Apple Bloggers Pay Pretty Penny for Macs, Ponder Porcine iPhone Update, Pray for Perfect Products
For its iPhone 2.0.1 update, Apple pushed out a fairly heft chunk of software. However, it wasn't very specific about what exactly all those 249 MBs of data do. "For Apple to be vague and state 'bug fixes' is not right. What bugs? Which ones? Sometimes not all are fixed or even acknowledged," Sven Rafferty, director of Internet technology for hyperSven, told MacNewsWorld.
08/08/08 4:00 AM PT
There's been lots of activity in the Apple-focused blogosphere this week -- and that's no surprise, what with the screaming success Apple's been having with its Mac and iPhone sales.
For example, TechCrunch reported that Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer that produces the iPhone for Apple, has ramped up production to 800,000 units a week. With that kind of production, Apple is on a lot of people's brains these days.
A few of the more interesting stories this week include the high price of the Mac, the iPhone 3G's bug-fixing update, Apple CEO Steve Jobs' apparent acknowledgment that the MobileMe launch was a fiasco, and what might be going down in September.
Show Me the Money
EWeek's Apple Watch blogger Joe Wilcox outlined the average selling price cost difference between PCs and Macs. It's no surprise that Macs have a much higher cost of acquisition, but somewhat surprising is the fact that Apple has been able to maintain the higher price of its Macs longer than the PC market.
With the help of NPD Analyst Stephen Baker, Wilcox noted that a Windows-based laptop sold, on average, for US$877 in June of 2006, while the average Mac laptop sold for $1,574. By June of 2008, the average PC selling had fallen to $700, while the Mac laptop average selling price dropped a piddling $59 to sell for $1,515.
"There have always been people willing to pay for the Mac experience, and ignore those who would tell them something else is 'just as good'. What you're seeing is an increase in the number of people who believe a Mac is worth it. Some of us have felt that if more people would really try a Mac they'd feel the same way and, clearly, it's happening," commented Tom on the Apple Watch post on the subject.
Others chimed in, ready to share the Apple love.
"OS X is worth the $700 difference, easy. As near as I can tell, unscientifically, from talking to my PC-using friends, the 2 days/month they spend dealing with Windows BS compared to the two hours I spend each month dealing with OS X BS (yes, there's some) immediately pays for the difference, within the first month (if my time is worth $50/hour)," explained Rich Webster.
Of course, the issue is more complicated than products that use the same processors, memory, and hard drives.
"Macs (other than the MacPro) are expensive for the hardware you get, and arguably cheap for the software you get. If you value the software, and you're not out to buy the cheapest thing that will get you by, then there is a value argument for Macs. On the other hand, if you somehow need every possible GB of RAM [random access memory] and hard drive and GPU [graphics processing unit] performance, you'll never beat a hand built Windows or Linux PC (unless you factor in the cost of your time to select components, do the assembly, recover from the missteps, etc.)," noted Joe Merchant.
The discussion quickly turned to the automobile metaphors -- the idea of buying a Ford vs. a BMW, the notion of quality vs. commodity. So is there something to the perception of Mac quality vs. PC quality? On the hardware side, do Macs just look cooler than most PC counterparts? And seriously, is a Mac that much more reliable than a Dell or HP?
"I think every PC company builds a quality product, using quality components -- and often the same manufacturing partners," NPD's Baker told MacNewsWorld.
"No one sets out to build a poor quality PC. You build a product that supports the price point you target and provides the margins that your company needs to generate to be a successful enterprise. Apple, HP, Dell -- no one builds a lower quality PC. You can't sell defective memory or processors, and hard drives are pretty much the same. The difference is in the functionality, which I think is a totally different concept than quality. You can use more functional components that offer new features and have added costs, which is mostly how we differentiate a $1,500 PC from a $500 one, and not the build quality," Baker explained, noting that PC manufacturers also offer more expensive units that cost just as much as Macs.
