This past year has witnessed some quite serious backward steps for Apple hardware products. The most recent iPhone 4 antennae debacle, a serious case in point. Interestingly, there have been no slip-ups in terms of Apple software products. iTunes still seems to work fine, albeit a-la-carte sales seem to have bottomed out. TMV questions whether this could be associated with the FACT that reliability of Apple hardware products is increasingly becoming an issue for consumers.
You have all no doubt heard about the “Time Capsule” dying issues. If not, TMV suggest you read here. The first generation iPhone shunned 3G, despite the majority of competitor smart phones at that point in time actually being 3G. This along with the FACT very simple functionality issues were missed (i.e. multiple texting) suggests to TMV that Apple has been rushing its hardware products to market without its usual stringent quality assurance processes being implemented. TMV actually believe this issue began with the first generation of iPods – remember those battery problems, or your iPod hard drive dying just out of warranty?
So as Apple’s market cap has risen to $229.7 billion, just recently overtaking that of Microsoft (US$215.1 billion), we have also witnessed what seems to be a very serious decline in reliability of Apple’s hardware products. The most recent case, rather than being a reliability issue, is instead, quite frankly, an unforgiveable “stuff up” with some pretty simple calculations and placement of antennae. Some even go as far to state it has something to do with Nokia suing Apple over certain misuse of its patents by Apple. So is there a correlation between Apple’s rapid rise and the declining reliability of its hardware products? TMV would speculate that there is.
How does this affect the music business, you may well ask? Well when you get growing customer dissatisfaction combined with continual and more rapid technology reliability issues across different product lines, surely it affects brand loyalty? Will this affect iTunes? If more hardware problems continue to dog Apple, TMV suspects the market may well witness consumers turning away in droves. That is unless Apple realises what is at stake and addresses the issues at hand in a suitable manner.
Apple’s USP has always been its clear understanding that user experience is key. This was always the case with its software OS and still is. Since the release of Windows 95, Microsoft has continually released bug-ridden, substandard software products into the market place, and managed to get away with it for almost 15 years. Now that Apple is top of the market cap table it needs to ensure it does not follow in Microsoft’s footsteps, but instead with its hardware product lines. TMV suspects if internet usage was as high back in 1995 as it is now, Microsoft would have nowhere near the market dominance in OS software installs it currently carries.
Following on from this, and the fact that chat rooms and forums abound with Apple hardware product reliability complaints, it is imperative that Apple address its obvious internal quality assurance process slip-ups in relation to its hardware products. Apple may well have sold over 5 million of its iPhone 4s in the first week of sales, but TMV asks: if they are faulty, does it not damage brand image and respectability amongst consumers in NOW time?
What is the effect on that in the short, let alone medium term? Will consumers continue to pay a premium price for hardware products with a reputation for being unreliable? Yes, Apple device design aesthetics are what most other computer hardware firms aspire to. TMV asks what is the point of a sexy looking device if it is unrealiable?
Now the elephant in the room in terms of the music business is this: What happens to a whole industry that relies on ONE company to deliver sales that make up over 65% of global digital music sales if consumers lose confidence in that company’s ability to deliver reliable products? Your guess is as good as mine, but we all know that the picture would not be good for labels, publishers or artists.
Before any of you Apple fanbois start ranting, please note that we use a combination of Apple and PC computers in our office. Yes, Apple OS user experience is second to none, but in terms of hardware reliability Apple is beginning to witness consumer dissatisfaction on a global level. When the music business releases its audio products to consumers, they all work in terms of audio clarity standard etc. We may not agree with the genre of music, or we may even have an opinion on its sound, taste-wise, let alone the licensing conditions that come with it, but at least it works without any unreliability issues in a digital music or CD player.
On a final note, intelligent Apple users have always waited for second or third generation Apple hardware products because it’s been widely known for years that first generation Apple products are always lacking in certain elements. Why Apple fanbois continue to be so religiously willing to pay premium prices for what are, quite frankly, second-rate products, is beyond TMV. Perhaps these people have more money than sense, as it is a recurring thing.
Note to Apple: it’s time to get off your arrogant high horse and start ensuring future products are ready for launch and are not marred by serious reliability issues, as has increasingly been the case lately.
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