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Bear with me. Reports are now piling up that the newest generation of iPhone has…well, issues:
Multiple Apple- and gadget-focused websites are receiving reports that the iPhone’s much-discussed “Retina Display” is susceptible to a yellow discoloration, either as a thin line of yellow or as a circular tint. That’s not the only problem: There are now countless videos online that show how holding the new iPhone by its sides can decrease reception quality.
That’s what you get for being an early creator and an early adopter. There’s a crazy fatalism here — you work your brains out to create the most interesting and powerful device you can, and your customers beat down the doors to get it first. And you know that, one day, one way, there will probably be a mistake. More than a small mistake. A fatal error. It can’t be ruled out. It can’t be solved for. You do the best you can to keep the risk down while fighting like hell to blow the competition out of the water.
I seriously doubt the G4’s issues, however “critical,” will do to Apple what the spill is doing to BP. But Apple is under constant pressure. You can watch the Droid nipping at Apple’s heels. You can hear the complaints about the closed universe and the big brotherishness. You can’t compete at the highest possible level unless your risk tolerance is huge. An economic system driven by that kind of mad power is usually going to flourish, but there will be sudden casualties and spectacular collapses. (Or slow, boring ones: Microsoft.) It’s true that big information-age failures aren’t as lurid and depressing as big industrial failures (like the one in the Gulf). But dependence on big information systems can be even more risky than dependence on big industrial systems. Paradoxically, the best hedge against the worst kind of failure is…maximizing the number of potential lesser failures.