Why Apple is going to go out of business

There are a lot of things to like about Apple. They make the coolest, sexiest hardware on the planet, especially their laptops and iPods. They did Unix right in a way that 100,000 Linux geeks never managed to do. They put together a suite of applications that make some of the stuff that people want to do with computers dead easy – while purposely making them limited and unpowerful enough to keep the door open for third party products that do the same things only better. When their hardware works, it works perfectly.

But when their hardware doesn’t work, it’s incredibly annoying. When my Linux and Windows computers don’t work, I figure I did something wrong when I cobbled them together myself out of disparate components from different sources, including salvaged from old computers. But Apple does everything, from hardware integration to assembly to the operating system, so when something goes wrong, I know exactly who to yell at. And I’ve been doing a lot of yelling at Apple.

Here is a brief summary of my recent history with Apple:
– Ordered a Powerbook G4. A week later, got an email saying that they were going to give me a free upgrade from the DVD drive I’d order to a combo DVD reader and CD burner. Yay! However, the computer didn’t actually come for two and a half months after I ordered it. Boo!
– The plug at the end of the power supply on the Powerbook (and the iBook, which used the same design) had almost no strain relief, and after about a year it started to fray and give up burning smells. I told Apple I needed a new one. And Apple tried to tell me it wasn’t under warranty, because they recorded the warranty as starting the day I ordered it, not the day two and a half months later when I finally received it. After a bit of argument, they reluctantly extended the warranty to the day it was supposedly shipped, although if that’s the day it shipped they must have sent it by strapping it to the back of a sea tortoise off the coast of Taiwan. They finally sent me a new one and a box to ship back the ruined one.
– The plug on the power supply of my step-daughter Stevie’s power supply went at about the same time – her iBook was newer, but I suspect she treated it a little bit worse than I did. When she called, they told her that she couldn’t get a shipping box like I had, but she had to take it to a Apple Repair Depot which is a good 25 minutes drive away. We told her to tell them that just because she sounds like a meek girl doesn’t mean they have to treat her like crap, and they finally and reluctantly agreed to give her the same deal they gave me.
– My best friends in the entire world gave me an iPod. It’s a thing of beauty and it’s engraved on the back with a message that is very dear to me. Unfortunately it was flakey on the day it arrived, and totally dead three days later. They sent me a box to ship it back. I watched the progress on the web site as they received it, verified that it was dead, and ordered me a replacement. And then nothing. A month later, the people who gave me the iPod started to get annoyed – after my experience with the Powerbook, I figured this was par for the course with Apple so I was just patiently waiting. But luckily they didn’t just patiently wait, and one of them determined that Apple’s repair/support/whatever department had send off an electronic order for the replacement and closed the file. But meanwhile the order fulfillment people never received the order, so everybody thought everything was done that needed to be done. Can you guess that Apple wrote their own support and order fulfillment software? Anyway, after a lot of prodding from a very angry friend of mine, Apple decided to “apologize” for losing my iPod by giving me a Marware case for it, and an iRock transmitter dealy so I can listen to it over the car radio.
– Fast forward a year and a bit, and my iPod died unexpectedly and for no apparent reason (I blogged about this already). I agreed to pay the $250 fixed fee to repair it, not realizing that they then charged my credit card two more times for the box that they sent me to send it back, and the shipping it back to me afterwards. You’d think $250 would be enough to cover that sort of thing, but you’d be wrong.
– The new iPod is flakey. Three times now I’ve decided to let it run down to see how much battery it has. All three times I’ve run it for 3-5 hours, and then stopped it when I went for lunch or left it over night, and all three times it wouldn’t come alive again until I did a full “hold down menu and stop for 5 seconds” reset. It’s a minor point, but it’s annoying that I can’t keep my place in a playlist after it does an automatic shutdown. I’ve now had three iPods, and two of them were broken when they arrived.