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Why Steve Jobs gets a C+

If the blogosphere is to be believed, Steve Jobs got an A for his performance in Friday's press conference, which addressed complaints about the iPhone 4's antenna. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Attensity360, a research firm that studies consumer opinion on blogs and other social media, said Mr. Job's performance was a "qualified success," with "negative conversation" about the iPhone 4 down 30% compared to seven days prior.

I'm not sure I'd be so generous.

The Apple CEO may have succeeded in dampening the hysteria about the antenna's design. But if we just consider the kind of leadership qualities Jobs displayed during the much-hyped press event, I can't give him much more than a C plus.

First, the good. Jobs started his presentation by admitting right off the bat that "we're not perfect," three words Apple watchers don't expect to hear from the infamously meticulous CEO. By presenting his arguments simply and clearly and repeating the company's zeal for its customers, he helped to make his case. And by offering free cases to users, he shows the company is serious about the issue and willing to feel a financial pinch as a result.

But in other ways, Jobs' leadership qualities were lacking. When he used the phrase "Antennagate," he risked an air of mockery that could have offended those customers who have had problems. His "blame the media" strategy--Jobs repeatedly called out the press for blowing the problem out of proportion--will appear dismissive to some.

My biggest complaint: Jobs spent almost five minutes, or about one-sixth of his total presentation, talking about how the antenna problem isn't unique to Apple. He even played lengthy video clips of competitors' phones, illustrating how those handsets also drop bars, or lose coverage, when the phone is held in a certain way.

In other words, he invokes a defense more common among six-year-olds than distinguished leaders: Everyone else is doing it, too. Jobs may be right in saying that, "This is life in the smartphone world," and that the antenna issue is "a challenge for the whole industry." But to dwell on those comparisons for so long seemed overwrought and--even worse for a company built on being distinctive--risked lumping the iPhone in with its competitors.

How would you grade Jobs' performance Friday as a leader?

By Jena McGregor

 |  July 19, 2010; 7:00 AM ET |  Category:  Corporate leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Weekend reads: At last, a leadership app? | Next: Top Secret America: What we learn from 'too big to fail'


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Hi Jena!

Great article. Just to explain our data a little further - we tracked an improvement in sentiment of the iPhone product, not necessarily Steve Jobs. We didn't see a significant enough shift to write about. Although, yes, the three entities: Steve, Apple and iPhone are inextricably linked.


Maria Ogneva, Director of Social Media, Attensity

Posted by: mogneva | July 21, 2010 7:34 PM

How petty can YOU get?!!!

Posted by: dmdavidove | July 21, 2010 2:47 PM

I give this blog a C-. The three criticisms it raises are more common to Republicans/Neocons than six year olds. giving a problem a silly name (antennagate), blame the press, and "they do it too," are classic defenses used mostly by the RNC

Posted by: webman2 | July 21, 2010 10:30 AM

I'm surprised that he would do that, but I don't trust these "HARD FACTS" for a few reasons. Simply because knowing AT&T for many years they'll probably lie about the drop calls to look better but hey that's just me. And another reason why I don't and won't believe in those facts is because of the Apple Care stuff. He didn't mention about the people going to the stores and talking about those problems (he only talked about people calling, just saying). Either I'm still planning on getting one, just hoping the problem could be fixed without having to get the bumper lol.

Posted by: IsmaelS | July 20, 2010 10:50 PM

I am amazed at how many people did not seem to understand what Jobs was saying.

Sure, we hear the old criticisms that he's arrogant. That's from people who seem to think that no matter what he says, he was arrogant. (Never mind his apologetic tone.) One has to conclude these people are tone deaf to apologies from people they despise.

Apple explained it very clearly. That it didn't live up to the demands of all the people who had no clue before the press conference is irrelevant. Apple addressed the issue: It's a problem for sure (but other phones have the same problem, and nobody seems to want to tar and feather them for it). They are working on better fixes. The iPhone 4 has fewer than one percent more dropped calls than the iPhone 3Gs, it has 1/3 the return rate of the same phone, and customer satisfaction numbers (HARD NUMBERS, not narcissistic bloggers bloviating to hear themselves whine) are very positive.

And yet the C+ here is given by someone who obvously hasan agenda other than the truth. Because there's no two ways around it. The hard numbers show the problem is being blown out of proportion. Apple is offering a free case, which might seem like an empty gesture, but considering all the facts, the issue does not require a recall, which Apple left the possibility of happening after Sept 30 depending on what they figure out.

