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Michael Gracie

The brand promise of Apple

“Big blogger” gets upset that Apple is all talk, and no social interaction.

I think the bigger issue is that quality control is beginning to suffer. I never thought I would have a problem with an Apple laptop, but I’ve had plenty since the last upgrade (including two repair calls and finally a complete replacement). After owning four separate issue-free Dells over as many years (happily upgrading to the latest and greatest each time) prior to making the OS X switch, one finally came that was DOA. Dell began its slide soon thereafter.

When you chips are down, look at the bright side

Something of a cliché – just don’t hit me if you’re down too.

Eric Savitz of Barron’s Tech Trader follows today’s “downs” and yours truly puts some much needed spin on it:

  • Charles Schwab’s online trading was down all morning [Editor’s note: along with position reporting, etc. etc. and even the dang login screen, for a while at least]. But look at the bright side: the market was down 300 points, yet managed to bounce back. Why? Schwabies couldn’t dump their stock.
  • Skype is down, and Mr. Savitz can’t check for blog reactions at Technorati either. But look at the bright side: Skype is rarely down – I can’t even remember the last time it was down. And Technorati? Well they’re always down, so who cares?
  • Trading was halted in Dell shares. But look at the bright side: maybe they’ll quit sending all those fricken catalogs.
  • And while we’re at it…

  • Red Robin’s profits are down. Maybe instances of heart disease will follow that direction.
  • The amount of outstanding commercial paper is at it’s lowest level since the 9-11 attacks. And, there haven’t been any recent instances of airliners getting purposefully plowed into very large office buildings.
  • Last but not least…

  • The secondary mortgage market is getting pummeled, and many hedge funds are getting pummeled. But some crafty web entrepreneurs are having fun with it.
  • UPDATE: STOP THE PRESSES – Some German physicists have broken the speed of light! And as any student of Einstein’s theory of relativity should know, this means we may soon be able to travel back in time. Absolutely nothing to worry about now.

    Dell doesn’t screw everything up

    Like my memory of their once superb support.

    I am not going to debate Dell’s now inherent negatives – Jeff Matthews has a lock on that – instead, I’ll speak to the experience I last remember, and it was a good one.

    The Dell C840 I purchased (and subsequently hacked up) was a refurbished device. When it arrived, the screen had a ding in it, and the LCD was blurred as a result. Bad. I called Dell support, and they immediately scheduled an onsite repair. Two days pass, and no tech arrived. I called Dell again.

    I remember not one, but two fine humans taking the case. Once I was transferred from entry level to “priority,” the tech wasted no time telling me they’d help, and help bigtime. Solution – pull a brand new machine off the line and send it my way. No replacement refurb, mind you, a brand new machine. I received it four days later.

    That is what I remember about Dell, and the pundits can’t take that away from me. Unfortunately, Apple Computer can make that memory less significant, as my time on the phone with them (due mainly to my early unfamiliarity with the OS), was met with cordiality, patience and rigor as well.

    I wish them all luck, as that is where value is headed in the computer age – towards kindness, consideration, and a take-action attitude with the customer.

    If only the rest of the world followed that path.

    Dell Did Not Make This Up

    And niether did Jeff Matthews. Matthews is finally tiring of Dell’s plummenting technical support quality. I am wondering why it took a smart guy so long to figure this out.
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    Apple’s not so premium pricing

    I perused this whole article (see Is Apple a Rule Breaker?), but when through I knew something was wrong. Right at the front of the article, it said Apple offered premium products at premium prices. Being a recent Mac convert, I remember doing a heck of a lot of comparison shopping before deciding on my new Powerbook, and I couldn’t remember finding a similarly equipped machine at a comparable price. Was or am I missing something?
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    The iPod could pale in comparison

    I’ve heard an awful lot of analyst (and Dell executives) talk about how Apple is a one hit wonder with the iPod. While I have gotten a little more biased after my month on a Powerbook, I still couldn’t take the mindset of the fanatics, and had to continually lean towards the pundits. That notion gained even more strength after I saw the Mac Mini, and thought it overpriced and useless. Now I am beginning to wonder.
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    I like my Mac, and so does Linus

    I am not the only one who likes my Mac. Although I still run a Dell C840 with dual boot WinXP and Fedora Core 3, the Mac has appeal in terms of portability, ease of use, and a comfortability factor I have become acccustomed to in a very short time (like three weeks).

    Now Linus Torvalds is using one too.
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    Dell 42 inch Plasma TV – Free!

    Gizmodo had a review of the Dell 42″ Plasma TV the other day (see Dell W4200HD 42-Inch Plasma Reviewed (Verdict: Wait for Sale) : Gizmodo).

    Well the title is pretty self-explanatory.

    I personally won’t wait for the sale, as I don’t watch much TV at all. But for those TV junkies out there, a better way exists to get that TV without having to wait, and WITHOUT HAVING TO PAY AT ALL! It’s called Blingo.

    A new search engine which popped up on the radar a few months back, Blingo presents an interesting twist on the old search model. They give away prizes just for using them.

