Deep inside Apple headquarters, CEO Tim Cook is approached by his assistant. “You have two calls holding,” she says. “The first one is the FBI.” Cooke doesn’t look up from his iPad. “Tell them I’m busy,” he replies. “Okay,” she says, “The other call is Taylor Swift.” Cook shifts in his chair, “Uh-oh, did she sound mad?”
Last year, Apple introduced a new service called Apple Music. It wasn’t an announcement on the scale of a new iPhone, but it riled many artists in the music industry. Apple was planning to offer their new service free for three months to build a user base, but, at the same time, had rationalized that since they weren’t charging for the service, they shouldn’t have to pay artist royalties on their music, either.
Au contraire, wrote megastar Taylor Swift in a blog post heard ‘round the world. She essentially asked why artists were expected to donate their art to promote Apple’s service, and Apple took all of about 24 hours to capitulate. “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple,” a senior exec at Apple wrote on Twitter, and they reinstated the royalties.
Hugs and kisses for everyone.
Given the giant stone wall Apple has put up resisting a court order that essentially, though not specifically, told them to hack into their iPhone security system, the FBI may want to consider asking Ms. Swift for a few blog writing tips. Apple has said “no” to the FBI more times than the Bureau is comfortable with, citing privacy rights and Pandora’s box. The feds have responded by calling Apple’s reticence a “marketing ploy.”
Their argument is that Apple is just trying to draw attention to the quality of their encryption programming. But, really, there are easier ways to get attention, and Apple is already a master promoter of its products. A number of Apple competitors have actually endorsed Apple’s stance, as well, which is that, if they create the software to hack a phone one time, there is a high degree of probability that the technology will eventually fall into the wrong hands.
Yet, by taking a hard-line stance against a legal demand, Apple is likely doing far more good for its brand than it lost by caving into Taylor Swift’s indignation over Apple Music. Apple is making a stand on a principle that puts its customers’ privacy ahead of a law enforcement decree. I’m willing to bet you won’t find a statement like that in any company’s mission statement, including Apple’s. Which may be part of the genuine appeal of Apple’s defiance.
Years ago, Apple promoted their Macintosh line of desktop PCs as “The computer for the rest of us.” Back then, Apple played the underdog card quite well, and built a populist image at the same time. This latest maneuver harkens back to that time, with Apple once again the underdog, but this time with Big Government as the Goliath, instead of IBM and Microsoft. Although Apple would, undoubtedly, knuckle under eventually if their legal appeals are exhausted, they appear ready to go to the mat on this issue. And if Tim Cook needs any advice, he can always ask Taylor Swift for her take on the situation. If he dares.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.