Apple Is Flailing Badly At The Edges
Tuesday, August 19, 2008; 12:29 AM
My first computer, purchased by my parents after nearly a year of begging, was an Apple II+. That was 1982. I was a Windows user for the next 20 years, but went back to Mac when they switched to Intel chips a couple of years ago. Since then I've bought seven Macs for myself, as well as at least one of every iPod and both iPhones. A lot of these were test devices that I've passed on to friends and family.
My obvious enthusiasm for Apple products is fairly evident to readers of this blog. But recently I've had a string of bad apples come my way, so to speak. It's time for Apple to stop screwing around and start paying attention to product quality.
I'll excuse the one hour of battery life I seem to be able to get out of my iPhone. An arrangement of extra power cords (USB, car, wall) and external batteries gets me through the day. I'll also excuse the fact that iTunes seems hell bent on not syncing applications from my desktop to my iPhone, and inexplicably removing apps from my phone without any notice. I love that damn phone, and it will take a lot more than lost apps and dropped calls to get it out of my hands.
But I don't have the same blind dedication to other Apple products, and a string of costly problems has left me more than frustrated.
Mac Mini, Macbook Air, Macbook Pro and Macbook, All Failed
I was pretty excited about my Macbook Air, which packs a ton of hardware into a slim and elegant case. But it was unable to stay connected to Wifi for more than a minute or so, even on the brand new Apple Time Capsule router we're using at the office. I took it into the Apple store - they kept it for a few days and said nothing was wrong. I argued with them and they did nothing. And since I waited more than two weeks after buying it to bring it back in, I couldn't simply return it. That $1,800 piece of hardware has now been dismantled for parts for a project we're working on here.
A high end black Macbook made it through one meeting before having some sort of hardware problem that shut it down for good. I still have a few days left to return it for a refund.
The one year old Mac Mini I was using to drive my living room television failed a month ago. It turned itself into a brick. Parts of it are on my coffee table.
My main travel computer, a seven month old Macbook Pro, had a keyboard failure two weeks ago. Apple repaired it and I'm using it now.
That leaves three other Macs in good working order. One is a Macbook pro that my dad now uses. The other two are iMacs that have never had any problems.
But having major issues with four out of seven computers is, um, unexceptable.
MobileMe Has Screwed Up My Work Ecosystem
I have Macs in my main office and my bedroom, as well as my travel computer. I have spent years getting .Mac, which syncs calendar, contact and email data across machines and in the cloud, working properly. It tended to break a lot, but if you kept the OS constantly up to date and were willing to tinker with it, it was a great way to keep synced across any number of computers. I didn't really care which one I picked up to access email, write a post, etc.
Then came MobileMe and the Apple's automatic transfer of .Mac customers over to that ridiculously broken new service. I had a suspicion it wouldn't work at first given how touchy .Mac was, and so I didn't touch anything on my old computers. But I have never gotten it working on the new Macs I purchased, and now .Mac has failed on all of the synced machines. No more calendar access, contacts syncing, etc.
Apple keeps giving customers free time on the service as a way to apologize for the problems. But that isn't good enough. I'm not price sensitive to the $99/year they're charging for the service. But I need it to work, and I need it to work right now.
The failed computers could just be a coincidence, although the wifi problem with the Macbook Air is well documented. The MobileMe debacle, though, is affecting everyone. Apple shouldn't have merged the services, at least old .Mac customers wouldn't be enraged today. They need to get their house in order or they risk alienating all these new customers they've added over the last few years. The new buyers aren't Apple fanatics and won't sit quietly as they try to access broken services via failing hardware.