Rodney Discovers A Possible Flaw In The PowerBook G4, Will Some Suffer The Curse Of Early Adoption?

Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.

Henry David Thoreau

Truth is the safest lie.

Yiddish proverb

Believe it or not, I donit like to say anything that makes the Mac look bad. But, I believe that this is too important not to mention.

A friend echoed the same thing this past weekend, as we had our first chance to manhandle the new PowerBook G4 Titanium. It was innocent enough: we wanted to take it for a spin. I had the chance to do so at MACWORLD last month, but decided not to waste time waiting for the rubbernecking rubes to finishing their collective droolfest.

Anyway, we were standing in the store, admiring this one-inch-thick thing of industrial-designed beauty, when another Mac head walked up to us and said, "watch this."

He took two fingers and placed them on the right side of the laptopis hand rest -- you know, the place to the right of the touchpad and mouse buttons, right above the internal DVD-ROM drive. He then pressed his fingers down for a couple of seconds. There was a movie playing, and his pressing fingers above the drive caused the laptop to elicit a sound that appeared to be the spinning DVD disk rubbing against the Titanium casing.

We were aghast.

"Now, watch this," the guy said, picking up the laptop. He proceeded to hold the laptop so that its bottom was parallel with the table surface, then he tilted it 90 degrees to the right. As he tilted it, we heard the grinding sound once again coming from the internal DVD drive.

We proceeded to look at the laptop closely, offering various theories about what could cause such a grating, aural commotion.

"It appears that Apple sacrificed some sort of structural integrity in order to make that one-inch-thick casing," one person deduced.

We then went to look at the iBook as a quick study in contrasts.

"See," said another guy. "Looks like they have some kind of reinforcement below the surface of the iBookis hand rest. Now, if you look here at the PowerBook, youill see that it doesnit have this…"

We didnit know what to think. We each admitted that we hope this doesnit cause problems for Apple, á la the "catching on fire" PowerBook 5300. One of us even said that he wonit mention this possible problem to people who want to buy a PowerBook.

I countered that even though this is a real problem, I still would buy one if I had the money -- but, then again, I am a classic early adopter, meaning that, risks and all, I prefer to buy products when they first come out in order to be one of the first to have the latest and greatest.

However, there is a part of being an early adopter where "caveat emptor" comes in. For example, I bought one of the first G4 Cubes. I didnit get to benefit from the $300 price break that current shoppers enjoy, plus other features that Steve Jobs has promised will be incorporated into future revisions (not to mention I still canit find a Radeon upgrade card for my Cube, dammit -- anyone who has a line on how I can purchase one, please write me).

I hope that what weive discovered about the PowerBook wonit turn into a PR fiasco for the company. Itis hard to bring new products to market consisting of features and materials untested in the general populace. But Iim sure Apple will correct this problem, if it turns out to be widespread. Meanwhile, I have to think what I have said to you must be let known to the buying public, regardless of the ramifications.

Itis my duty to report such things to you, even if it turns out to be an isolated incident.

I donit like, but itis my duty, nonetheless.