For years, Apple has been held to a completely different standard than the rest of the tech industry. Whereas a company like Google can pursue and then shutter any number of ambitious “moonshots” and ultimately be applauded for their efforts, Apple is routinely criticized for not coming up with a device as revolutionary as the iPhone every 5 years. In a broad sense, Apple is forced to endure a level of criticism that no other tech company on the planet has to deal with.
To be fair, a good deal of the attention and scrutiny directed at Apple is not undeserved. After all, the company over the past few decades helped transform not one but three separate industries. That being the case, it’s only natural for expectations surrounding Apple to be a little bit higher than it is for others. But sometimes the critiques flowing in Apple’s direction become so ludicrous that we have to pause, take a step back, and point out just how absurd the tech press can become.
Recently, Apple executives, along with two Siri scientists, sat down for a fascinating interview with Steven Levy of Backchannel. The piece provided an incredible glimpse into some of the work Apple is doing in the field of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. For a company as notoriously secretive as Apple, the informative expose was a must-read for anyone who follows the company in particular or the tech industry at large. Not only was the piece informative from a technical perspective, it provided no shortage of details explaining how Apple’s ongoing work in AI has helped improve the overall iPhone user experience.
But in quick order, it didn’t take long for critics to start taking jabs at Apple for an ostensible PR piece that tech companies all across Silicon Valley routinely engage in. From Amazon and Microsoft to Google and Facebook, every major tech company you can think often make its top executives available for what are effectively “let us brag about our technology” features.
And that’s all great and entertaining, but when Apple does it, it’s because there’s a problem. In fact, in the wake of the aforementioned Backchannel piece, some people went so far as to either imply or outright state that Apple never engaged in this type of desperate PR when Steve Jobs was around. Yes, it’s 2016 and some people still can’t help but compare everything Apple does to what they think Apple would have done if Steve Jobs was still alive.
It’s pure nonsense, but Apple today still finds itself stuck in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” predicament.
To wit, here’s Owen Williams’ take.
It was actually one of the more substantive looks inside Apple we’ve seen in a long time.
And here, Om Malik yearns for the Apple of yore.
There was a time when Apple's products spoke for the company. Now it is the executives who try & tell the Apple story. Just saying!
— OM (@om) August 24, 2016
Curiously, Malik just a few weeks ago had this to say:
I was on Leo Laporte’s TWIT show yesterday and ended up going on a bit of a rant about Apple and “Planet of the Apps.” My view on “content” efforts like this is pretty simple. It is distracting, non-core to Apple and basically avoids the bigger challenges: how to add data and Internet DNA into a company that has managed to struggle with services. The App Store needs more smarts and better search, and it needs to take a contemporary, data-centric approach to surfacing apps. “Planet of the Apps” is just an old media-like thinking applied to “apps.” I might be the only one who feels that way, but the reality is that these kinds of efforts are really not good for Apple at a time when it is competing with Google, Amazon and Facebook.
So Apple comes in with a math-heavy piece where they detail some of the advanced AI things they’re implementing across the entirety of their software suite and Malik has a problem with that too?
One rebuttal to Malik’s tweet worth mentioning reads:
I think I remember Steve giving an interview or two… pic.twitter.com/HftONdCUEl
— Roo_44 (@roo_44) August 25, 2016
For years we heard complaints that Apple was too secretive, that we didn’t really get a sense of who ran the company, save of course for Steve Jobs. With Tim Cook at the helm, Apple has done an impressive job of becoming more open, transparent and even friendly with the press. Still, the criticisms come in from all angles.
As another illustrative example, consider this: Mashable earlier this summer criticized Apple for improving the Apple Watch UI, essentially arguing that there wouldn’t have even been a problem to fix if Steve Jobs was still around.
So it goes in Apple-land.