April 6, 2006
If Apple really cared to compete in the business world, it would act as though its computers were the mission-critical tools of business that most of their customers require. The average business user can no more function without his computer for 2 days than he can function without a telephone. Ok, maybe that's a bit too harsh, but think about this: what if you could not access any computer for a week? I don't mean while you're on vacation, but I mean during the normal business week. I don't know about you, but I would effectively be out of business by the end of the week.
Why am I on about this? AppleCare. While other top-tier computer makers all offer on-site warranty, Apple has a half-assed version. At best. AppleCare offers on-site repair only if you are outside of a certain radius of an Apple Service center— I think it's 50 miles. But even then, you have to meet certain criteria in order to get the support. Dell just sends someone out. Yes, you jump through a few hoops, but they send someone. Why? Because they understand that if you are without your computer, you are losing revenue. Apple? Well, since everyone who uses Apple must be a raving fan, it's a privilege to have one, and if it breaks, well, it's no trouble at all to wait a week, or 2 or 3 to get it repaired. Or not a problem to drive 2 hours to get it repaired.
I live in Charleston, SC. The nearest Apple Authorized AppleCare or Warranty service center is in Savannah, Ga. That's 2 hours away. If I have to truck a computer down there for repair, that's a total of 8 hours in a car (4 down and back to take it, 4 down and back to get it). I could FedEx it, too. So, warranty repair costs either $150 round-trip, give-or-take, or 8 hours in a car.
Now, to Apple's credit, you can get on-site repair, if you jump through the right hoops. I have done it for a number of clients, on G5s, iMacs, and others. I typically have to spend 3-4 hours total on the phone to get this to happen. (See my blog entry Enroll Your AppleCare for more on how to make it harder.) But today I really discovered just how hard Apple can make it.
Here are the facts: iMac G5, purchased 4/29/2005 that has AppleCare on it. It began to Kernel Panic for the user last week. I did all of the normal troubleshooting, the short version: swapped out the RAM with an identical twin iMac's RAM, erased the hard drive and zeroed-all-data and reinstalled from scratch. The thing still Kernel Panics, sometimes even trying to boot from the install CD (which works flawlessly in the twin). There's much more, but suffice it to say that I and the Apple Tech agree it has to be the logic board.
Here's the rub: the RAM is not Apple original, we replaced the original (upon purchase) with 2 x 1-GB chips— and threw away the 256Mb chips (from it and the twin). Ok, fine. We swapped the RAM from the twin, which works fine with either set of RAM. So it's clearly not the RAM. But since we don't have the original chips to put in, even though clearly it's not the RAM at fault, Apple refuses to dispatch a repair person. We must carry it in for service. If we had the 256Mb chip, they'd send someone out. Oh, and Apple no longer sells 256Mb chips for the iMac G5.
The upshot is that the Apple Tech was very nice and is shipping me a "replacement" 256Mb chip to use. Of course, it will cost me $150 if I don't send it back. With that in the iMac, I will be able to call back. Assuming it fails— is there any doubt?— they will then send out a repair person.
Let's summarize: I called yesterday, 4/5/2006 with the issue; I had to call back today after swapping the RAM (which didn't help my situation). Now, it will be 4/12/2006 (earliest) when I get the dispatched RAM; then I'll call back; it will be 4/14/2006 (again, earliest) that a dispatch comes out. In reality, it will be 4/19/2006 before the system is repaired. That's 2 weeks. That's 2 weeks for a computer with an extended warranty which is supposed to be on-site.
Now, I ask you, does this make you think Apple cares about the needs of a business user? Not me. AppleCare is meaningless, and in this case worthless. The 2 weeks of downtime for the user is FAR more than the value of the computer— maybe as much as 10 times. Yes, we actually have another computer to use in the meantime; after all, we actually care about our business, and that of our customers, unlike Apple.
Update: 4/19/2006 Got the 256Mb chip and the Mac does not fail. But it fails with any of the 4 (3rd party) 1Gb chips, all of which work in the other identical iMac G5. Apple said no dice, it is the RAM at fault. So we bought a 1Gb RAM chip from the Apple Store. 5/3/2006: When we finally got it, It failed in the iMac G5. So, IT WAS NOT THE RAM. Finally, Apple relented and sent someone out, who replaced the logic board. He was nice enough to put the 2 3rd party 1Gb chips in for us. Now all is working perfectly.