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  • Why Mac Users Love the Products and Hate the Company

    August 20th, 2007

    I’ve been accused from time to time of creating strong and lurid headlines, in the fashion of a weekly “supermarket” tabloid newspaper. I’ll grant you that my headlines are apt to be strong, but they are always meant to reflect the contents.

    You see, over the years, I’ve run various commentaries that fit into the “war stories” category, in which people talk about the horrendous problems they’ve encountered from time to time getting Apple to help them with a hardware or software problem. At the same time, despite the occasional pain and agony, almost every last one of these people will buy a new Mac when the time is ripe to replace that old computer, even a defective one.

    It’s not that these problems are necessarily minor. If you look at Apple’s history of extended repair programs, you’ll see a serioius slate of ills, such as failing logic boards, power supplies, batteries and a host of other components. Software seems to require regular updates to set things right. On the same day iLife ’08 appeared, for example, an iPhoto 7.0.1 updater was ready to roll and iWeb has since had its own update to address various “point-zero” issues.

    Here’s a very recent example of a hardware issue, a serious one in fact. One of my friends recently ordered a refurbished MacBook Pro direct from Apple. Since he was leaving the country on a two-week trip, he requested delivery prior to his departure.

    Alas, the computer arrived late, and when he returned home, he opened the box to find the unit seriously damaged and inoperable. He phoned Apple, expecting quick resolution, and was told that Apple only accepted a DOA return within 14 days after the product shipped, despite the fact that he didn’t actually receive and open the package until after that date.

    He fought and fought tooth and nail to gain some relief over the illogical nature of their position and finally realized he had to drop his press card into the argument. You see, he’s also a writer for a computer magazine, and intended to use his MacBook Pro to evaluate how the products he writes about function on an Intel-based Mac. Suddenly, they changed their tune, and agreed to a product swap. I’ll let you know when and if the replacement computer arrives, but I have to wonder whether this dispute would have been resolved had he not been a tech writer.

    In the meantime, it’s clear that Apple’s support people don’t fully comprehend their actual support policies. Here’s how they are supposed to deal with broken hardware, as copied direct from Apple’s online store:

    “An Apple-branded hardware product is considered DOA if it shows symptoms of a hardware failure, preventing basic operability, when you first use it after opening the box. If you believe that your product is DOA, please call AppleCare Technical Support at 1-800-APL-CARE (1-800-275-2273) within 30 calendar days of the invoice date.”

    In addition to defective products, it’s clear from some of the comments posted on The Night Owl that a number of you sharply disagree with some of Apple’s design and marketing decisions. Indeed, it’s fair to say that some product configurations seem to be developed by alien lifeforms, such as the hockey puck mouse that graced the early iMac. The flawed but beautiful Cube might fit into this category, particularly the fact that its touch-sensitive switch was so flaky that the mere pass of a hand containing a cleaning cloth to rid the thing of accumulated dust would cause it to drift off into sleep mode. You wouldn’t dare put your fingers too close, and I wonder how many kids did just that, the better to annoy their parents.

    What about the iMac with the articulated arm, or the fact that early MacBooks and MacBook Pros ran a little on the hot side until Apple learned how to tame their cooling fans?

    More important, consider how some of you are reacting to the new iMac’s glossy screen, the new aluminum-clad keyboard with built-in MacBook-style keys and other recent product upgrades. How could Apple commit such follies, when they are supposedly catering to the needs of their customers?

    There are, by the way, also complaints about some of the more extreme eye-candy promised for Mac OS X Leopard. Until that operating system actually ships, though, I suppose this is best left in the category of a potential disaster rather than a real one.

    Despite all these often downright annoying issues, recent surveys continue to suggest that more and more people plan to buy Macs in the coming months. So perhaps you continue to believe that, despite all its flaws, Apple still builds the best personal computers on the planet. But you still don’t love the company.



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    18 Responses to “Why Mac Users Love the Products and Hate the Company”

    1. shane blyth says:

      I have had 3 Macs and only had trouble with one which I found was fixed quickly and with good communication so I have no complaints . I buy products abd really arn’t interested in buying the company so to speak. I find the web seems to encourage people to moan winge and complain and it is usually what is called the vocal minority. I have never seen so much moaning than with iLife08 but for me the reality of using the product makes me extremely happy. I think it really works like this. Give a person the chance to say alot (the web) and you’ll find that they will complain 90% of the time. Praise is rare, and people don’t feel passionate enough to praise but they do if they can vent or complain.

