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Friday, January 18, 2008

Bugs Apple Fans



What Bugs Apple Fans
It was a moment that showed the two sides of Steve Jobs. It was the mid-1990s, before Jobs' triumphant return to the company he founded. Newton Munson rode in an elevator with Jobs and two of his employees at NeXT, the computer company Jobs founded after leaving Apple. Jobs was telling the pair off. Loudly.

Munson was going to speak up, but then he thought better of it. The feisty Jobs was giving their work his full attention, Munson realized. "That probably was a wonderful day for them," says Munson, now director of information technology and networking services at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and one of thousands of Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) fans who gathered this week at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco.

If there's one quality that sets Apple apart from other companies, it's the passion its users have for its products. "There's almost a personal connection with the computer," observes Herzl Goldin, a white-bearded man who has been an Apple user for nearly three decades. That passion starts at the top, with Jobs.

But while Apple users will line up to buy Apple's latest and greatest--and will eagerly defend the Mac from slights in the press--they aren't sheep. Wade in among the Apple fans gathered at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco this week and you'll find there are things that bug even the most ardent fans about Apple.


You can put Steve Jobs at the top of the list. Sure, Jobs deserves a spot in the technology hall of fame. And over the past 10 years, Apple shares are up 34-fold. You can't do that unless you're doing a whole lot right. And Apple users love Jobs for it.

Jobs, however, can't love them all back, at least not the way they want. When blogger Violet Blue--who has pictures of herself posing with her Apple laptop on her Web site--approached Jobs on the floor of the MacWorld Expo to ask for a photo, lightly touching his arm, Jobs rebuffed her. "He told me curtly, flatly that I was rude. And turned his back to me. The small circle of people around him sniggered," Blue wrote on her blog, Tiny Nibbles. "That's the first time I've ever "fangirled" anyone. And it'll be my last."

A more serious concern: When Jobs' attention wanders, will the products they love suffer? Munson, for example, is concerned that Apple's server and hard-core desktop products got short-shrift during Jobs' keynote. "If Steve Jobs isn't interested in it, it might not survive," Munson says. "We want to make sure they keep making 'real' computers."

Jobs' and Apple's obsession with beautiful design also leads to other worries. Dive into the crowd at MacWorld gathered around Apple's latest product, the MacBook Air, and they'll quickly point out what could be the wafer-thin machines biggest flaw: Users can't swap in fresh batteries. (See: " Into Thin (MacBook) Air") That could be a deal-breaker for road warriors looking for a lightweight notebook.

It's a recurring problem in many Apple designs. You can't easily replace the batteries in Apple's iPhone and iPods. Most users will need expert help to get it done. By contrast, laptops and smart phones built by Apple's competitors allow users to easily pop in a new battery. Of course, they're not as pretty.

Another nit, however, is wholly beyond Apple's control: Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ). It's the downside of one of Apple's most brilliant moves, namely switching to Intel (nasdaq: INTC - news - people ) microprocessors. The switch makes it possible to seamlessly run Windows applications on Apple's machines, thanks to software from Parallels and VMWare.

However, users who decide to ditch Windows for Apple quickly find that they can't escape the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant. If they want to run their Windows applications they've still got to have a copy of Windows somewhere on their Mac--and that means plunking down $200 and up for an edition of Windows Vista.

Of course, the biggest thing bugging Apple fans--at least those who own the company's stock--might be the performance of its shares this year. After the iPhone was unveiled a year ago, nothing Apple could do this year could top the hype the company kicked off with the hot-selling gadget. As a result, Apple's shares are down nearly 6% this year, as the stock market punishes fast-growing technology companies.

Long-term Apple shareholders will just have to console themselves with a dip in the pool or a drive in the car they bought after (hopefully) cashing out some of their gains.

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The iTouch Woes: Long Time Apple Fans Are Not Surprised
The iTouch debuted a few weeks ago and Apple fans, old, new, and the curious, all wanted to get their hands on the new hot device. We thought we had to wait a few weeks after the announcement, but Apple surprised us with stocking a few stores with a few units which quickly sold out.

Almost immediately the negative reports started flooding in, one of the most humorous being the identity crisis. It seems that Apple simply copied the code from the iPhone and loaded it into the iTouch without any modifications.

Some users received units that didn’t even have OSX installed on them. This further supported the iPhone code being used in the iTouch, as there were hints that bluetooth was turned off in the unit, though it contained no bluetooth parts.

Then reports and pictures surfaced arguing that the iTouch’s screen had several problems, with one being the inability to display dark colors.

To top it off, as the world was shouting “Yes, an iPhone without the phone”, Jobs and Co were busy removing features such as the ability to add calendar appointments. Features like this were favored by the masses, as when coupled with the iTunes wi-fi store, your iTouch could operate without the need for computer connection.

As the internets went wild over these issues, I myself thought “So what?”

You see, I have been using Apple products for about 2 years or so now, and I have been witness to some pretty comical product launches from Apple. I have to give them credit for the iPhone launch though. The only thing jacked up about the iPhone was AT&T.

iMacs, macbooks, Macbook Pros, and whatever else you can think of, all shipped with some sort of issue or “flaw” within that first line of units. The most famous being the heat issues in the new Intel chip packed “laptop” that just happened to burn your lap if you used it as it was meant to be used.

With that in mind, most long time Apple users don’t rush to the front lines when a new product is released. Most have learned the hard way as well. I got a 1st product line Macbook, and though I love it to death, prior to the firmware update, I was unable to use it anywhere else but on a desk or flat surface. Apple fixed it, just as they have now fixed the iTouch issues. As usual, they have it down to the exact serial # of the last units affected by the current issues. Serial #’s 9c738 and after all will have revised iTouch units, thus having avoided any of the agony involved with spending $400 on a unit that shipped without the software installed.

Sure it is Apple’s fault, but you have to keep in mind that they do most of the designing and software for all of the products that they produce, leaving a lot of room for little errors like color performance on their best iPod to date.

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