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Credit Apple for Giving Credit

Even the smartest marketing guru can drop the ball.

Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs has earned his reputation as a marketing genius. But he started out by getting this one so badly wrong.

Jobs went into full damage control Thursday, agreeing to hand out a $100 Apple Stores credit to each person who bought an iPhone before the price was slashed. The move came just hours after Jobs was dismissing complaints and implying that the customers wouldn't get a penny.

"We need to do a better job taking care of our early iPhone customers as we aggressively go after new ones with a lower price," he admitted in an open letter to customers posted on the Apple Web site. "Our early customers trusted us, and we must live up to that trust with our actions in moments like these."

It was the right move -- and made not a moment too soon.

"We want to do the right thing for our valued iPhone customers," he added. "We apologize for disappointing some of you, and we are doing our best to live up to your high expectations of Apple."

Jobs acknowledged that he had made the change after receiving "hundreds" of angry emails and reading "every one."

(Hundreds of angry emails from Apple fanatics? Hey Steve, now you know how Bill Gates feels when he logs on every morning!)

The refund was a dramatic reversal from the stance Jobs took just a few hours earlier, when he dismissively told USA Today: "That's technology."

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