    2. Niels K. says:

      1st iBook: 4 new Logic Boards, 2 new Combo-Drives –> got new iBook
      2nd iBook: Logic Board died after 1,5 years (no more warranty because the first one was so often repaired before I got a new one)
      1st Intel iMac: Logic Board died after update – no one knows why
      1st iPod: HDD died because of unknown reasons
      2nd iPod: HDD died because it dropped (human failure)
      3rd iPod: HDD failed because of unknown reason

      I love Mac OS X and the interface of the iPod – if that stuff would be opened to other companies I would immediately get other hardware (e.g. my next laptop wouldn’t be a MacBook or MacBook Pro but a Thinkpad – endurable hardware and a standard 3 year-warranty)

      So much to praise and complain

    3. Norman Brooks says:

      I just got one of the new thin keyboards (to go along with my new Mac mini), even though I have several old ones lying around. Just to add a positive comment in counterpoint to the usual litany of complaints, I love it! It’s the best keyboard I’ve used in years.

    4. shane blyth says:

      Neils.. bad run that was, 3 ipod hard drives!
      So how did Apple as a company deal with you.. did they replace them ok if they where in warranty?

    5. Niels Kobschätzki says:

      All iPods were replaced w/out any problems. The Apple dealer sent them to Apple and I got a new one (the 1st one had a laser engraving which was lost but because it was free and I just wanted to have an iPod back asap (already had to wait a week or two) I didn’t care).

      The iBooks and the iMac were all repaired (except the last iBook which is out of warranty/Apple Care) but it took always nearly two weeks. In that time I had either to rely on a self-built Linux-machine which ran for several years w/out any problems (built on the cheapest stuff I could get because I just wanted something cheap) or on the MacBook Pro of my girlfriend.

      In addition I have to say that the extension of the warranty of the iBooks was through an licensed Apple dealer and not through Apple Care and that brought some problems because they discussed always a lot and once made a mistake which had nearly cost a me EUR 100 because of a technician who didn’t know what he does.

      Anyway – I love the OS (and it seems that the OS and the available applications are more important to me than the faulty hardware) and the hardware is slick but in my case always really faulty. At least it brought me in a habit to do regularly backups because I know that I can’t rely on the stuff Apple produces.

    6. Michael says:

      Yes, Apple are a mixed bag, aren’t they?

      I’ve had bad hardware from Apple. One iBook went back twice before they fixed it; there were larger problems with another and a hugely unsympathetic Apple in that case. Apple sometimes seem reluctant to meet their responsibilities. I’ve heard they are also notorious for killing threads on their forums if a poster complains about a model or a piece of software too much. But particular and known hardware problems and design weaknesses aside, I think the hardware is generally good, and the DOA numbers better than the industry average.

      I also agree that some models suffer from a kind of aestheticism where function is subordinated to form, whereas the two should exist in harmony in any unpretentious, pleasing, and well-designed product. But then again, Apple’s hardware is often better designed than the rest of the industry’s. Sony seems to take some pains with design, but Sony’s attitude to customers is abysmal (c.f. Sony rootkit, c.f. pre-installed “crapware”).

      And your hints about Leopard’s interface slip-ups are spot on. A transparent menubar and a “3D” dock look like panicked reactions to Vista. OS X had Quartz and Aqua for years before Microsoft came up with its botched copies, and it doesn’t need to draw attention to itself with flashy and ill-considered UI elements and effects.

      “Despite all these often downright annoying issues, recent surveys continue to suggest that more and more people plan to buy Macs in the coming months.”

      I suppose people who haven’t used Macs before might be unaware of the issues. As for why they’re buying, it may be because people have seen their friends’ Macs and been impressed, but then again it could have as much to do with how unsatisfactory the other options are. Plenty of people have had bad experiences with XP and it’s both not particularly secure and a large, well-known, and inviting target for digital miscreants. Vista does seem to be more secure, but it’s demanding and sluggish even on fairly good hardware. (The court case over Vista Capable/Vista Premium Ready is a reminder of that.) Then there’s compatibility. The latest comment on it comes from Joel Spolsky:

      “I’ve been using Vista on my home laptop since it shipped, and can say with some conviction that nobody should be using it as their primary operating system — it simply has no redeeming merits to overcome the compatibility headaches it causes.”

