"For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."-- Written by Matthew Buckley in Boca Raton, Fla. At the time of publication, Buckley had no positions in stocks mentioned.
CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- It turns out not everything in the Wonka Factory in Cupertino is flawless. Gasp! For weeks, Apple ( AAPL) maintained that the griping about antenna issues with the new iPhone 4 was nothing more than that. Griping. Techies and iPhone nerds would complain that it wasn't hot enough in hell. With the aplomb of a company that doesn't need your money (it has $40 billion of its own, thank you very much), Apple told customers to suck it up or buy a case. All phones have antenna issues that suck, but ours sucks less, the company telegraphed. Not the wisest of marketing angles, but when you could buy California right now, with Illinois thrown in as a bonus (or a penalty, take your pick), I guess you can do and say whatever you want. This past Friday the company finally admitted that there were problems with the iPhone, but not with the antenna. Apparently someone forgot to carry the 1, and the algorithm that calculates the signal strength displayed on the phone has been wrong since day 1. Whoops. Still clutching my CrackBerry with my cold, live hands, I really don't have a dog in this fight except to applaud and boo Apple for how it handled this situation. I'm quite used to booing and cheering at the same time as I've been an Eagles fan for a long time. The company deserves kudos for stepping up and saying that it screwed up and will release a fix in the coming weeks. It's always refreshing when a company says this, and unfortunately it doesn't happen too often. Many companies go out of their way to bury or deny problems (see Toyota ( TM), Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, GM, etc.) until the truth overwhelms them and they're forced to fess up. By that point, the damage to their reputation is already done and they would've been better off fessing up earlier on (see Clinton, Bill). But the company also deserves a Bronx cheer for its "let them eat cake" attitude to this issue when it became apparent that it wasn't just people living in their parent's basement living off pizza and Mountain Dew who were having problems. Apple's initial response should have been, "We'll look into these issues and let you know."
I've got a warning for Apple: Microsoft ( MSFT). Sorry if I made the Mountain Dew shoot out of your nose. Microsoft is not a threat, duh. But Microsoft is Apple a couple of years from now. Bill Gates and his team were on top of the world, the Tony Montana of technology. But there are problems with being too big. Innovation slows, people make it their mission to knock you off the hill, and it takes more and more to wow the public. Each "incredible new thing" Apple releases is met with less and less wow. Firing Line: I think Steve Jobs should take a lesson from Willy Wonka and hop in that elevator and jet on out of there before it's too late. It's always better to end on a high note, and the response to this antenna issue shows that Apple is morphing into a Microsoft-like behemoth. Mr. Jobs should also take a lesson from General George S. Patton: