Applesauce Meter Drops to 5%

The MacBook has gone in for its third hardware repair, and returned. (I'm typing on it now.) The problem this time was overheating: either the logic board failed, the fan broke or the whole thing never worked in the first place. The unit overheated on several occasions. In looking back at how little I noticed the fan, I suspect it never worked and just hadn't overheated until now.

Now, MacBooks have been known to run hot - they ventilate from the back of the unit and underneath, which is problematic given that it is, indeed, a LAPTOP. After the overheat happened the first time I installed some programs to monitor the fans, case temp and CPU temps. The thing would get near 200 Celsius before it shut itself down (Warcraft caused it to happen in about 5-10 minutes). When the Apple Hardware Test came up with a Windowsy-cryptic error code, it went to the Apple Store, which fixed it very quickly and again, under warranty.

So the Applesauce Meter, previously at 90% water (hype) and 10% applesauce (true actual goodness) is now at 95% hype and 5% applesauce. And here is why:

Apple used to be known for kick butt hardware and so-so software (because they wouldn't let other developers make stuff for Macs). Then they rolled out the iMac, the iPod, etc and it was all about this classy looking hardware. Except the hardware was glossy, easy to scratch, and had a very short service life.

Then comes OS X, the Mac operating system built on Unix. And Final Cut for filmmakers, like Steven Soderburgh. And Garage Band. And iTunes. So Apple is pumping out great software and pretty good if overpriced hardware (the Powerbooks and iMacs). Many people, including a friend of mine, claim that the Powerbooks were just about indestructible. That may have been the high point of Apple computing.

Then comes the MacBook. It runs hot, some don't like the razor sharp edge where wrists get cut, etc. The first batch had severe heat issues. Mine was in the second or third run and all that was needed was a firmware update to correct the overheating issue. Supposedly. Overall, the hardware seems kinda crappy. Bad battery, bad case, bad fan/logic board. No wonder the Apple Store can turn these repairs around so fast - they're doing a lot of them. Even Apple fanboys are not pleased. The Mac mini has also failed to really catch on.

Apple now seems hardware poor and software middle income (too little software, but it's good stuff). It's hard to see what the higher prices get you. Running through this all is a Henry Ford-like disregard for the customer. You'll buy whatever junk they dish out because you drank the cool-aid, is what seems to be the Apple culture. They must think their customers are so stupid that the shiny object in their hand will distract them from the lousy design and poor hardware performance. As I'm picking up my computer, there's an Apple guy at the iPod bar explaining to a customer how her iClod's hard drive is dead and hey, you may as well buy another. Oh, and if Steve Jobs gets bored with a product line, kiss it goodbye. (Remember the Apple II? Steve didn't when he pulled the rug out from under it when he rolled out the Macintosh).

Hello, iPhone. Goodbye Apple Computer Company. They dropped computer from the company name. They have also delayed the next iteration of their OS X to put more work into the iPhone. That may be a sign of things to come.

Maybe these 1st year hardware failures are just the shakedown period and this thing will crank for the next five years or so. But already I am disappointed. One more failure and this rig is going to be referred to as my MacBroke. And I may find out exactly how well Apple resell values hold up. If the iPhone is a hit, which I heavily doubt (remember the Newton?) Apple computers might become valued collector's items. So, the Apple Experiment is nearly complete and the cynical side of me may come out looking prophetic.

New Apple slogans:
"Apple: Always Premium Priced Low-quality Electronics."
"Apple, it just costs a lot."
"Apple, the Jaguar of electronics."


Ron O'Toole said...

As a long-time drinker of the Apple Kool-Aid, I must protest a little.

My wife's iBook--bought back in 2001--is still running just fine. Sure, she's ugraded to a new MacBook, but her old iBook has been dropped, kicked, stepped on, and still runs.

The Core Duo MacBooks are flawed. But my Core Duo 2 MacBook has been running quietly and cooly since I got it. My wife has a Core Duo MacBook, but the biggest problem she's ever had with it has been the slicing-edge palm rest. No overheat problems, no cracks in the case, no sign of non-ruggedness.

My iPod mini has also worked flawlessly for two years now...I could go on.

About overpricing: do you have any data for this? Every price comparison I've ever seen shows that buying comparable hardware from a PC vendor is *more* expensive than buying Apple hardware. When you factor in the quality of Apple support and frequency of maintenance, over the long haul Apples are much less expensive than PC counterparts (let me talk to you about the POS Sony I had to use at my old job).

Perhaps the slogan should be:
Apple: Not Perfect, but Better than the Alternative.

Trackball of Truth said...

As to the overpricing, I'll mention 2 alternatives that provide a better bang for the buck than the $1,099 MacBook:

The System 76 Gazelle laptop with Ubuntu (roughly equivalent to OS X) at $1,101 has these component upgrades over the MacBook - a 2.0 Ghz CPU, 1GB ram and a DVD-RW.

The Dell Inspiron 1405 with Vista at $989 has these advantages over the MacBook: a 2.0 Ghz CPU, 1GB RAM, DVD-RW, and a 80GB hard drive.

So for the same money, one can get much more computer. For the same components, you could spend $100-200 less than $1,099. And both will give you a backspace key. :)

I do like my Core Duo MacBook, flawed as it is. But for the additional money and hype, there shouldn't be an entire line of laptops that are so flawed. Some genius at Apple should have thought twice about the heat issues, and the sharp palm rest (for some reason it hasn't sliced me). One gets the feeling that the style factors and profit motive of the Intel MacBook overrode everything else. And Apple should do better than that, if they care about their customers.

Ron O'Toole said...

*sigh* You've got to compare apples to Apples, man.

I just configured a Dell Inspiron 1405 identical to the MacBook I just bought. To get all the features--RAM, Double-Layer DVD Burner, and software--I got in the MacBook, I'd have to spend $2050.

Same computer, from Apple? $1723.

Sure, I could have just gotten the basic Inspiron for $900. But that's a low-end computer. Apple's not about low-end, use-it-for-one-year-then-trash-it hardware. They're like the BMW of computers: you feel like you're paying more, but you're also *getting* more.

Trackball of Truth said...

I thought I was comparing a/Apples, but on the lower price end of the MacBook line.

I said that for the same hardware components as the $1099 MacBook, one could save $100-200 on a Vista or Ubuntu alternative.

To spend $1099 on one of these alternatives would score you more computing power and better components than the MacBook. So there's an Apple premium on the low end. There's always been a Mac premium.

You may be right that at the mid or upper price range Apple comes out on top, but given Apple's limited configuration possibilities, it might be harder to get a good match up (especially on graphics).

What's the more computing that one gets with Apple? OS X? Pre-installed software (I don't think that counts in a price comparison unless one can opt in or out on having it)? Service and support? Apple probably wins out there, but mostly because of my local Apple store. If it's just coolness, then let's say so. That's not a bad thing to pay more for. I don't feel like I got stiffed on my MacBook - I just want it to stop having malfs. BMWs are supposed to be relatively well-engineered and problem-free.