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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

Apple's Weird Relations With Media And Customers
October 5th, 1999

When you buy products from a company or work in the media in that company's field, sometimes you can encounter strange behavior from its employees or just bizarre policies from the company itself. Nowhere is this as true as it is as when you are talking about a company such as Apple.

What puzzles me about Apple is the way it treats its customers. On one hand, it does the best to serve them and satisfy them. On the other side, it frustrates its most loyal customers almost at will.

The first example of this is Apple's efforts to listen to its customers. At MACWORLD NY, Steve Jobs' keynote was full of proof that the company thought that buyers' opinions were important. Apple had asked what people wanted in a portable and they were told "an iMac to go." That's exactly what Apple brought to the market. They even ran a few iBook commercials at the Expo itself, and actually went with the ones that generated the greatest enthusiasm in the crowd. That's listening.

However, on the hardware side Apple refuses to listen. Look at the education market that preferred the G3 All-in-one to the iMac. Steve Wood hit the nail on the head when he spoke on this issue, but needless to say Apple did not listen to its education customers. Think about that six-slot G3 that Apple still does not offer despite the great demand for it in the professional world.

We reported - at the Mac Observer - how someone could not get his defective PowerBook replaced in a situation where most other computer companies would have done so as a matter of policy. Apple did not. In 1998 it was a different situation altogether when a school bought some G3 All-in-ones and a couple were defective. What did Apple do? It took them back without a single problem and replaced them.

Another interesting way to explore this topic is to look at customer service. Many have said loud and boisterously that Apple's customer service and warranty are crappy. Others, like me, simply disagree because our experiences have been flawless. Why?

Now, let us talk about the media. Remember what my editor Bryan Chaffin said about Apple's way to treat Mac Web sites and how Dan Knight of Low End Mac protested about this same issue by refusing to update his site for a few days? Why does Apple do this to Web sites? They offer an awful lot of free publicity to Apple and they do more and better advocacy than anyone. Apple no longer needs the "Why Mac?" section of Apple's site anymore when you have dedicated webmasters and columnists doing the job daily.

Then there is print journalism. Apple collaborates well with such entities but still, there is a flaw. Apple delivered the Mac OS 8.1 update in person to MacAddict in 1998. When Mac OS 8.6 got out, Apple's dreaded legal department politely told the MacAddict folks that the days of Apple updates distribution were over for them. Again, why?

Apple's attitude toward its fans, customers and media puzzles me. One day, you have the impression that this company is there for you and treats you like the loyal customer you are. The next you are wondering what you did to get unfair and arbitrary treatment.

If you know the answer, e-mail me about it, because frankly, this leaves me without a clue.

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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