Why Apple isn’t ready for the corporate game

I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest for a while now, and in a way that is more than a handful of tweetbursts. So here goes.

Some of you may have heard or seen me tweet about my saga with my MacBook Pro over the last several weeks. Long story short, I came to work, set down my coffee, opened my shiny, one month old MBP, and set it on the desk. In doing so, I clipped the coffee, and since Starbucks lids aren’t exactly welded on, I dumped the Venti 5-shot Americano all up in my laptop’s bidness.

Shortly thereafter, the HDD was nowhere to be found.

So that’s what happened. Ok, accidents happen. If this were a home computer the story would be different, but this was my company’s laptop, the thing I need to write code every day, the thing that is my lifeblood at work. In the business world, you can’t afford several days of no computer. For me, it was nearly 3 weeks to get mine back. It involved several trips to various Apple Stores the closest of which was an hour and 15 minutes away at 80mph. It involved phone calls, terrible truths about warranties, and a ton of frustration. By the end of it, I was convinced that there is no way Apple is ready for the corporate game. There are certain things that need to be in place logistically for a company to have a reasonable shot at widespread corporate adoption, and Apple has none of them.

Rock-Solid Reseller/Partner Relationships

This is an area that I knew Apple lacked, but not to the extent that I discovered. If you are going to sell to companies of any size, your resellers have to be an extension of you. They have to be able to take care of your customers and be the go-to-guy for sales and support. Any company I have worked for had one or two vendors from which they purchased all primary IT concerns. For instance, currently, we use CDW for everything except machines that we buy directly from Dell. Our CDW rep knows us, knows our business, knows our needs, and, with the exception of Apple, knows (or has an expert on staff) all the products we purchase inside and out, from telephony to BizTalk. But the experience of buying two MacBook Pros from him for my boss and I was no different than buying them from some dude off the street. Sure we got great machines, at a slight (very slight) discount, but we got no support. And we were sold the wrong AppleCare Plan (more on that later). Now this is probably both a failing from the standpoint of CDW and Apple, but as the OEM, Apple should make sure that its vendors are empowered to the same extent that Microsoft does.

Best Buy is another good example. I have a local Best Buy, as does anyone else on God’s Green Earth, but no local Apple Store. Best Buy has some measure of exclusivity in terms of its partnership with Apple. As of this week they are the only non AT&T/Apple retailer to be selling iPhones, and they have what is positioned as a mini-Apple Store on site. Geek Squad is authorized to do work on your Apple (sorta). The fa├žade put up is that Best Buy is a retail extension of an Apple Store. Not so fast. I was informed by the Geek Squad guy that they will only service my MBP if I bought it from them. And that even then, unless I want new RAM, it’s pretty much getting shipped to Apple for actual service. Fail.

Retail/Service Coverage and Professionalism

Ok, so Best Buy was out as a service provider. Looking at Apple’s Web site, it’s either Best Buy or and Apple Store if you want service. So I drove. And drove. I went to the Apple Store in Jacksonville between sessions at CodeCamp to try to squeeze in. I was 5 minutes late for my appointment at the Genius Bar and they cancelled me. Next available appointment was at 7pm, when I was planning to be driving the 2 hours back home. And I would have to come back the next day to get it.

So instead I made an appointment at the Apple Store in Orlando, which is only an hour away. Traffic concerns had me pushing it close with the time, so I called the store, I said “I’m coming from Ocala, I’m almost there, there’s a little traffic, I may be a minute or two late, please don’t cancel me”. Their response: “hurry up. you get auto-cancelled. Sorry dude”. Ok… So I haul ass there, get parked, (good thing I knew in advance which end of the Florida Mall the store was in) and literally ran to the store, making it with one minute to spare. Then I waited for like 15-20 minutes to be seen. One would think if the schedule is so tight that i get cancelled for being 5 minutes late I could get seen right away. Anyways…

The “Genius” asked me where I bought it. He had never heard of CDW, didn’t seem to have any clue that anyone but he could sell me a Mac (back to that partner relationship thing again) and said: “Bro, you shoulda bought it from an Apple Store, I’d just give you a new one”.

I leave it with them, they send it off, I have to drive back to orlando (at this point I’m about 9 total hours of driving dedicated to this laptop) pay them $1300, and finally get my MBP back.

Dell, on the other hand, would have had a tech at my place of business next day with all the parts needed to gut my laptop and get it running. And if he couldn’t have done it, they would have shipped a new one. My boss dumped a 44oz sweet tea in his Lattitude, fried the whole thing. The next day the dell guy was there, mobo and related parts in hand, and had him up and running in an hour. For no charge. Same incident for me, 3 weeks of no laptop, $1300 charge, and 500 miles on my car. Plus the infinite frustration of the Apple Store experience.

