Monday, July 21, 2008
APPLE STUMBLES, CONSUMERS STRANDED
The release of Apple's mobile me Iphone software is a disaster for one customer - me! And I don't even have an Iphone.
During the past week, it's occurred to me that I'm doing business with a great many companies where the relationship is way out of balance. I need them many many times more than they need me.
After four days without email, thanks to a prolonged outage of the Apple email system, and with little by way of apology or direction from Apple, it is pretty plain that my email is a much bigger matter of concern to me than it is to Apple.
Today, the company announced a record quarterly profit of $1.07 billion US.
While Apple enjoys a zealotry from its fans and the media that might provide inspiration for a Presidential candidate or a religious cult, their haste to keep their new products and the profits flowing appears to have bowled over their impressive technical team.
The release last week of the software companion to the Iphone, known as MobileMe, is a disaster for at least one customer. Demobilised me.
I've been a subscriber to a service called .mac for the past few years. It's like a hotmail, yahoo mail or gmail account. It has some extra features, but it also has a catch. It costs $139 per year. For that, I have assumed that I would have an email platform of unrivalled stability - and perhaps some customer service as well.
On Saturday morning, I woke to discover that my .mac email was down. I wasn't too alarmed. I recall experiencing outages of a few minutes before.
It's now been four days since I've received any email. And I'm worried.
Apple have confirmed that the problem is at their end. They haven't provided any other information or service that might indicate they appreciate the seriousness of an email system disabled for four days.
My Apple mail account is where my personal life resides. Having lived abroad for many years, a lot of my personal relationships are maintained by email. For the past four days, anyone who sends an email to me assumes that it has gone through - but it hasn't. Who knows what I might be missing out on?
And then there's the banking, credit card, newsletter and magazine subscriptions. They are essential aspects of modern life. And I'm being deprived of all of them by an overly ambitious Apple keen to sign up as many Iphone customers as possible to its inadequately tested MobileMe service.
It's certainly made me very conscious of how dependent I am on email.
But that's just the start of the story.
Just as disturbing as four days without email, is the faceless beast that one encounters when service is required.
Apple is ubiquitous. I can't open a newspaper or walk down the street without being clobbered by an image of the Iphone or an Apple icon. Yet Apple's service is less ubiquitous. In fact there is nobody in Australia to discuss this problem with.
Despite paying a significant annual fee, there is no phone support for my .mac email account. Furthermore, after extensively scouring the Apple website, the only mention I can find of this problem is a simple line "