It is a dog pile on Apple. And the Fandroids and the rest of the Apple haters are having a field day. The same people who have pathetically bad memories, as proof has beeng going up ever since Friday, that a very large number of phones as far back as 2006 came with instructions telling people not to touch certain areas of the phones referenced, because it causes blocked signals and unusual battery drain. Note, that's a year before the first iPhone even came out.

Posted by: leicaman | July 20, 2010 5:23 PM

i dont know about C+ but i would definitely give him an A for "Arrogant" an an F for fail for Apple.

Posted by: sorlag | July 20, 2010 3:19 PM

Apple iPhone 4 Antennagate Conference Decoded: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yY0fSstgoo

Posted by: TiffanyBliss | July 20, 2010 11:17 AM

The key moment was when Jobs played the "iphone antenna song" YouTube clip. It was so smug and snide, and didn't come off as remotely humorous. It seems totally incredible to me that Apple can get away with this when Microsoft would get absolutely hosed in the very same situation...and I'm a HUGE apple person...

Posted by: Everyman2 | July 20, 2010 8:49 AM

Successful leaders have big egos. That comes with the territory. They take big risks, they make big mistakes, they rub lots of people the wrong way. That all comes with the territory, too. How many of us have real experience playing in such a high-stakes arena? Try running a major corporation for a few decades; your complaints regarding, say, Steve Jobs' leadership skills, may then actually be of some value.

Posted by: notaliberalx | July 20, 2010 3:59 AM

The Obama Deception, the Censored video - Obama and the American Government, Doesn't Want You to See!

Posted by: PaulRevere4 | July 19, 2010 11:34 PM

and you can "grade" Job's performance after he shows sales figures for this and next quarter, until then, your attempt at grading can be compared to how much money Apple made today for every user and shareholder in the time it takes for him to sneeze, which can be calculated to be more than some blogger from the washington post will make in a life time.

but feel free to grade all you want, those that can't, grade those that can....

Posted by: honkj | July 19, 2010 10:08 PM

The best thing to know about people spewing such hate is the only kind of people doing it are failing in their life endeavors, every one of them, and feel better about themselves if they hate speech on anything successful like the iPhone 4, that is the sort of person spewing hate.

. in the mean time, Apple can not make iPhone 4s fast enough to satisfy demand as we speak... that is a fact people will wonder about in coming months that will pretty much put this hate speech to bed.

they can't make them fast enough, speaks volumes to what the real "problem" is.

Posted by: honkj | July 19, 2010 10:00 PM

Did Steve Jobs give a seminar about the theory of leadership? Sorry I missed it.

Posted by: dcc1968 | July 19, 2010 8:07 PM

Snoozergate, more like. This story is so last week. Meanwhile, over the weekend they probably sold another half million iPhones. Personally I just wish I was eligible to upgrade to this oh-so-flawed, best phone in the world. iPhone was never about about having the best phone reception... iPhone is a pocket computer with decent (though not exceptional) phone reception. It's also the only such pocket computer that is useable as much *besides* a phone, because its operating system, apps, and display blow everything else out of the water.

Posted by: frededias | July 19, 2010 7:51 PM

The biggest complaint I have is the way they lied to the customers. First, there is no problem. Then, there is a problem, but every cell phone suffers from it. Then, it's not a hardware probablem, it's a software problem. Finally, oops, here are your free bumper covers.

Posted by: richard27 | July 19, 2010 7:42 PM

OK I'll play. Suppose I like apple products, call me a fanboy, fine. I'm not just a fanboy though, I have a brain. So yes, I am biased . . . but so are you. You would not post if you had no opinion.

The iPhone 4 that I own is working great, no issues with dropped calls. There is however a proximity switch issue that I'm very glad to hear is being worked on. If the media were at all concerned about the user, instead of just bashing the leader, they would have made the story about the proximity switch.

The info that Jobs presented was NOT hard data, we at least agree there. It was based on hard data but presented in a way that makes their case. What were you expecting? I think that's exactly what any company would do.

So to KRUZTY1X congratulation for calling me a dweeb and a lemming, but I decided to buy the iPhone knowing the problems and agreeing with consumer reports . . . that in spite of a couple of issues it is still the best phone available. I wish you well, and I hope all your buying decisions turn out for you as well as my decision to buy apple stock 6 years ago.