      And then there is the DRM issue with Vista, which I’m sure many potential buyers are aware of. If XP and Vista are looking unattractive to many, what else is left besides OS X? One could go with Ubuntu from Dell, I suppose. But I doubt many ordinary users are ready to take on desktop Linux yet, and, despite its attractions, I think they’re right.

      Apple could be winning new customers as much because of the weakness of the alternatives as because of what it is offering

      “But you still don’t love the company.”

      No, nor do I completely trust it — although I suspect Jobs means to play fair by users in his own rather cranky way. But I think Microsoft sees me, as a user, as fodder for the record labels, Hollywood and various other interests. I think it would rather please them than me.

    7. Darryl says:

      I have owned several Macs over the past couple of decades and have had nothing but smooth, elegant experiences. I may be one of the few (though I doubt this) that have had no problems with Apple products other than the ones that I created.
      My Apple product experience goes back to the Apple IIc in 1985, a Mac SE in 1989, a Mac Classic in 1991, a PowerMac 6100 in 1994, a PowerMac g3 in 1998, a dual g4 2002 and finally a g5 iMac in 2005. Each machine has hummed along just fine. The only problem that has every occurred was an internal battery in the 6100 that got fried during use during a lightening storm. Not an Apple issue.(I still have the beige g3 serving as my iTunes serving running osx.3)

      Apple support has always resolved my problems, and every Mac I’ve owned has had a long, healthy functioning life. Perhaps I’m one of the lucky ones.

      I will also point out that through ownership of every Mac, I’ve always have had PCs. I currently Have 2 dell Inspirion laptops and a eMachine desktop. (I’ve also owned machines from Sony, HP and a ThinkPad)

      Though, 1 of the Dell Laptops and the ThinkPad have been mostly trouble free from a hardware perspective, they’ve all had to run windows and we don’t have to go into what that experience can be like.

      I read of the complaints from Apple fans and sometimes the complaints are justified. But most of the time the complaints come because Apple didn’t do want that individual wished they had.
      In those cases I suggest that the individual simply don’t buy that particular Apple product and move on.

    8. Andrew says:

      I had the (1st gen) MacBook from Hell, two replacements for the sudden shutdown, one replacement for a washed-out display. MacBook number four appeared OK, but by that time I’d lost faith in the model, and as there were no 12″ PowerBooks left, I had to go with a ThinkPad (MacBook Pro is just too large).

      When it comes time to replace the ThinkPad I’ll consider Apple again, and did just that for my daughter, whose 3rd gen MacBook is trouble-free and perfect thus far.

    9. Yacko says:

      I don’t know if drives count as Apple has no say in their design and manufacture and given the recent Google report about drive reliability, there is no failure pattern among manufacturers. It is nice to hear Apple has repaired things quickly. The other complaints center on the iBook. Easily broken, hard to open, I imagine that repair was an odious task even for professional techs. Yes, they are among the worst products Apple manufactured. However, they are laptops and laptops are fragile.

      For the record, I’ve done work on Macs exclusively since 1988, starting with a used Mac Plus, and now up to a refurbished 17″ Intel Core 2 and have had barely any problems over that entire time span. All Macs I have owned, from the second model on, a Mac LC, have driven dual monitors.

      I’ve had a Beige G3 power supply go bad, but I just moved the RAM and the cpu upgrade to a B&W and went on. I worked for 12 months on a used 6400 from an Ebay auction, that must have been dropped on its head from a distance greater than 10 feet during shipping, the structural steel case turned into a rhomboid, the exterior plastic shattered, and yet it soldiered on. All the models were either used or Apple refurbished. The only laptops were a Duo 2300c and a Lombard. They worked fine. I’ve had hard drives die, but I don’t hold that against Apple. Overall my experience has been extremely positive, particularly considering I pushed all of those machines hard by having then run without sleep, 24/7 except for reboots. Even the Mac Plus ended up going 24/7, not for work purposes, but I felt the wheezing, groaning, clattering external Seagate 20MB drive shouldn’t be turned off as it might not have lasted another power up!

    10. “Apple only accept[s] a DOA return within 14 days after the product shipped….”

      Yikes. In that case I hope I get my new iMac delivered soon. It shipped from Shanghai China August 10.

