What’s the problem when your company has a billion customers or users? Sure, that’s a problem almost any company would want to have. Except maybe Facebook; but only because they have almost 2-billion users already, so that would be a backward move.
Apple has about one billion customers. Good, right? Until something goes wrong. For example, let’s say Apple upgrades more than half a billion iPhone and iPad users with a completely new file system. One glitch in the upgrade, and Apple would have a very large and loud customer service issue that would spill over into the public troughs in minutes.
Well, half of that is exactly what happened a few weeks ago when Apple released iOS 10.3 to iPhone and iPad users. Out with the old, in with the new. Apple’s old file system was replaced with a new file system on probably half a billion devices over the following few weeks. What happened?
Crickets. As in, not much. It just worked.
In fact, a Google keyword search on “iOS 10.3 problems Apple Support” reveals very few problems; and nothing short of the same types of issues a handful of users experience with any update or upgrade.
Great, right? Apple updated hundreds of millions of devices to a completely new file system and life goes on. Having a billion customers means Apple may be somewhat more conservative about changes, updates, and upgrades than other technology companies. For example, my wife uses Google Drive and Google Sheets to work on a group spreadsheet. She logs in, opens up a Google Drive folder, and works on spreadsheets. Most of the time it works. But Google updated the Sheets version for iOS a few weeks ago, and the complaint load increased dramatically.
Spreadsheets that once opened just fine, now crash Sheets on iPhone and iPad. Google has a few million users, and now a growing list of problems.
Take the Mac. Please.
Apple claims to have an installed base of over 100-million Mac users. That’s a milestone. But some of those Mac users are not happy with Apple’s recent move toward turning the device into a hermetically sealed, self contained appliance. Apple’s Mac designers and engineers think the Mac is like a toaster or microwave– it just works– so there’s no need to tinker around inside. That explains why 80-percent of the Macs Apple sells these days have no upgrade options for users. No way to swap out RAM, no way to replace a battery, no way to upgrade storage.
The ultimate upgrade Mac– the once mighty aluminum cheese grater Mac Pro, the one professional level users loved so much and still are willing to pay for aging used models– was replaced by what looked like an appliance, the 2013 Mac Pro, which was not beloved by customers. The public noise grew so loud that Apple decided, probably just a few weeks ago, to build a different model, something modular, with more options for customers. Noise works. But noise works better when it comes from a base of over 1-billion customers.
Most businesses would love to have a billion customers or users, but with such numbers comes great responsibility to listen carefully to them, to pay attention to their needs, and realize that a move in the wrong direction can bring the resulting noise to a deafening roar.
Facebook and Google are experiencing something similar as they grasp with the scourge of fake news. Many of their users don’t know the difference between fake news and real news, so almost any change causes massive user upheaval.
That happens when you get a billion customers or a billion users. Apple knows, too.