Steve Jobs has become a prolific correspondent with customers via e-mail, but at least one of the e-mail chains recently published is now being called a fake.
This week alone, customers who wrote to Apple's CEO at his corporate e-mail address say they received replies from Jobs on topics on everything from the escalating concern over the iPhone 4's antenna design, to the ability to transfer high-definition video from the iPhone to the Web, to the possibility of including Blu-ray Disc players in Macs.
On Thursday, Boy Genius Report published a series of e-mails between one of its readers and Jobs. The reader--one of the original people to post a YouTube video demonstrating the
iPhone 4's signal loss when held in a certain way--complained to Jobs about Apple's lack of a solution for the widely reported problem.
Thursday afternoon AppleInsider reported that a man named Jason Burford had been shopping a similar series of e-mails between himself and Jobs to some blogs. BGR did not respond to a request for comment as to whether it paid for the "exclusive" story. It did, however, later in the day update its story to say it had misquoted the Apple customer in the e-mail.
Later Thursday, Fortune reported that a member of Apple's public relations staff "emphatically denied" that Jobs had authored any of the e-mails published in BGR's account Thursday.
The purported e-mail chain went like this: After the customer said he had "lost all respect" for Apple, Jobs reportedly replied, "No, you are getting all worked up over a few days of rumors. Calm down." When the customer asked not to be talked down to by Jobs, the would-be Apple CEO responded that he probably lived in "an area with very low signal strength." When the customer pressed the matter, Jobs came back with, "You may be working from bad data. Not your fault. Stay tuned. We are working on it."
Jobs has been e-mailing an awful lot if all the reports are to be believed, but this is the first time that Apple has called one of the reported correspondences a fake.
In another correspondence with a customer--that to our knowledge Apple has not denied--Jobs promised that in the future there would be a better solution to uploading high-definition video from the iPhone, according to MacDailyNews. The customer wrote, "What's the point of building in HD video capabilities when the compression upon uploading directly to YouTube makes the videos useless and not viewable? They're not even remotely viewable!!" To which Jobs reportedly responded, "You can upload them via a Mac or PC today. Over the air in the future."
The past few months have shown a steady rise in Apple customers who are e-mailing Apple's CEO directly with questions, complaints, and compliments and receiving replies, which they are then posting to the Web. That's included a lengthy debate with a journalist (who did not identify himself as such) over porn in the App Store, fielding complaints from iPhone app developers, and cryptic responses regarding pending updates to the MacBook lineup.
It's notable because CEOs of companies valued at $226 billion aren't known to interact directly with customers regularly, and because apparently bypassing Apple's public-relations staff and customer service representatives is working for people who want answers.
Update, 2 p.m. PDT: AppleInsider notes that a man named Jason Burford was shopping his e-mail correspondence with Jobs earlier this week. Like the story posted by BGR, Burford was offering e-mails in which Jobs told him to "calm down." It's not clear if BGR paid for it, but it's possible that Jobs' prolific e-mailing may have spawned its own niche market.
BGR has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Update, 4:35 p.m. PDT: Philip Elmer-Dewitt at Fortune reports that the "calm down" e-mail may actually be fabricated. He asked a member of Apple's PR staff if Jobs wrote any of the e-mails in the conversation originally posted by BGR Thursday, and the representative "emphatically denied it."
Update, 4:45 p.m. PDT: This story was updated throughout, reflecting Apple PR's denial of the veracity of one of the reported Jobs e-mails.