Any good musician will tell you that what you don’t play is as important as what you do play.
Filmmakers have milked the pregnant pause as long as there has been film.
Apple, as we well know, is a big believer in silence as well. In fact, the most intense buzz actually begins when Apple says the words, “no comment.” That’s merely the cue for rampant speculation to begin.
But hey, this is part of the fun. Apple has relied on secrecy for years, all to build anticipation for the moment when Steve Jobs gets on stage to pull the curtain once again.
However, Apple is also enamored of another kind of silence. They tend to shut down when things take a dark turn — as they did with the iPhone antenna issue, or the more recent iPhone location-tracking issue.
Unfortunately, these are the times when people most need to hear something. Anything.
In talking about the location-tracking flareup the other day, I used the analogy of air travel. It’s horribly frustrating when the pilot keeps passengers in the dark about a long delay, but he relieves all the pressure by simply getting on the PA system to acknowledge the problem.
I get — and totally appreciate — Apple’s explanation that these are complicated issues, that they need time to understand what’s happening and formulate the proper response. They certainly need to be thoughtful. But the airline pilot doesn’t need to understand all the reasons why that airplane is blocking our gate before he tells us we’ll be delayed. It’s common courtesy. It doesn’t make passengers gleeful, but it does quell the mass rebellion in the cabin.
In both Antennagate and Locationgate, Apple could have done the same thing — acknowledge the issue and promise to tell us more as soon as they are able.
The Apple of old might have been able to get away with the silent treatment. But this Apple is different. As the biggest technology company on earth, it’s become a huge, juicy target. By going silent when negative issues arise, they gain nothing — they only encourage the image of arrogance and unresponsiveness. It’s just not necessary.
Last week, Apple came up with yet another way to play the silence card. They announced that the white iPhone is finally shipping, but failed to mention one little detail. It’s a tiny bit thicker than the black iPhone.
(Update, May 3: I fell into an embarrassing trap, and I have to take it like a man. With so many sites reporting that the white iPhone was thicker than the black one —with photographic evidence — I assumed it was true. Not. Consumer Reports stepped up to the plate with a micrometer to put the rumor to rest. So … never mind. I’ll be more vigilant next time.)
This isn’t the kind of thing you shout in a TV commercial. But it is the kind of thing you note in a press release — spinning it to show how cleverly Apple overcame the engineering challenge. To say nothing, and leave it for others to discover, is just asking for another black mark. (Phil Schiller went on record this morning to say the thicker white iPhone story is “junk.” Interesting, because that doesn’t exactly match up with the photos. Anyone have a micrometer?)
Maybe Apple should tweak their policy on silence a wee bit. It’s inevitable that the brand takes a hit now and then. It’s just a shame when the damage is self-inflicted.