An Open Letter to Tim Cook: Apple’s Latest Lightning Rod
Good Morning Mr. Cook,
Something odd happened at Apple this morning. While most of the world was sleeping, some of us were awake ordering new iPhones and iPods from the online Apple Store. During the sales process, a little dialog box popped up noting that the new “iPhone includes a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter,” and offered to sell us an “additional” one along with the purchase. Soon afterwards, Apple sales representatives began to tell customers that this was an “error.” And according to your web site, the iPhone 5’s specs page confirms no adapter is included.
Having made and retracted an offer to give Lightning Adapters to some customers, you have a small problem on your hands. The easiest solution would be to give your earliest iPhone 5 customers the “included” Lightning Adapter, no questions asked. That’s just good business—legally required, in some regions—and it’s certainly something Apple can afford. But we’d strongly suggest that you take this one step further. The right thing for Apple to do is to give every iPhone 5 customer a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter. Ditto for new iPod nano and touch customers.
While a small group of die-hard fans might deem such “generosity” unnecessary, hear us out. You knew long ago that asking customers to switch from the ubiquitous Dock Connector to Lightning was going to be a challenge; inside Apple, somebody obviously prepared text for your web site with the understanding that a Lightning Adapter would be included with the new iPhone. And outside Apple, compatibility is about to be broken or limited with accessories that people have invested hundreds or thousands of dollars to use—speaker systems, video accessories, and who knows what else. Rather than making the Lightning Adapters inexpensive, you’re selling them for $29 each. Yes, progress comes at a price, but Apple has already made hundreds of millions of dollars licensing “Made for iPod” and “Made for iPhone” accessories, far more than any maker of competing devices. Keeping your past customers happy by letting them easily transition to new accessories on their terms is the right thing to do—especially when so many early iPhone 5 users will be paying premiums for unsubsidized devices.
The up-front cost to give adapters away to early adopters will be small by comparison with what you stand to make on new accessories going forward, so use this as an opportunity to garner a whole lot of goodwill. Since nothing was said at your media event about including Lightning Adapters, consider this a rare chance to surprise and delight your most loyal users. Position it like this: “We want to make sure every iPhone 5 user gets started on the right foot.” Adapters don’t need to be given away for perpetuity, or more than one per customer. Give them away with new iPhones and iPods for the first three months or so, and re-evaluate thereafter—like iPhone 4 Bumpers, only ahead of the controversy rather than after it. There’s no question that the positive buzz you generate will outweigh the expense: just like Apple’s classic plastic Universal Dock Adapter pack-ins, this is an investment in the long-term health and happiness of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad accessory ecosystems.
Mr. Cook, as Apple’s CEO, the decision is yours to make. We think you know what to do, and if you support your hundreds of millions of users, we’ll continue to support you.
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