Posted by: schininis | July 19, 2010 6:58 PM

The "biggest complaint" here is, I have to say, unconscionably foolish. McGregor is attempting to analyze an argument being made by Apple/Steve Jobs, and in so doing demonstrates serious misunderstanding about the type of argument being made. Her summary of Apple's argument, "everyone else is doing it too," is in a different category of logic than the one represented by Jobs. "Everyone else is doing it too" implies the willful commission of a mistake, but the argument being made is that the "mistake" is a technological shortcoming that neither Apple nor anyone else has yet been able to solve. Put another way, this "biggest complaint" is categorically similar to blaming McGregor's six-year-old for not being able to drive a car yet. The six-year-old would naturally respond that no other six-year-olds can drive yet, either. If it's true that other phone manufacturers suffer the same problem, and no one has solved it yet, then Apple's is a valid response.
This should not be read to mean that I'm saying Apple's argument is true -- I don't know whether it is -- but McGregor's analysis completely misrepresents the nature of Apple's argument, and so is counterproductive to helping anyone understand this situation. It's either simply foolish, grossly misinformed, or disingenuous.
McGregor should instead have attempted to determine the truthfulness of what Apple is saying, and therefore the validity of such statements from its CEO in the context of a business blog. It doesn't matter that this isn't a technology blog. Call an expert source (or two), ask, "Is it true that this problem exists across the board, in competing products as well?" Then, incorporate whatever you learn into the analysis you publish. That would be edifying. That would be journalism. This isn't.

Posted by: aratuk | July 19, 2010 6:52 PM

Toys for adults

Posted by: Namenicked | July 19, 2010 6:07 PM

Glad to see the fanbois are here to rush to Steve's defense!! Hilarious.

Posted by: uscsmog | July 19, 2010 5:55 PM

I think it's really great how Jobs knows his loyal subjects so well that he can basically come out and say that whatever problem they might be having with their phone is no big thing and they should just shut up already. Take your free case and shut up! Really, how many applebots are going to return their magical phone? These are the same dweebs that spent 8 years crossing the desert to get one. I never saw a more pathetic lot in my life. Jobs knows this all too well. Look how many of these things he's pushed out the door so far.
So shut up, lemmings, and stay in line!

Posted by: kruzty1x | July 19, 2010 5:28 PM

It's not hard data at all, apple fanboyz just believe what they want to believe.

Don't be evil no matter how successful you are.


Posted by: sosola74688x | July 19, 2010 5:26 PM

You completely miss the point!

There is no problem; Jobs presented the science!

This has been the “blogs” (Gizmodo) against Jobs-

JER222 7-19-10

Posted by: JER222 | July 19, 2010 5:25 PM

Great article but definitely a C- for Steve Job ! Wake up ! iFanbois !!


Posted by: YoYo4 | July 19, 2010 5:18 PM

I give Steve Jobs' performance an A because he presented hard data that cannot be refuted. But, your analysis merits an F because it is so shallow. It is clear you do not grasp that cell phone antenna attenuation is an industry-wide problem.

Posted by: query0 | July 19, 2010 5:12 PM

He gets an A+ just for putting up with the witch hunt that Gizmodo started. Consumer Reports is protecting who exactly?

I don't understand how people who don't even own the phone are acting like apple owes them something . . . the phone has a minor issue that only happens if you are in an area with really crappy service. Apple came through with a decent fix, done. None of the folks that have the phone are trying to return it, so why does anyone else care . . . because they want to sell you a droid. Instead of getting all worked up and demanding apple apologize to the world, relax and watch this . . . start at 1:25 - 2:30 if you are in a hurry.


Posted by: schininis | July 19, 2010 5:04 PM

Funny that you're not feeling so generous, Ms McGregor. Neither am I. You get a resounding F for this lame click-baiting excuse for an article. Honestly, who do you think you are, thinking you have anything to teach Steve Jobs, one of the world's most respected and beloved businessmen and CEO's, about LEADERSHIP? I mean, if you claimed to have something to teach him about fishing, or dancing, or even writing, I could give you the benefit of the doubt. But LEADERSHIP? Give us a break. In my book, Steve Jobs gets an A+ for being an awesome guy and for dedicating his life to help humanity by creating amazing technology products (and entertainment, or have you not heard of a tiny company named Pixar?). You, my dear Washington Post blogger I never heard of, get an epic F for your outright presumptuousness and dubious ethics, as clearly manifested by your trying to cash out on the hard-earned fame of the good people at Apple (not that your ethics are any worse than 99% of the media these days, unfortunately).