Unless Apple has plans to put a retail store with service capability in every town of any size, they need a service network similar to Dell if they are going to try to get corporate business of any scale. It’s just lucky that I still had my old dell to use to work for those couple of weeks. But companies can’t just inventory spare machines as an insurance policy against poor service levels, that’s waste.

A useful Warranty/Service Plan

This is where Apple fails the most for corporate adoption. The AppleCare warranty is one-size fits none. It covers almost nothing of value. Sure, if there is a mechanical failure or something goes wrong on the laptop due to its component parts, that’s covered. Super. Everyone covers that. But AppleCare is only an extension of the 1 year warranty that comes with a Mac. And, for some reason, there are different ones for different computers. When I tried to register my AppleCare plan it was a major pain, because our reseller sold us the AppleCare plan for the MacBook, not the MacBook Pro. Kidding me? And the Web site for registration doesn’t actually tell you that’s the problem, it just gives you some generic error message. So you have to call a guy. And spend all day on the phone with him. And he also can’t conceive that someone could buy a Mac from anywhere but an Apple Store, and he can’t conceive of a corporate purchasing department having information such as “purchase date” and “invoice” and not the individual user. Because they aren’t wired to think that anyone but hipsters and college kids are using their products. And that’s a huge problem.

Back on the warranty, accidents happen. But in Apple-world, accidents better not happen or you’re paying a third of the cost of the laptop to get it repaired. Dell has our whole company covered 24X7X4, and if some sales rep in BFE drops her Inspiron out a window she has a replacement 2 days later. This level of coverage simply does not exist for the corporate Apple user.

Wrapping it up

So Apple is certainly not ready to be Dell. Maybe they don’t want to be, and if that’s the case, then fine. But it’s a shame, because they make an amazing machine for business use. Personally, I don’t ever want to go back to WinTel boxes, but the fact is, the amazing user experience I’ve had with this MBP is overshadowed by the horrible ownership and support experience, such that now there is no way my boss (and I agree with him) can support moving my development team to Mac. And that’s just sad.

Apple, I beg you, get your act together, gather up some people on the outside that can tell you what it takes to gain ground in business use, and stop treating your business customers like your home customers. I want to be able to use your products in the corporate world. I really do. But you aren’t ready for it.

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About Scott Reynolds

Scott C. Reynolds is a developer with over a decade of experience creating enterprise solutions, primarily in healthcare and biotechnology. He is passionate about the art and craft of applying software solutions to business problems. He is a frequent speaker and participant of community events nationwide.
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25 Responses to Why Apple isn’t ready for the corporate game

  1. Havagan says:

    Completely different experience from calling up Dell and having a repair tech on-site the same day to replace what ails your Dimension laptop…

  2. >> Mac Genius: “bro, you shoulda bought it from an Apple Store, I’d just give you a new one”

    I wonder, is buying one from the online Apple Store the same as buying one from a brick & motar?

    I ask b/c I plan to pick up a new MBP as soon as the next hardware refresh drops, but I’d prefer to buy online so I can customize the machine – adding what I want, and removing what I don’t. However, if buying online means shittier customer service, then maybe I’ll just suck it up and drive to my local Apple Store (I have one in my town).

    Anyone have experience dealing with the Apple Store/Cust Service/Genius Bar w/a machine purchased via online Apple Store?

    And is the AppleCare plan even worth it?

  3. Shane says:

    Well then, I guess it is a good thing Apple isn’t pursuing the corporate/enterprise market. Perhaps, Apple realizing it doesn’t have the infrastructure necessary for supporting an enterprise initiative is the reason they don’t aggressively pursue that market.

  4. @stevenharman

    Good question, this guy implied that it made a difference between online and not online. I would say go to the brick and mortar and have them customize it, to be safe.

    As for AppleCare, it extends the 1 year warranty. I’d say get it.

    @Shane

    They’re pursuing it, but not aggressively. And that’s fine. But they at some point should make a decision as to whether or not this is a space they want to be in, because right now, playing it half-assed is hurting me. And all I care about is me. :)

  5. Jim says:

    I bought mine on line and take it to the Genius Bar when necessary. No difference in treatment. AppleCare is a “pay your nickel and take a ride” type thing. One major repair after the end of your free year and the cost is covered. I bought it for my iMac because I also bought an iLugger to carry it around increasing the chance something would come loose internally. Geek squad usually runs about $185 just to show up at your house. As insurance and peace of mind $85/year ain’t bad.

