commentary Electronic manufacturer Apple is renowned for its ability as a company to control its marketing message. Apple almost never makes comments outside of its official and carefully constructed press statements, and this is arguably one of the key factors in the company's success in recent years. But over the last few months we've seen Apple extend the reach of its silence to those outside its employment, attempting to censure individuals in the media and railroad other technology companies in an effort, one would assume, to control its public image, but these recent actions are creating anything but a positive public image.
Yesterday we published a video clip from the Ellen DeGeneres Show showing comedian Ellen DeGeneres apologising to Apple for spoofing their iPhone advertisements, in which she implied that the iPhone was difficult to use. In her apology, DeGeneres seemed genuinely contrite, choosing her words carefully and contradicting the message in her spoof video in favour of those deemed Apple-friendly.
This came only days after fellow American comedian Jon Stewart slammed Apple on the Daily Show over its handling of the misplaced iPhone 4G affair, which saw the personal property of an editor for the blog Gizmodo seized by police, at the insistence of Apple, after the website published photos of an as-yet unreleased iPhone handset. In the segment on the Daily Show, Stewart played an Apple computers advertisement from the 1980's in which Apple portrayed itself as a company liberating the people from a Big Brother-like dictatorship, but clearly made the point that it was Apple which now assumed the role of an ever-watchful and oppressive regime.
But perhaps more significant than the control of its media identity is the way Apple is now hoping to control development of applications for its App Store. Since its inception in 2008, Apple has been under fire over numerous attempts to control the quality of applications in its store, highlighted best by its recent rejection (then subsequent re-admission) of an app depicting the satirical political cartoons of artist Mark Fiore because it "ridiculed public figures".
Apple plans to take its control over apps one step further, now demanding that developers use a certain set of approved development tools so as to restrict the ability to cross-develop apps to other competing portable computing platforms. This resulted in a public slinging match with software developer Adobe over Apple's decision to exclude its software from this set of allowable developer tools.
No one can argue that Apple should maintain a tight grasp on the message it makes as an organisation and that its employees should toe the company line for as long as they remain under its employment, but gagging the media, forcing apologies, seeking to prosecute and attempting to censure the message about Apple created outside of the walls in Cupertino is not a role it should assume. There must be better ways to garner goodwill than to instigate legal action against those who disagree with its business philosophy.
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