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Apple's Surprising and Disappointing Marketing Fail - Software Malpractice?

The best product and marketing company on earth screws up

Apple's Surprising Marketing Blunder
Along with hoards of other people, I upgraded my perfectly good iPhone 4 for the new iPhone 4S. Why? Siri. Am I happy?  No.

I "listened" to the iPhone 4S launch - from live blog streams. I was honestly quite disappointed.  A faster processor?  The iPhone 4 was fast enough for me. Same "defective" exposed-glass design that is guaranteed to shatter the first time you drop it (my first iPhone 4 lasted two days).  Heck, you can't even show your new iPhone off because it looks identical to the old one. No crowds of people asking you "what do you think of your new iPhone????"

The One Thing
The one somewhat new feature - Siri. Of course, Siri used to be available on all iPhones (albeit not as integrated) until IOS 5.0 came along.  At first, I decided to wait for a real iPhone upgrade.  But I couldn't hold out, I "had" to have Siri.  So I shelled out $199 and signed up for a 2 year AT&T extension.  All so I could bask in the glory of having my own personal digital assistant named Siri.

So far, Apple's done an astonishing marketing job. They've somehow convinced me to buy something that I not only didn't need, but didn't really want.  I wanted something new, whiz-bang magic. Something that looked different. And something that wasn't incredibly fragile.

Then I Started Using Siri
One of my core beliefs is that a great product is great marketing. Conversely, a crappy product is bad marketing.

Siri is a bad product.  It is defective in operation as well as design.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. When it works, it works pretty well.  When it doesn't work, it's infuriating.  I love it.  I hate it.  It has such great promise.  It totally fails to deliver.

Sometimes, Siri will go for extended periods of time, and simply not be able to process any requests at all.  By that, I mean that it usually just ignores you - as if you hadn't said anything at all.  Or sometimes it will tell you that it's not working.

Software Malpractice
Worse than that, when Siri fails, it forgets what you told it. That's why the design is defective. A capably designed product would buffer and store your voice message locally on the phone.  If the Siri servers couldn't be contacted or were overloaded, it would either automatically retry, or would give you the option - for example "I'm busy right now, can I try your command again in 30 seconds?"

Siri Fail

Instead, it just LOSES your message. Which can be quite infuriating if you've just dictated a paragraph long email.

Can you imagine a word processing program that would just randomly LOSE a sentence or a paragraph - as if you had never typed it at all?  No company would release such a product.  That'd be a totally defective product - software malpractice.  But that's what Apple has done.

Other times, Siri just refuses to work.  You try to turn it on, and it just turns itself back off.  Rebooting the phone seems to fix it.  Or going into the Configuration screen, turning Siri off and then turning Siri back on again.  Going back to the word processing analogy - a word processing application that required a reboot of the PC to use would be ridiculed.

Apple's Product and Marketing #FAIL
All in all, Siri is a product that is NOT ready for prime-time.  Yet, Apple chose to make Siri the cornerstone of its marketing campaign for the iPhone 4S.  In my mind, that makes it a marketing #FAIL.

A Defective Product is Defective Marketing
A disappointing thing from a company that I consider to be the best product and marketing company on the planet.

More Stories By Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell Software. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. You can also reach Hollis on LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/SoftwareHollis. His latest online venture is OnlineBackupNews - a free reference site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems from threats. Every year IT Downtime Costs $26.5 Billion In Lost Revenue. Even with such high costs, 56% of enterprises in North America and 30% in Europe don’t have a good disaster recovery plan. Online Backup News aims to make sure you all have the news and tips needed to keep your IT Costs down and your information safe by providing best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers. He is also an author on Social Media Today "The World's Best Thinkers on Social Media", and maintains a blog focused on protecting data: Online Backup News.
He tweets actively as @SoftwareHollis

Additional information is available at HollisTibbetts.com

All opinions expressed in the author's articles are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.