  6. Robert MacLeay says:

    Allow me to get something off my own chest. I have heard your story repeated so many times over the years.

    Whining that you cannot do your job because somebody who made a $200 profit selling you a business machine won’t give you a new one when something goes wrong demonstrates a decidedly unprofessional attutude. Whining that someone who didn’t make any profit at all selling you a business machine would give you one is, well, downright childish.

    You didn’t know that you would not be able to do your job if your computer went down? You actually believed that anything as stupefyingly complex as a computer would function perfectly for as long as you wanted it to? An equipment breakdown panicked you into wasting an entire day and spending half the price of a new laptop on repairs? It is no one’s fault but your own that you didn’t have a Plan B.

    p.s. Why not berate Apple because they don’t make waterproof laptops? (Not that you’d pay the extra premium necessary to make them so.)

  7. @Robert

    Not sure where all that came from, or even what half of it means. I wasn’t really whining, I was pointing out the specific reasons why Apple is not in a position to play at the large-scale corporate level. As someone who works in an IT organization and has responsibility for determining the equipment that my company adopts, I was giving my perspective on why we wouldn’t be adopting macs even though i love them personally.

    But hey, thanks for making assumptions about me when you don’t know me (for the record I’d pay to make it waterproof), allow me to do the same: you live a sad life as an unfulfilled IT support guy whose job is not stimulating enough to keep you busy, so you scan without comprehending blog posts so you can practice your flame skills so that one day you might get upmodded on slashdot.

    Wow. That was fun.

  8. Retiarius Labs says:

    Apple is already well-entrenched into Fortune 500 land –
    watch the testimonials in the WWDC 2008 from the likes
    of Disney, Genentech, and the U.S. Army, each with thousands
    of Macs and iPhones with corporate-level support.

    If you are just a onesy-twosy shop, buy AppleCare as noted in
    the comments above. If you are somewhere in the middle, go with a
    value-added reseller who can address your vertical market:

    http://channelprograms.apple.com/channel/

    The longer you subscribe to the myth that Apple doesn’t do corporate America,
    the more you fall behind compared to your competitors,
    who have no problem with support for Apple gear they use as a
    competitive weapon harvesting its inherent productivity gains.

  9. @Retiarius

    Fair enough, maybe I should have said they aren’t ready to play at the medium business level. I’m not fortune 500, but with over 500 employees I’m not onsey-twosy either. Dell, however, has no problem providing a network of world-class support to an organization this size.

    The problem I’m seeing is that one hand definitely does not know what the other is doing. The resellers don’t know how to get you service, the only service providers Apple knows about when asked is Apple, and the people in the stores are college kids that aren’t really suited to giving a rat’s ass. And still Apple doesn’t seem to provide a warranty that anyone has told me about that covers accidents. Other vendors do provide that warranty.

    I like apple too. Maybe you want to take the zealotry down a notch though. My company is in no danger of falling behind to competitors if we don’t make a wholesale switch to Apple.

  10. Rob Conery says:

    I think what Robert was trying to say is that there’s a difference between a reseller and a manufacturer. You didn’t buy from Apply – you bought from somewhere else and they sold you a CDW warranty if I’m to believe what I see here:
    http://www.cdw.com/shop/products/default.aspx?EDC=1468694. So the question here is: did you have an AppleCare warranty? Because, from what i know, Apple is the only one who can sell you that (I might be wrong).

    I’ve had my MBP for 2 years now and I’ve had to take it in once. They saw the warranty sticker, scanned it, said “be right back” and I was outta there in 45 minutes.

    Same with my phone. I dropped it and screwed the antenna up. I walked into the Mac store (I bought it online) and they found my sales record and said “be right back”. In 20 minutes I had a brand new phone with all my data synched up – no issues, no money.

    I’m on the other side of the spectrum from you on this one – Apple’s customer service, for me, has been more than outstanding. I’d recommend for anyone who buys a Mac to buy it from Apple (the Mac Store). It’s sad that they control the market for their products this tightly – but buying a Mac from anywhere else is trouble – as you’ve seen.

    Your point about reseller’s is a good one – but really you can think of Apple like you would Dell in this regard.

  11. @Rob

    No, I got an AppleCare warranty, CDW can sell them. And there’s the rub, you’re kind of held to whatever the guy at the Apple Store feels like doing for accidental damage. I was told that the spill, regardless of what is actually wrong, equals x dollars and send it to apple.

    I dropped my iPhone and cracked the screen. The Apple Store guy didn’t give me a new one. Some people with the same problem got new ones. It’s far too subjective to be applicable to a wide corporate scenario.

    I know I can’t compare Apples to Dells (lol) in the service/support regard. That’s my whole point. They aren’t ready to be playing on that level.

