MacBook Air selling in spite of missing bits – the soft stuff matters most

This post on 437signals will come as a surprise to some. The MacBook Air, despite all its lacks, is selling well.

The soft stuff, the emotive stuff, is what matters. A huge part of any purchase decision is emotive and irrational.

From a completely rational viewpoint, the MacBook Air should not be selling so well. After all, many have complained loudly about the lack of various “essential” technical bits on the MacBook Air.

I would worry about these missing bits too, if I were evaluating this purely from a purely rational viewpoint.

So how does the soft stuff rate? I got to fondle one at a local electronics shop recently. And was duly impressed. Unlike some of their other models, the screen hinge was tight and the screen did not wobble. The shell was flawlessly moulded and assembled, and felt tough. The screen was bright and clear… but these are all merely rational justifications of the fact that it “felt right”.

So, will I get one? Absolutely not.

Why? Precisely because of the soft stuff.

I left the Church of Mac almost ten years ago because of persistently dodgy hardware, appalling service, and the elitist and unhelpful fan-base. Apple took my trust in them and trampled on it.

At the end of the day, given no real difference between what I can do on a Mac or a PC, it comes down to Love and Hate.

Thanks to Stilgherrian for spotting this post.


  1. Stilgherrian said:

    You’ve given the lads an extra 10 signals! Only 37signals… ;)

    Apple Australia’s service is often criticised, though I suspect the problem is more with dealer-based technicians who are happy to leave broken machines sit around for a week before they look at them.

    Many organisations need to fix that problem. Nikon Australia is one of the worst: they’ve already taken 5 weeks to replace a component on a professional photographic flash unit — and there’s still no sign of it being returned. Even if parts aren’t in stock locally, they could air-freighted here within days. So what’s the hold-up?

    Yes, there may be a queue for the technician. So, if the queue is 15 working days deep, ask everyone to work a day’s overtime for 15 weeks — or half a day for 30 weeks — and the queue is gone. All it takes is the will.

    Apple’s hardware did have quality control problems a decade ago. This probably isn’t as relevant now that Apple tops the list for reliable hardware. Time to revise that datum.

  2. Zern said:

    Indeed Apple’s quality may well be better now. They have had 10 years to get it right :)

    And the service issue I had with Apple was Apple, not the dealers. The main Apple service switch would answer 50% of calls. The rest of the time it just rang out!

    But no thanks. Once bitten (badly) twice shy and all that…

    I certainly do not want to be captive to Apple’s whims again. One reason to stay with Windows is the sheer plethora of manufacturers to choose from. If I get pissed off with one, I’ll just buy from another, and all my software runs.

  3. Zern said:

    It appears Apple’s quality woes continue: Apple fans burned by hot Airs

  4. Stilgherrian said:

    The problem with basing purchasing decisions on news reports like that is there’s absolutely no verification of the true extent of the problem, and no analysis of the source of the information. And the SMH doesn’t care about accuracy, it’s just trying to attract readers to advertising. The more emotive the better.

    And I note that the advertising on that story, at least when I looked just now, is for Acer and Toshiba. Surprise surprise.

    With a high-profile company like Apple — especially given that it has rabid fans to the point of being cultists on one side and plenty of competitors on the other — any news becomes highly polarised.

    The news process is about heroes and demons. The MacBook Air was always going to be either be the greatest computer since the abacus or the biggest lemon since the Edsel. It’s (1) bleeding edge technology and (2) shown sitting in Steve Job’s hand — love him or hate him. Heroes and demons.

    You’ve just done the same, Zern. You characterised one specific fault experienced by an unknown number of loud complainers as “Apple’s quality woes continue” — implying that there are indeed “quality woes” — when as I said previously the most recent independent tests have shown, overall, Apple’s quality to be the best of all computer manufacturers.

    I won’t go into the technical details, but all (good) laptops have software to manage their operating temperature by managing the processor speed etc. In a close-fitting case like the MacBook Air’s, that’s even more critical. These users, it seems, are doing computationally-intensive tasks like video editing and, when the processor gets hot, instead of it slowing down to reduce temperature it’s still running too hot and seizing up. Oops.

    Has the software patch fixed that? We don’t know, says the journalist. So perhaps the real spin on this story is that Apple has promptly fixed a software fault that affected a few computers.

    We simply don’t know the truth. The SMH isn’t interested in telling us. And Apple’s overly-secretive corporate culture won’t tell us either.

    All that said, I wouldn’t buy the first machines of any kind from the first batch off the production line. If people choose to buy the bleeding edge, then occasionally they must bleed.

    I wouldn’t use a compact notebook for video editing, either. While it certainly shouldn’t lock up when it overheats, agreed, my gut feeling is that the first Airs were bought by power-user geeks who work their machines very hard — when really the prime function of the MacBook Air is to show other people how much of a wanker you are how cool you are.

    [Disclosure: For those that don't know, I (mostly) use Macs, and have done for 23 years. For me, it's the right tool for the job. It may or may not be the right tool for your job. I certainly won't buy a MacBook Air, it's not the right tool for me. I will soon purchase a new MacBook Pro, however -- but only when the second batch comes off the production line.]

  5. Bassi Kumar said:

    > “You’ve just done the same, Zern. You characterised one specific fault experienced by an unknown number of loud complainers as “Apple’s quality woes continue” — implying that there are indeed “quality woes” — when as I said previously the most recent independent tests have shown, overall, Apple’s quality to be the best of all computer manufacturers.”

    Exactly. People don’t recognise when they themselves hold an opinion and convey it in a polarised manner. No-one is truly objective, but there’s always two sides to every story…

  6. Zern said:

    Exactly. There is no rationality involved. Much as I try to rationally appreciate the Mac, I still can’t get over the fact that I don’t trust Apple because that trust had been betrayed. Whereas I used to defend the Mac stuff, now the negative press has more significance for me than the positive stuff.

    The “truth” and “facts” matter little. The soft stuff, the beliefs, the opinions overrides everything else. That is exactly the point of my post!

    When we deal with strong emotions, there is usually only one side to the story – our side. We humans are weird ;)

    @Bassi Kumar – not sure what you are actually accusing me of? I don’t think I ever pretended my opinions were in anyway utterly factual and rational…

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