Apple fight-back starts Friday
Call it silly season if you like, with not a lot happening, but it has been a bad couple of weeks for Apple and its shiny new iPhone 4, which it recently declared the best-selling product in Apple's history.
The slippery slope started right after the phone went on sale in June when a number of users reported problems with dropped calls and poor signal strength.
The issue seemed to occur if users put their finger over the antenna, and for those holding it in their left hands it was particularly bothersome. Steve Jobs suggested "just avoid holding it in that way."
Apple's own investigation revealed the problem related to an error on how the signal bars are displayed, rather than the signal.
They changed the formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength.
An e-mail exchange with a user looking for a fix to the problem upped the ante and resulted in what was seen as an arrogant reply from Mr Jobs.
In a copy of the e-mail exchange obtained by BoyGeniusReport, the Apple co-founder wrote "you are getting all worked up over a few days of rumors. Calm down".
Consumer Reports delivered a blow right to the solar plexus this week when it said it couldn't endorse the phone or recommend users buy it because its own tests found a problem with reception.
Since 2 July, Apple has maintained radio silence on the matter. Their lack of comment has only seemed to fuel the fire.
A number of brand experts I spoke to said they believed that this has been a problem of Apple's own making and had they gotten out in front of it, it would not have escalated to the level it has with demands for a recall of all iPhones.
Olivier Blanchard of Brand Builder Marketing said that Apple is also something of a target:
"When people talk about brand management and brands that 'get it', they are the super brand, the rock stars of the branding world.
"By the same token, we have put them on such a pedestal but there is really nowhere for them to go but down. That means every little mistake is going to get criticised and over analysed and blown out of proportion. If they had remained the underdog they were five years ago, this would be something of a non issue."
In the cold light of day a recall of all iPhone 4's does seem an extreme measure.
One analyst estimated that the bill for this would top out at around $1.5billion. Ponying up for bumper cases, which seems to be a solution, would cost nearly $180m.
But you know things are really bad when software giant Microsoft has a pop at you.
"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that," said Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, in a keynote speech at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference.
Vista has a somewhat tarnished image after being heavily criticised by users and even by the company's own senior executives as revealed in a series of e-mails. The feeling was, and is, that Vista was one of Microsoft's worst operating systems.
While Apple is far from that scenario, they have now come out of their bunker and called a surprise news conference for this Friday.
Spokesman Steve Dowling will only say that it concerns the iPhone 4 but it is surely a safe enough bet that the briefing will address the phone's reception problems.
Apple may well be king of the hill when it comes to marketing products and creating hype, but the company has stumbled in the past.
Its handling of Steve Jobs' health following pancreatic cancer is a case in point. For months the company said this was a non-issue despite Mr Jobs' thin and gaunt appearance which eventually resulted in him taking a medical leave of absence.
With the tech world now gearing up for big news on Friday, it will be interesting to see how well Apple take charge over this issue and what effect it will have on their image and reputation as something of a stellar brand.
It has already become late-night TV fodder, resonating as a topic of fun outside the world of technology.
Entitled "Top 10 Signs You've Purchased a Bad iPhone" Mr Letterman said:
"[A]pparently there is something hinkey about the new iPhone's.
"They are not hooked up right. There is a problem with the signal's sensor. There is a problem with the antenna. They don't like to be held....like my first wife."