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Apple Fixes MacBook Shutdown Issue

By Jennifer LeClaire MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 27, 2006 11:16 AM PT

Apple on Thursday released MacBook SMC Firmware Update 1.1 to address sudden shutdowns on a small percentage of its laptop computers.

Apple Fixes MacBook Shutdown Issue

The SMC Update improves the MacBook's internal monitoring system and addresses issues with unexpected shutdowns, according to the company. Specifically, the update deals with what's been labeled RSS or Random Shutdown Syndrome.

Apple recommends the update for all MacBook systems, including those that received warranty repair. Apple was not immediately available for comment.

Everything's Relative

"Clearly, it's never good for a company when there's a technical issue with a product, but it pales in comparison with bigger product issues in the market right now like the Sony battery recall," Tim Deal, senior analyst with Pike & Fischer, told MacNewsWorld.

Apple issued a voluntary recall for some of its 15-inch MacBook Pro batteries in July. The company cited performance concerns with the rechargeable batteries. Apple replaced the batteries, which were manufactured by Sony, for free. Dell had a similar issue with Sony batteries in recent months, which put the negative spotlight on Sony more than the computer makers who used them.

"Notwithstanding that, the shutdown issue couldn't have happened at a worse time for Apple," Deal said. "Apple is in the middle of its strongest quarter and a setback like this could have some negative impact on what could be a record for the company in terms of unit shipments and revenue."

Fixing the Problem

The RSS issue first cropped up in August 2006. MacBook owners who experienced the unexpected shutdowns launched a Web site to track incidents of RSS. The problem was first thought to be a design flaw in the heat sink.

Apple invited customers to contact AppleCare for service, but now instructs them to download the new firmware. MacBooks running Mac OS X 10.4.7 will be able to download and install the SMC Update. MacBooks running Mac OS X 10.4.6 won't be able to install the update until version 10.4.8 is installed, Apple said.

The SMC firmware update starts automatically. A status bar indicates the progress of the update. During the update computer fans will run at full speed, but will return to normal once the update completes, Apple explained.

Measuring the Impact

Deal doesn't believe the shutdown issue will have a significant impact on Apple's fourth quarter sales for consumers who are familiar with the Apple brand. Mac fans are loyal, he said, and will see beyond the incident.

"When you are a leading manufacturer of consumer products you are going to have setbacks like this," Deal said. "This is just part of the risk of doing business."

Deal believes Apple has successfully lured new users to its platform -- at the expense of Microsoft's Windows. However, fence sitters and skeptics may shy away from MacBooks during the fourth quarter in the wake of the shutdown incident.

"The shutdown incident could have the most impact on people who may already be wary of the Mac platform to begin with," Deal noted. "They may decide not to choose Mac, but I still think Apple is going to have an historic quarter on the iPod side and on the Mac side."

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