    11. Albert Wallace says:

      My 1st Mac was a 512k. Since then I’ve only had 2 problem Macs. My first PowerBook 140 had a screen problem. Apple fixed it immediately (I think they picked it up on Friday and it was back on Tuesday.) It still works. The second was my MBP. It spontaneously shut itself off. This one was little more annoying. It took Apple 3 tries to get it right. Even so I would have to say my experience with Apple has always been very positive. —— What I don’t understand about your story is: The Apple Store provides pretty thorough package tracking for it’s products. Why didn’t your friend call the delivery company or Apple before leaving?

    12. Jon T says:

      Wrong…

      I love the products – more with each new iteration.

      I love the software – I have no Micropork products near my Macs.

      And I love the company too – I have $150,000 of my pension invested in Apple because I can see where it is headed, just like I can see where companies like Dell and Micropork are headed.

    13. My 1st Mac was a 512k. Since then I’ve only had 2 problem Macs. My first PowerBook 140 had a screen problem. Apple fixed it immediately (I think they picked it up on Friday and it was back on Tuesday.) It still works. The second was my MBP. It spontaneously shut itself off. This one was little more annoying. It took Apple 3 tries to get it right. Even so I would have to say my experience with Apple has always been very positive. —— What I don’t understand about your story is: The Apple Store provides pretty thorough package tracking for it’s products. Why didn’t your friend call the delivery company or Apple before leaving?

      Knowing it’ll arrive late doesn’t mean you can change anything, unfortunately.

      Peace,
      Gene

    14. MILE says:

      Wwo, I guess I’ve just been lucky…!? My first Mac was a Colour Classic (what a cutie 🙂 and I’ve had countless desktops and portables ever since then, including a few Newtons and iPods — and not one of those machines has ever let me down…! No technical problems, no hardware failures…! They all just kept going until I replaced them by newer ones…

      And I have many friends and aquaintances all around who have had similar positive experiences…so I tend to think (and hope) that we are the majority of Mac users — and that the few people experiencing such bad luck with their Apple products just me.

    15. Wwo, I guess I’ve just been lucky…!? My first Mac was a Colour Classic (what a cutie and I’ve had countless desktops and portables ever since then, including a few Newtons and iPods — and not one of those machines has ever let me down…! No technical problems, no hardware failures…! They all just kept going until I replaced them by newer ones…

      And I have many friends and aquaintances all around who have had similar positive experiences…so I tend to think (and hope) that we are the majority of Mac users — and that the few people experiencing such bad luck with their Apple products just me.

      I wanted everyone to know that the friend who had this annoying encounter with Apple support is none other than David Biedny, and he’ll be doing a special commentary about this and other subjects on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE.

      Peace,
      Gene

    16. AL Carvalho says:

      yes, you have the nost eye catching headlines but rarely does the story live up to them.
      why exactly do people love the products & hate apple? really hate jobs who drives the bad policies.
      your article is long on incidents but NEVER remotely tells why we hate jobs while loving apple’s macs.
      I’ll tell you why. he comes up with great products, then cheapens them to promote obsolescence & maximize profit margins. result: products that break our hearts compared to what they could have been. “Its the heartbreak, stupid.”

    17. Jon T says:

      @ Al Carvalho.. Ineresting argument about ‘cheapened’ Macs promoting ‘obsolescence’.

      Is that why my son, studying marine biology at university is the envy of most of his Dell/HP touting friends with his Mac, which happens to be a 15″ Titanium Powerbook…now 67 months old!?!?

      Built in obsolescence? Poor quality? I don’t think so somehow.

      What Jobs has, is the ability to create a business that genuinely wants to make great products, AND make enough money doing it to invest in making sure the cycle continues. Apple’s industry leading customer satisfaction ratings surely prove that.

      As for the headline here, I agree with you that it is misleading. Only in that it is impossible to live up to because it simply isn’t true, despite the Apple haters wishing it were true… As they say – peace.

    18. Scott L says:

      I’ve had good success with Apple products for many years…starting with a Color Classic. The machines have been long lasting and reliable.

      The word “machine” should be emphasized. It’s just that – a machine. I have no particular interest in Apple Inc. and even less in Mr. Steve Jobs. Macintosh computers have allowed me to get my work done with a minimum of hassle. If that changes, and it might, then I will simply move on to something else.

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