Posted by: mathprofessor | July 19, 2010 4:59 PM

Steve Jobs is too arrogant and it showed in his presentation. Get over yourself Steve - your making telephones, not saving the world.

Posted by: ehancock1 | July 19, 2010 4:50 PM

How can he get a C+ for being a liar? Oh I forgot we are so used to our politicians telling us bald face lies, lies from Jobs don't matter that much. Are we still going to get that software fix? LOL

Posted by: g30rg3544 | July 19, 2010 4:46 PM

The problem with the I-Phone is it is an I-Pod pretending to be a phone and it has made a hopeless job of the pretence. If you phone using a Nokia or any other smart phones that started out as phones on the other hand you get a phone that is pretending to be an I-Pod and they make a pretty good job of the pretence.

Phone any of these real phones and you can actually hear what people are saying but use the Judas phone and you still wouldn't know who had been nailed up on the cross and who had taken the thirty pieces of silver up to this very day.

Posted by: Proximaking | July 19, 2010 4:43 PM

You guys are all crazy. He took responsibility for the problem despite showing hard data that the antenna problems is affecting a small % of users. It is obvious that the media/blogosphere takes a more critical look at Apple's products than any others; some of that is Apple's own making because they strive for perfection and some of it is unwarranted criticism for people trying to create a story. And THAT is why he has every right to address/blame the media directly because this won't be the last "non-issue" he'll have to address. And why not spend time showing how his competitors phones have problems; this is one of the most competitive industries out there where so much business is based on perception. I give his leadership a B+. My criticism of his performances in general is how often he repeats his points at a dramatically slow pace. I think its for effect, but often makes me feel like I'm a kid. The bottomline is that he continues to take the right steps to make Apple's users happy.

Posted by: gavrojames | July 19, 2010 4:42 PM

I give Jobs a "D" but my one opinion is meaningless...the opinions of the masses rule and they either liked what Jobs has to say or frankly don't care. Like that funny video says, "I want an iPhone 4." Does not matter. Most of America was not listening to Jobs. The iPhone 4 will see a bit lower sales due to this, but only short-term and it won't have carry-over effect.

Howeer, the world's point of view, Jobs did fine. And now other companies are clamoring to get his help solving their pressing PR issues. First up was BP.

Check out the transcript of what Steve Jobs, BP's new Chief Speaking Officer, had to say on behalf of the oil giant.



Posted by: eye95 | July 19, 2010 4:40 PM

I give this article a C-

Posted by: pjp1 | July 19, 2010 4:36 PM

A C+? How about a D+? There wasn't much leadership displayed. If Apple keeps acting like Microsoft, it's going to get a similar reputation. They are still handling this very poorly -- even if it is "overblown."

Posted by: JMW77 | July 19, 2010 4:33 PM

For those who dont know John Gruber uncovered instructions from the HTC Droid Eris user manual, which detail on how not to hold the phone.
To understand the irony, Steve Jobs was blasted when he said to a user in an email complaining about the iPhone 4 death grip to just hold the phone in a different way.
Gruber also linked to videos showing attenuation problems with other competing smartphones, like the Palm Pre, BlackBerry 9650 (on Verizon), the HTC Droid Incredible, and the Google Nexus One.

Posted by: pjp1 | July 19, 2010 4:32 PM

seems verrryyyy childish when u have prob balme others in effort to escape.

to begin with the other smartphones he showed off android and rim scenario's were very specific (ie in weak signal areas)

as compared iphone4 loses signal even when there is strong signal

Posted by: zstarnet | July 19, 2010 4:30 PM

I could have spent 10 minutes showing how my 6 year old phone has hardware features that his products still don't have.

He gets points for being brazenly full of crap most every day I read about Apple products.

