled with top-heavy, add-more-zeros-to-the-end-of-my-bonus-check “visionaries”…I guess it does at some point trickle down to being a PR problem.

    Why is it that PR has to polish the turds that corrupt management plop down into their laps?

    The real answer, in my opinion, would be stopping the machine. Hostile takeover of stock/Changing the Board of Directors/ Fire the idiots on the top/ Replace them with competent, ethical individuals.

    The only “real” way to fix the problem is top-down.

  • David King says:

    Apple-fan here (and yes a Democrat). I’m not sure how much effect the PR team can have. It’s part of the cycle that media darlings eventually come down from their perch, especially because it’s so much more enticing to smudge a perfect reputation than one where bad behavior is expected. I would see this more as a CEO problem spanning R&D, product managers, operations, accounting, etc.

    It’s going to be a frustrating ride for their PR team, especially because of the expectations set throughout the company, but they’ll have to get use to the occasional criticism like everyone else.

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