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Tech’s Biggest Cases of Humble Pie

RIM on BlackBerry Outage
It may not have had the scale of Sony’s PSN problems, but as we approach the one year anniversary of RIM’s four day BlackBerry services outage there is no doubt it suffered the more haunting experience.

“Since launching BlackBerry in 1999, it’s been my goal to provide reliable real-time communication around the world,” said a painfully contrite RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis three days into the downtime. “We did not deliver on that goal this week, not even close. I apologise for the service outages this week, we’ve let many of you down… you expect better from us and I expect better from us.”

The phrasing of Lazardis’ apology said it all. Reliability and security had been at the core of RIM’s stuttering customer appeal. 12 months on with Lazardis and joint CEO Jim Basillie gone, BB10 still months from release and having suffered another services outage just one week ago, RIM has yet to recover.

Nokia on faking Nokia Lumia 920 PureView Performance

Timing is everything when it comes to the impact of the failures and errors that lead to corporate apologies. As such even seemingly minor mistakes can be crucial and we await to see whether that is the case for Nokia.

Earlier this month the company admitted it faked footage which overstated the abilities of the Lumis 920’s PureView optical image stabilisation, saying “we should have posted a disclaimer stating this was a representation of OIS only. This was not shot with a Lumia 920. At least, not yet. We apologize for the confusion we created.”

The company has a track record of such tall tales (Symbian never worked like this), but it is far from alone in wildly exaggerating performance. The bigger question is whether this latest embarrassing climb down for Nokia has the potential to knock it out just as exciting hardware like the Lumia 920 looked set to restore some credibility. For a 147 year old company it would be a pretty tragic way to go out. Self inflicted blows can be the most painful, speaking of which…

Apple on a lot
While it is assumed Apple has the biggest ego of any tech company, it is historically also one of the most contrite – given enough time. Over the years official apologies have been issued over:

•    Apple’s poor environmental history (up to 2007)
•    The EPEAT withdrawal (it rejoined)
•    The iPhone 4’s ‘antennagate‘ (it gave away free bumpers)
•    The rocky launch of MobileMe (offered free subscription periods)
•    iPhone 4 stock shortages
•    The sudden first gen iPhone $200 price drop (early buyers got a $100 credit)
•    The stock options backdating scandal

Ultimately this selection is a drop in the ocean and any company with a long enough history will be forced to take a humbling step out in front of the cameras once in a while. Former Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin said of his role in the Time Warner/AOL merger “I presided over the worst deal of the century”. Flickr deleted user photos. Network operators and ISPs exist knowing they will continually have to apologise for inevitable downtime and social networks walk a deliberate privacy tightrope. Go back far enough and you’ll even find Kodak and IBM were just a few of the major brands to initially appease the Nazis!

All of which begs the question: which multinational will be faced with a mortifying public apology next?

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