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Apple Had a Brutal Week. Then It Did Something Quite Brilliant

The doomsayers were enjoying the iPhone shortfall. Here’s how Apple changed the conversation.

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 06 Jan 2019

apple brutal week

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

 

It's over.

The iPhone is a thing of the past. No one wants it anymore. Apple's profits will soon be decimated.

And what of Tim Cook's legacy? Will he be the CEO who presided over Apple's demise?

Such were the reactions to last week's news that Apple hadn't sold quite as many iPhones as it had hoped.

Cook tried to explain the many circumstances around the iPhone's shortfall.

People are keeping phones longer. There's a trade war with China. The latest iPhones are a little boring.

Actually, he didn't mention that last one. Still, it would have been easy for Apple to disappear into its spaceship and sulk for a little while.

Instead, it took advantage of the fact that this week sees Las Vegas being garlanded with an unbearable infestation of nerds, the Consumer Electronics Show.

CES is a vast gabfest that claims to be The Global Stage of Innovation.

I've been several times and it's actually a vast descent into the madness of technological hype.

Do you remember the best product at CES last year? Neither do I. Yet the conference gets talked about a lot because, you know, everyone is there.

Everyone but Apple, that is.

Cupertino has long avoided this pornographic gadget-gorging, believing it neither especially relevant nor a good place in which to dominate.

Apple adores dominating the conversation, after all.

This year, though, Apple thought it would offer the tiniest of hello's.

It put up a billboard with a very simple message:

What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.

It is, of course, a homage to the famous Vegas tagline.

Oh, but it's so much more.

It's a brilliant reminder that its rivals, the likes of Amazon and Google, have significant questions to answer when it comes to privacy.

These companies have been so keen on garnering as many users as possible with their so-called smart speakers and digital assistants that they haven't been entirely careful about how your movements are being tracked and even who might listen to your conversations.

Who isn't entertained by headlines such as Amazon Alexa user receives 1,700 audio recordings of a stranger through 'human error.'?

Who wasn't moved by Google CEO Sundar Pichai responding to a Congressman's question as to whether Google could track him across the room?

"Not by default," said Pichai.

More than ever, Apple needs to differentiate its brand from that of others. One of Cook's more noble pursuits has been to defend privacy on moral grounds. (Although Apple's enthusiasm for privacy doesn't seem quite as fervent in, say, China.)

At CES, so many companies will be parading Alexa- or Google Assistant- enabled devices.

Most, if not all, will be perfectly useless monuments to human laziness and tech's desperation to show its self-defined cleverness.

Meanwhile, Apple will be there with a simple message: You know you can't trust those clowns.

Will anyone listen?

Oh, you never know.

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