Of course, build quality can be relative, too. A PC laptop might creak but never really break, whereas a MacBook might be nice and tight ... and never really break either. Now, as for elegance and industrial design ...
Moving On, iPhone Update Kills Bugs
When Apple released it's much-anticipated iPhone 2.0.1 firmware update, it did it in typical Apple fashion -- with as little detailed information as possible. The 249 MB update simply covered unnamed "bug fixes," and iPhone users have been left to puzzle out what's fixed, what's better, and what may have been left untouched.
"Typing lag is fixed. Contacts app loads fast now," noted orthorex on the MacRumors.com post on the subject. The most notorious typing lag was with text messages.
Safari is widely reported as being snappier, and applications seem to launch faster, with some posters noting that the iPhone is more responsive all around. Long backups have been fixed for some, but others still seem to be stuck with extra-long backup and sync issues.
Some users even noticed small changes. "Photos rotate soon after iPhone is tilted. Faster than 2.0," commented crozewski on the MacRumors.com post.
Also, quite important for some users who snapped up NetShare, the iPhone tethering app Apple removed from the App Store, is that 2.0.1 seems to leave it alone and functioning.
So What Gives With the Lack of Detail?
Apple has an automatic update function that checks for updates in all of its products, but Apple's details have been notoriously sketchy at best. Is there an industry standard?
"It is an industry standard to have a 'changelog' or 'version history' which lists all items changed and added," Sven Rafferty, a blogger for SvenonTech.com and director of Internet technology for hyperSven, told MacNewsWorld.
"For example, 1Password, a Mac password manager, just came out with an update ... take a look at its long list fixes to get the idea. For Apple to be vague and state 'bug fixes' is not right. What bugs? Which ones? Sometimes not all are fixed or even acknowledged. A changelog helps users know what has in fact been changed," he explained.
"Why Apple choses not to reveal what's in its changes is really lending more to its over secrecy issue. People say the Bush Administration is secretive, sheesh, Apple is beyond ridiculous. Maybe Apple doesn't want to reveal security issues it fixes and thus just doesn't note them," he added. "There's no reason to hide 'Corrects App Store update issue where iPhone updates are not seen on iTunes 7.7.x', for example. That's just plain silly."
Jobs Admits to MobileMe Mess
Also this week, it was reported that Jobs sent out an internal e-mail acknowledging the rocky roll-out that MobileMe experienced. The missive was apparently leaked -- perhaps with upper management's consent, perhaps without -- and published and on ArsTechnica.
In the e-mail, Jobs noted, "The launch of MobileMe was not our finest hour," adding, "It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store. We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence."
While some speculate that somebody must have been fired, the e-mail only talks about Eddy Cue taking over as vice president of Internet services and reporting to Jobs. Cue will lead all of Apple's Internet services -- iTunes, the App Store and MobileMe.
Because Apple is so well known for its secrecy, there's a bit of hesitation to take the e-mail at face value.
"Does anyone else think that this was really just a 'press release' that was sent out in the form of a 'leaked internal email'?" asked DistortedLoop on the ArsTechnica post.
Despite the MobileMe dustup, the service is working well for some. "Good to hear they are taking this seriously, but on the other side, MobileMe is actually a very good service. People who think they can do better with free services must just not use the services. The new push sync services are great. Photo sharing is top notch and general web publishing couldn't be easier. But probably the single most valuable service for me (and what makes everything else really work) is the iDisk," Puggsly commented.
What's In September?
Moving onto September and the widespread belief that Apple will roll out some cool new products, AppleInsider.com reported that Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster believes Apple is prepping for a special event in September. Munster reportedly believes Apple with update its iPod and MacBook lines.
Lots of comments focused on predictions, new amounts of memory and storage, processors, pricing and tweaks to the design, but at least one reader, RolandG, seems happy enough as is:
"IMO, the MacBook's and the MacBook Pro's design is near perfect. Sleek, no unnecessary fuss, quality materials, clever details. What do you think could be optimized?"
Of course, once Apple releases something new, opinions can change rather quickly.