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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

Our Love-Hate Relationship With Apple
September 10th, 1999

There are two sides to being a Mac addict. Actually, I realize there are many sides to being a Mac addict, but for the purposes of today's column, I am narrowing it down to just two. Not everyone has these dual thoughts fighting it out inside of them, but many of us do.

I am talking about the love-hate relationship many of us have with Apple. Hate may be too strong a word to be sure, but many of us go through periods where we are frustrated with what Apple does. Take my column from last week about the apparent G3 ROM block in the latest Blue & White Firmware update. Clearly I was a bit tense, and I still am. Apple has either deliberately or accidentally crippled Blue & White G3s in such a way that they will not function if they have a G4 upgrade card in them.*

*Their response is basically "Too bad, we never told you that you could upgrade them in the first place." Pretty lame, though I bet before all is said and done that Apple will release a firmware "patch," probably unsupported, that will reverse the damage done by the last update. And really, that's all they need to do. They are absolutely right that they never promised, but they were wrong to have handled it the way they did. Blue & White G3s have been upgradeable up until this most recent update and many Apple customers bought Blue & White G3s with the thought that they could be upgraded. The enormous volume of mail I received from Apple customers who own B&W G3s seems to support my contention that Apple stands to lose customers over this issue. Like it or not, it is Apple's responsibility to fix this.

This is a reprehensible act that clearly shows a complete lack of consideration for their customers. Hence the hate. Many people have written to me have said it was Apple's right to block people from upgrading. After all, Apple has their own interests to protect. Besides, since I am an Apple supporter, I should not be criticizing the company since enough of that is done in the PC world.

This argument completely ignores the fact that the interests of Apple's customers should almost always be the interests of Apple. If people have paid money to Apple for their computer, knowing that it can be upgraded, then Apple should not change that capability after the fact!

There are just not that many companies in the world that can elicit such contradictory feelings in their customers. On the one hand we are ecstatic to see their stock hit all time highs (admit it, we were happy to see their stock hit 30!), and we crow like proud parents to see products like the iBook introduced. But we become angry at Apple the moment they screw up -- all in the same breath.

Many PC people look at these issues and call us nuts. Actually, many people outside the computer world also think we are a bit daft. It is not possible for them to understand why we care about the maker of our computers at all.

Of course, these detractors are also people whose hard drives are named C: instead of after our favorite character from a book or from something related to our favorite hobby. They do not understand why we are attached to our computers because they have nothing personal in their own. To most PC users, a PC is naught but a collection of components that are likely to be changed or replaced at any moment.

There have been other issues that have also brought out anger in many Mac fanatics. The clone issue, OpenDoc, problems with Apple branded monitors, the upgrade issue that was just recently settled in a lawsuit, and other customer support issues. Just yesterday we printed a story about an Apple customer who got a bum PowerBook and can't get it replaced by Apple. This person has posted a web site where he tells his side of the story and asks visitors whether he should go Wintel!

How dedicated to Apple do you have to be to go to those lengths? It may seem like his actions are no more than an angry reaction to a company he hates. I think it actually shows that he cares so much about his platform of choice, and by extension the company that makes it, that he has gone to extraordinary lengths to try and force a conclusion that leaves him an Apple customer.

That is a love-hate relationship if ever I saw one. It is also a situation that seems unique to Mac users.

I know that part of this dichotomy stems from the fact that Mac users, including myself, often feel some weird sense of ownership that we do not actually posses. It is part proud parent and eager-to-please child thing combined. We look to Apple for leadership in the way we use our computers, but we seek to correct Apple's actions when we feel she has stepped out of line.

Think about many of the angry diatribes you have read on the web during the last 3 years. People, once again including myself, demanding that Apple do this or that, criticizing their decisions, digging up dirt on what is going on behind the scenes, etc. These rants are almost all coming from people who actually dedicate much of the spare time in giving Apple free publicity and exposure.

Online Mac magazines give Apple the equivalent of millions of dollars in free advertising each year. This comes at the expense of hundreds of man hours each week, some paid, some volunteer, from an army of people dedicated to promoting Apple! Yet some of these very same people will lash out at Apple for various transgressions without losing sight of the fact that they still want Apple to succeed.

Speaking of dichotomies, that effort is not cared for by Apple. To be fair, most companies would be leery of the kind of uncontrolled access to information about that company's goings on that Mac magazines provide. Look at the recent situation between Ford and a Ford fan site (I am only reporting here, I can not explain why anyone would care so much for Ford as to have a Ford fan site). The fan site was passing on company documents and was subsequently sued by Ford. Amazingly, Ford lost the lawsuit, but my point is that companies like to control the flow of information about them and Apple has less of that control than probably any company in the world.

With that information comes the feeling of ownership we all know, and with that comes the love-hate relationship. It is the same kind of relationship many of us might have with a close family member, and that is probably the best analogy yet. We feel the same way about Apple that we feel about a close member of our family. This may seem bizarre to many who do not understand why the Mac means to much to us, but natural to those among us who do.

Speaking of stock prices, Apple seems to have closed at another all time high as I am finishing this piece! Wooooohoooooo!!!!!

I guess I just made my point. I am disgusted over the G3 ROM block, and I am ecstatic that Apple just set a new stock record…

Your comments and hate mail can be sent to backpage@macobserver.com.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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