Posted by: Nymous | July 19, 2010 4:30 PM

I have to say, this is the most overblown issue I have seen in a long time. I have had my iPhone 4 for about 2 weeks now and it is my opinion (and the opinion of millions more) that this is the best phone I have ever had. Yes, if I purposely place my thumb or the fleshy part of my lower palm directly over the antenna I will eventually drop bars but why would I want to do that? I now no longer drop calls where I used to with my other iPhones and I don't think I even have to talk about the overall quality, fit and finish of the new 4. I have had all previous generations of the iPhones now and have had cases for all of them. I just bought an Incipio Feather case for my iPhone 4 which is 1mm thin and covers the back and sides of my phone and now I cannot make the bars go down if I wanted to. The only mistake Apple made, in my opinion, was not giving the dimensions of the new phone to the case developers before the launch so there would be a large variety of cases when people went to purchase their phones(like the previous models). If they had done that, people would have most likely purchased their cases at the point of sale and there would be little if any issue. Stop whining folks! In another few weeks, there will be an abundance of cases to choose from and If you like the phone, accept the free case from Apple and if you don't like the phone, take it back and get you money in addition to being released from your contract. Enough already!

Posted by: tjackson1000 | July 19, 2010 4:18 PM

So you are saying that Mr. Jobs performance was *above* average.

Well done, Steve!

Posted by: TimAtBeat | July 19, 2010 3:59 PM

I've never heard of anyone selling a brand new product already broken. There should be no need to have to use a rubber case to fix the problem--I know it, my friends know it, and STEVE JOBS KNOWS IT! I don't understand why he can't admit his failure. Geez, everybody makes mistakes or how else would we learn from them? I was going to buy the 4G; in fact, I waited quite awhile until it came out. But all the bad (and true) publicity came out and I changed my mind. Verizon's Android has had nothing but good reviews. Is that so hard for you to swallow, Mr. Jobs? I think you're a pitiful soul who has to be right all of the time. Sad.

Posted by: jbrown328 | July 19, 2010 3:59 PM

A C+ is pretty generous. I watched the infomerc....uh, the press conference just once, but the entire event was ludicrous. From 'This is the best smartphone ever' to 'we're just like everyone else', Jobs pride has gotten in the way again. Sure, there were less complaints than with the iPhone3 - the features that were improved got a little better, while actually using the device as a phone is the same as it ever was...a terrible experience. Some of the blame belongs on AT&T's shoulders, but the whole, 'Oops, we made a shocking discovery! We write bad software!' goes well beyond bizarre.

I thought Apple was supposed to be a trend setter? Well, it's been set, and now they're going to eaten to the core.

Posted by: LovinItAll | July 19, 2010 3:58 PM

Steve saying we're all engineers and making such an obvious mistake in engineering design says many things--most of them not good. And blaming the customer is also a no-no.

So while what they're now doing is good, I think the way they went about it says more about the the real company than they would like to hear.

Posted by: rrosen3 | July 19, 2010 3:54 PM

Not only did Jobs claim that other phones had similar problems, he opened Apple up to responses from RIM, HTC, Nokia etc. HTC's stats showed 1/34th the share of its users complaining of dropped calls as did iPhone4 users. Other smart phone makers didn't take Apple's accusations well.

Isn't the real question if and when Apple would to revise the antenna design during the iPhone4's production life?

Posted by: bobgeo | July 19, 2010 3:54 PM

I agree with the author, and I'm glad this is getting exposure.

To me, this presentation screamed of immaturity and irresponsibility. While Steve was willing to say "We're not perfect," I never got the idea that he was apologetic or would take responsibility for the problem. Beyond that, the inclusion of the YouTube video to start the conference seemed very shortsighted to me. Choosing to include the video was an endorsement of the video by Apple, which to me says they stand by everything the (video's) author stated in his song. A very polarizing move.

It's impossible to deny that Steve Jobs is a great CEO and that Apple is a company with a reputation for putting out quality products, but I can't endorse a company whose leadership acts the way that Steve Jobs acted on Friday.

Posted by: rmcray08 | July 19, 2010 3:50 PM

Hey Bill---Oooops---Steve>> getting so easy to mix them up these days....
Think your QA needs alittle education..wait a minute...I said that about Windows..Ummmm..something similar here??

Posted by: rw62827 | July 19, 2010 3:44 PM

Jobs and Apple have handled the issue excellently. 'Antennagate' is nothing but a nonsense, made up story.

Posted by: mikeb1000 | July 19, 2010 3:39 PM

It was hopeless no matter what Jobs did. The 4G should never have gotten anywhere near production, and any way you slice it, no product Apple ever introduces will escape the taint from this monumental case of hear-no-evil, see-no-evil. It's plain that the company is staffed with people afraid to tell the truth.

Posted by: kls1 | July 19, 2010 3:08 PM

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