    Now you may be wondering what the catch is. Well there is none. No signup process is required to win a prize – all you do is search. Now you must have cookies enabled on your browser in order to be tagged for a prize, but that is little sweat. Blingo does not gather extraneous information about you, nor do they harrass you after you win. Your name is not released to anyone outside of the Blingo crew, ever.

    Yes, I am plugging another site. Reason being, I know these folks, quite well in fact. They are a standup crew with no intention of screwing anyone (unlike 99% of the sites out there). No, I am not an investor in the business, so I stand no gain on seeing them do well.

    I would, however, like to see some intelligent, honest entrepreneurs hit a homer off a unique model, without raking their customers over the coals. I think Blingo can do that.

    So go to Blingo, and win that sweet TV, you crazy, game playing, movie watching, Nick and Jessica loving, home theatre junkies, before its GONE!

    Why Apple Won’t Deal?

    A week or so back I compared Apple to Toyota, regarding pricing and quality. I left one major issue out which some may say speaks to the difference between good products and truly excellent ones.

    I’m talking about warranties.
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    Fax This!

    Ok. Yesterday a client of mine calls and says she wants to send a fax. A what? I did not know fax machines even worked on our souped up digital phone networks. I haven’t sent a fax in years (a quick scan to PDF attachment is my process of choice). Off to the races.

    Let me begin by saying that I am as mobile as they come. I swear by my latest porto-box, even if it is a ten pound Dell C840. It has a mini-PCI b/g card, which is as close as I get to the network. I have a broadband connection in the house, that ends in two places – a wireless router for one, and another to a box that supposedly controls a machine called a television. Second device besides fax machines that I need to research someday. My cell is my only phone.

    I started checking all the providers out there, and narrowing it down to two that seem to actually provide a service. (I don’t mention names when I have something negative to say – you can figure it out – I will call them ABC and XYZ). Both leave some things to be desired, and I am sure there are a few more that just didn’t make the cut (please let me know, too) but here is my take:

    I first signed up for an ABC test account (free inbound, no outbound – just what I needed at the moment). I dialed the ABC number, and hear a fax on the other side. Good. Then I call the client, and give them the number. Five attempts by her later, no fax has gone through. Maybe it was the “handshake” or some other tech glitch, but nonetheless, it didn’t work. I log into my account, looking for some help. I find a lot of links to upgrade my account, but none that actually show any activity. The support section of the site turns up nothing either (except a lot more links to upgrade).

    Now, a couple of thoughts. Why would I want to upgrade to a paid account when I cannot even get the free account to do what I need it to? I am certainly not against paying, but for what? The only thing the upgrade offered was outbound faxing I don’t need, and a local number which I also don’t need (all my clients are far and away anyhow). A quick shot at the ABC pricing schedule, and I see no inbound-only plan.

    Ok, no worky, no planny, no customer…….goodbye.

    Next stop, XYZ. Now XYZ asks you to pay for some service upfront, but they offer the first thirty days for free (yea, whatever…they just bill in advance for service). But, again, as I am not opposed to paying, I sign up. Next thing I know, I have a confirm message on my screen, with a number. Bang…a confirmation email hits my box. Quick dial of the number, and I find a fax alive on the other side. Call the client, and give her the number. Five minutes later, an email arrives in my box with a nice clear PDF attached…..just how I like it.

    Now some caveats on XYZ:

    1) Their “activation” Outlook COM plug-in file (downloaded from their site) did not work. No care here, as a quick email to tech support (very responsive, by the way) confirms that file only enables outbound faxing from Outlook 2003. Don’t need it, and two, inbound has already proven to work fine without.

    2) XYZ offers no inbound-only pricing plan (what I really need).

    Questions and conclusions:

    Why do these fax services think outbound faxing from email is so important? They force its “need” in their pricing structures, as though it is a world beater. If I have to send a document, why not just email it, instead of using email to fax it?

    And why not offer an inbound-only plan? It should actually be cheaper for them to receive faxes, than to send them. Senders bear the cost of the call from the fax machine to the server on the inbound, while the fax service provider bears the cost of the call from the server to the fax machine on the outbound. And even if a service has a POP in every area code in the world, they still have to pay for the last mile, which makes the whole thing a wash.

    As far as usefullness, well I am part of a small band, so I favor the inbound. But in a large organization (which I have been a part of in the past) the following dynamic occurs:

    People are happy to see their faxes show up at their desk, as they are always wary of who might be reading the fax over at the machine across the hall (or worse yet, scooping up their two page doc along with another twenty page one, and walking off with it). Inbound service certainly solves that problem. Now on the outbound side, if someone needs to send a doc, they would rather save the trip, but if the document is readily faxable from the desktop, then why not just email it? And if the doc required a signature, etc., the person has to make a trip to the fax machine anyway, unless of course, multinational corporations are now providing sheetfeed scanners to every employee…not!

    Someone please let me know if a better service exists, or if the “premier” providers get a little farther along.
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