It’s hard to argue with Apple’s success over the past five years.
Not only are Mac sales at record levels, Apple dominates the online music business and portable music players, but has carved a healthy niche in the cell phone business.
Is everything coming up roses? No. Apple has some problems, too. As Apple’s customer base has grown, perhaps six times what it was just a few years ago, so have customer complaints about quality control.
From my experience, Panther was the most dependable version of Mac OS X. Tiger was good, but was also more complex. Leopard seems to the least stable of all the recent OS X versions, and Apple’s own discussion boards attests to that fact.
Apple isn’t much for tried and true and some Mac users, Windows switchers, too, have run into hardware problems. The new iMacs had freeze problems. The MacBooks had screen problems.
For the most part, Apple’s iPhone is the darling gadget of consumers this year, but not without more than a few hardware and software glitches. Bad screens. Freezing.
iPhone problems may not be any worse than other cell phones but Apple gets more good press than it deserves, so it’s only fair that it get a little more bad press than it deserves.
Apple’s iPods, though not loaded with all the gee-whiz features of the Zune or SanDisk models, still commands the hearts and minds of buyers. The iPhone touch is hard to find this holiday season which indicates Apple’s customers love what they make and sell.
Apple has more new customers than ever in the company’s history. Why do they buy from Apple? The company has a reputation for products that “just work” and are easy to use. It’s no wonder some customers get angry and upset when things go wrong, and Apple is not exempt from quality control issues.
I suspect that what we are witnessing with Apple’s dramatic growth is Apple’s difficulty keeping up the quality to match the sales success. More customers means more customers who are not happy when things go wrong, especially so if if the expectations are higher, which for Macs, iPods, and iPhones, they are.
Let me argue that Apple is stretched dangerously thin on the resources needed to maintain and manage the record growth areas—Macs, iPods, online media sales, software, iPhones, and hardware in general. Apple’s reputation is good, yes, but not so good that it is devoid of dents, dings, scratches, and other associated problems.
Is Apple doing anything about their growing quality control issues? Certainly, which I why the noise grows, then slowly softens, not to a whimper, but to a less visibly vocal level. Frequent software updates tend to manage problems and quell the pains of the masses and Apple is very good at updates.
As much as I want to be really happy for Apple and relish all my new Apple toys, and the new Apple Store here in Las Vegas, I’ve had my share of issues, too.
My MacBook Pro had a loud whizzing noise, so bad I eventually requested and was given a replacement.
My iPhone has worked very well from day one, with only the occasional Safari crash or hang, but each software update has improved the experience. Mac OS X Leopard has improved, too, but the first version had me pulling out the hair of anyone nearby. I refuse to pull out my own hair when I get frustrated.
2007 was a record year for Apple in every category. Units sold, total revenue, total profits, stock price, the works. Hardware and software are tough businesses and Apple manages to excite customers of both.
2008 will see Apple broaden the product line—more iPods, more iPhones, perhaps a new Mac or two, and certainly TV and movie rentals in the iTunes Store. Did I mention retail? Apple owns and runs about 200 retail stores, too, which account for an increasingly large chunk of company revenue and profits.
Apple is juggling more balls in the air than ever, and not perfectly, either. The company’s high profile makes it difficult to hide missteps, mistakes, and glitches. Ever hear of a problem with a Toshiba notebook? Obscurity has benefits.
More than any other year, this year I will view Apple from a different perspective. Customer experience, hardware and software problems, and value. I’ll give the company high marks, but there are blemishes here and there.