“Inept at verbal warfare”: Apple blasted by former senior executive Jean-Louis Gassée

Former Apple executive and Be founder Jean-Louis Gassée has attacked the communications methods of several current senior executives, including vice president of marketing Phil Schiller, describing them as being “inept at verbal warfare”.

Last week, on the eve of the launch of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone, Schiller made a range of comments attacking the Korean smartphone maker, while incorrectly predicting the new smartphone would launch with a year-old version of Android.

“With their own data, only 16% of Android users are on year-old version of the operating system. Over 50% are still on software that is two years old. A really big difference,” Schiller said.

In a blog post, Gassée has attacked Schiller over his comments.

“Apple is held to a (well earned) different standard. Once a challenger with an uncertain future, Apple has become The Man,” Gassée says.

“Years ago, it could productively poke fun at Microsoft in the great I’m a Mac, You’re a PC campaign, but the days of taking pot-shots at the incumbent are over.

“Because of its position at the top, Apple should have the grace to not trash its competitors, especially when the digs are humourless and further weakened by error.

“Attacking competitors, pointing to their weaknesses, and trumpeting one’s achievements is better done by hired media assassins. A company, directly or through a PR firm, engages oft-quoted consultants who provide the required third-party stats, barbs, and encomiums. This isn’t theorising, I once was a director at a company, one of many, that used such an arrangement to good effect.

Gassée also attacks the company for its over-use of superlatives, noting the number of times positive terms such as “strong” (58 uses), “amazing” (eight uses) and “thrilled” (13 uses) appeared during part of a speech where the terms “disappoint”, “weak” or “fail” were not used at all.

“But, you’ll object, what’s wrong with being positive? Nothing, but this isn’t about optimism, it’s about hyperbole and the abuse of language. Saying ‘incredible’ too many times leads to incredulity. Saying ‘maniacally focused’ at all is out of place and gauche in an earnings call.

“When words become empty, the listener loses faith in the speaker. Apple has lost control of the narrative; the company has let others define its story. This is a war of words and Apple is proving to be inept at verbal warfare.”


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