Mac Bloggers Dis Dell, Mash on MobileMe, Probe Spontaneous Nano Combustion
Apple continues to take heat for the fumbled launch of MobileMe, and reports of spotty iPhone 3G reception -- not to mention flaming iPod nanos -- haven't done anything to polish the company's image lately. Still, according to a major survey released recently, Apple's customer satisfaction rankings are growing -- and they already far surpass those of other computer makers.
Summer might be winding down, but the Apple-focused blogosphere is as hot as ever. Mac bloggers didn't seem too worried over rumors that Dell is cooking up a music alliance intended to topple Apple, and Apple's PC-topping customer satisfaction index seemed obvious enough.
MobileMe, on the other hand, got hammered again this week, and Apple even acknowledged that some iPods could spontaneously combust. Meanwhile, for some iPhone 3G owners, the only solution to their connectivity problems appears to be a class action lawsuit. So much for waiting for a September fix.
Dell Readies to Dish Music Mayhem
BusinessWeek has outlined an upcoming plan by Dell to throw Apple from the top of the digital music/video/podcast hill. Basically, it appears that Dell is standardizing a system across multiple devices -- computers, mobile phones, MP3 players, and online sites -- in an effort to provide a universal system for digital content distribution.
Overall, Mac aficionados didn't seem too concerned.
"It looks like this Dell MP3 Player is backed by some pretty smart minds ... Though I think it will FAIL ... Nothing has really put a dent in Apple's market share ... And their have been some attempts that haven't gone so well ... A.K.A. The Zune," chimed in a1016neo.
Granted, the details of Dell's plans are scarce. Still, might Dell be able to generate a new media distribution model that could take on Apple's iPod-iPhone-iTunes juggernaut?
"When the only embodiment of this grand scheme is a story that was planted in The [Wall Street] Journal and a story in BusinessWeek, anything is possible," Mike McGuire, a vice president of media research for Gartner, told MacNewsWorld.
"The reality of it is, Dell has some really cool software in Zing -- the middleware -- so that's promising. But running an online music or media store is not like selling printers or notebooks or PCs at the lowest possible price. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it doesn't matter about the experience and songs are just commodities for the people who pay for them," he explained.
"The potential is there -- Dell certainly has the reach, the scale and the transaction capabilities. Licensing the content, presenting it in a compelling way and integrating it with the device is really hard -- go ask Microsoft or Sony how easy that is. Props to Dell for being ambitious," McGuire said.
"Certainly Apple could use some real competition ... but it would seem to me to be an extremely steep uphill battle that will be very expensive ... but then again, I don't know," he added.
Clearly, we'll just have to wait until Dell reveals the details in September.
Meanwhile, There's MacLovin'
In the annual ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) survey, Dell was the only PC manufacturer to increase its customer satisfaction level over last year -- by 1 percentage point. In computers overall, Apple was the breakout leader, according to the survey -- the company leapt 8 percentage points, bringing its customer satisfaction level to 85, 10 points higher than the second-best computer manufacturer, Dell. HP and Gateway each slipped 4 percent to 72 and 70, respectively.
On CNET.com's One More Thing blog, one reader summed up the general thinking: "Maybe the PC trolls will finally understand; being an Apple customer, in most cases, means being a happy customer," Galaxy5 commented.
Many commenters blamed Vista for the lackluster satisfaction levels with PC manufacturers, while others took an even deeper look.
"I think the fact that a lot of PC manufactures sell cheap computers affects these results. After all I think many user's are disappointed in their $400 laptop running Vista. Of course Apple sells at a level that brings more satisfaction. Another possible reason is all the bloatware and anti virus suites forced on PC user's from the get go. This in itself slows a perfectly good PC down," added jscott418 on the One More Thing post on the subject.
"The companies that drop in ACSI are all windows-based. It is very likely that Vista contributed to it," Professor Claes Fornell, head of the ACSI at the University of Michigan, told MacNewsWorld.
That's not the whole story, however.
"Not only is Apple the beneficiary of this [Vista dissatisfaction], the synergy between iPods, iPhones and its computer products has helped has well," Fornell added.
Mashing Up MobileMe
Of course, the ACSI study was done before MobileMe launched, so it's hard to say how Apple might have faired after its online service's disappointing debut. Customers have still been reporting issues with MobileMe, and Apple just doled out another 60 days of free service to subscribers, alerting them via e-mail.
In The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) post on the subject, reader twoeightnine kicked off comments with a joke: "What happens if we didn't get the email?"
No worries, of course -- customers should still get credited for the 60 extra days.
Lots of comments around the Web seemed happy enough to get the extra time, but it wasn't all blue sky and sunshine for Apple's cloud-based service.
"Nice gesture but not really worth much. They should stop billing altogether and give a bonus three months starting from when they actually get working. Three free months of a crippled poorly functioning service is hardly worth being excited about," commented smacklin.
Other customers were ready to jump to Apple's defense.
"Wow. That is a great PR move Apple. Really, I haven't ever had any problems, but I gladly take the extra 60 days in addition to the 30 you already gave me. And Smacklin, the service has worked great for the majority of us," commented ericdano.
Back in October of last year, news of an iPod nano that ignited in a man's pocket hit the news, then seemingly died down. Now, the Japanese Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Industry has begun investigating a handful of reports of flaming iPod nanos there. Apparently the lithium-ion batteries in earlier models can cause ignition.
On AppleInsider's discussion of the matter, commentor iVlad, referring to the infamous Apple "kill switch" that will let the company disable rogue applications on the iPhone, wrote, "Ohhh no, even nano has the 'Kill Switch.'"
Apple, not surprisingly, said it would replace any iPod nanos that burst into flame -- even if the warranties have expired.
Still, how dangerous are these nanos, anyway? How often do gadgets spontaneously combust?
"It's very rare unless there's some kind of systemic problem, like the computer battery thing from a couple of years ago. But even then you're still talking about events that are relatively infrequent. It's like getting struck by lighting," Stephen Baker, a vice president of industry analysis for The NPD Group, told MacNewsWorld.
"It happens, but it's not something you should spend your days worrying about," he added.