AMITIAE - Tuesday 8 April 2014
Cassandra: Samsung's Chilling Move on Product Reviews
By Graham K. Rogers
The idea that writing about a company's products needs reviewers to be looking over their shoulders is wrong. If this is to be Samsung's norm, it puts in doubt the veracity of previous reviews. Who would dare review a product in a negative way in the future; and are future comments to be trusted?
A search in Google using "Samsung benchmarking falsely" brings up several results including,
There are several more. Futuremark delisted the Samsung devices until Samsung removed the offending code (Prasad, GSMArena).
Perhaps this most recent suggestion by MediaToday that Samsung has not been open about the camera lens may have some merit to it. We may also add to this some other suspect actions which bring Samsung's clarity into question:
There are more examples, including the revelations last week in the latest episode of the Apple-Samsung litigation: "'Beating Apple is #1 priority, everything must be in context of beating Apple" - internal Samsung docs" (Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac).
In other emails revealed at the trial, Apple recognised that some catchup was needed as part of its own "Holy War" (Mike Beasley, 9to5 Mac).
Despite the wall of silence that would greet some questions, Apple was (is) good at listening. If a product, decision or service was criticised genuinely, Apple would check and improve, not sue. In 2007, for example, while Apple was celebrating its new iPhone, Greenpeace was taking up the road outside the Apple Store in Union Square (One Stockton Street), San Francisco - a short walk from the Moscone Center - complaining about how Apple was polluting the world.
The materials used in Apple devices were changed and last week, Simon Sage reports on iMore, "Apple scores 100% clean energy score in Greenpeace cloud report."
iFixit has been particularly critical of Apple of late with the way the most recent products have been assembled, leaving little room for the independent repair shop these days. The way that mother boards (for example) are manufactured now means that they are almost impossible to repair and replacement parts are not available outside of the Apple infrastructure. These comments may be valid. They are critical. But Apple did not sue.
The article lists a number of occasions when reviews may not have been to Apple's liking, some of them false rather than just unflattering. Apple is held to a different standard than other companies; and Samsung seems to demonstrate that negative comments are not to be tolerated, at least with regard to its own products.
This may be an Asian trait. Some people in this part of the world are (in Western terms) poor losers. Whether it be in business, legal matters or politics, the possibility of coming second or being criticised and hence losing face (or money) goes beyond the pale for some here: "Justice," means "I win." It was no surprise to read that Samsung waited 4 days to tell the Chairman, Lee Kun-hee, that Apple had won its patent dispute (Karen Haslam, MacWorld), nor that the same matters are being retried. And if that fails, we may expect an appeal or two.
A company whose product is being reviewed should take the opportunity in the case of a negative review, to test, to check, to improve; and to provide a good device for a second review rather than reaching for the lawyers, because in the end, that is likely to cause more long-term damage than any product comments.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.
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