    Maybe they don’t want to be. Fine. Whatever. They’re too good for that. It’s a stupid attitude though. No corporation is too good to make money.

  12. @Rob

    And even still, no matter what warranty i had or didn’t have the support infrastructure is not in place for anyone that doesn’t live in a town with an Apple Store.

  13. Blad_Rnr says:

    @Scott,

    Let’s see: you spill coffee into your MacBook Pro, and expect Apple to provide you world-class support outside of the initial agreement when you didn’t buy it from them directly? That seems like a lot of expectations.

    Coffee is not covered under AppleCare, or the standard one year warranty. I would say, knowing that, buy a back-up laptop in case something like this happens. I am the IT Manager for a 60+ user office all running Macs. When something happens like your scenario, I give the user an older PowerBook so they can continue working. That buys me time to get the thing fixed. Maybe that’s a luxury for us, but a cheap PB goes for $500 on Ebay.

    As far as Dell goes, that is great service. But they have to provide that, at a loss, because the competition for Windows PCs is cut-throat. Sure, they offer it, but at what expense to them? I would say, get a local Apple Authorized Repair vendor. In our town of 800K people there are several local Mac authorized repair shops that would fix a MBP under their own warranty.

    That said, I don’t have to go to the Apple Store, but I do. I get great service, they know who I am when I walk in, they usually cut me a break on repairs, and I have found them very knowledgeable.

    I do agree that Apple is not prepared for the massive onslaught the Mac is making into the Enterprise. Look at the cancellation of the XRAID. A real bummer. I think they are in a transition, and are thinking about it very carefully, but their focus remains the consumer.

    One last thing: I put my MBP on a stand so spills don’t have a chance to fall into it. Just my sage advice to you:-)

  14. @Blad

    Yeah. It’s a lot of expectations. It is what is expected of a vendor in my company and most like it. Aside from that though, I’m not sure why the focus from almost every commenter is my individual issue. Replace “spilled coffee on my mac” with “dropped it” or “catastrophic failure of some component” it all means the same thing in the corporate user – lost productivity.

    So you have an extra PB. What if 2 users have a problem? Do you have 2 spares? What about 10? What about people in the field? when you start scaling you start seeing the problem with the logistical power of Apple not meshing with how great the individual computers are.

    Your last point (before the stand thing, which is a good idea) is exactly my point – they are trying to make inroads into corporate america. They are doing so based on the strength of the product. But if they go much further without the infrastructure to support it, it’s going to backfire.

  15. Furthermore, I’m not sure where this idea that Apple doesn’t have to care about me because I bought from CDW comes from. A reseller is simply a sales arm to your organization. Apple uses resellers like anyone else, to leverage a reseller that already has a large network of buyers.

    When I buy Microsoft products from CDW Microsoft doesn’t treat me any differently than if I had come to Redmond and swiped my credit card at the company store.

  16. @brett

    I will thanks

    too bad the liquid didn’t enter through or touch the keyboard at all.

  17. Totally agree with you here, Scott. While I love my Apples (I have three), I had to give up trying to use my MBP in the workplace. Outside of the service and support realm, it’s just not equipped to fit well into a typical IT infrastructure. And, we have some sharp IT guys, but they wrestled constantly with AD integration, patch management, company-wide permissions/policies… all the things that you take for granted, and don’t pay much attention to, as a developer.

    For now, I continue to love my Apples… my support time at home went WAY down. I no longer have to help my wife unload the camera, upload them to the web, printer stopped working, etc, etc… but, I’ll wait awhile before trying it at work again.

    Take care,
    -Jason

  18. aka Dan Brook says:

    1) Get AppleCare if you want an extended warranty and don’t whine if you don’t.

    2) Read the AppleCare agreement; icomes with onsite service (in most locales, including mine which is an hour from any Apple store), so that is an option.

    3) You can mail the laptop to Apple if you prefer that. Your time can’t be worth much if you’re willing to drive that far.

    4) Most Authorized Apple Retailers honor AppleCare, and can also repair most problems. (I suspect spilling coffee might require a bit more work than you typical shop would even want to handle, so they too might send it away. And the $1300 was for many replacement parts, which were destroyed by you, not due to Apple’s failure.)

    4) No one should cover the cost of spilled coffee or laptops dropped out of windows without a hefty fee.

    5) If you can’t live without, you should have a backup ready to go.

    6) There are plenty of repair companies that will sell you on-site service (Apple uses them as subs for their on-site service; they been to my home twice, no-charge)
    I doubt Dell would be onsite the next day if you didn’t have active current warranty service.

  19. Pete says:

    It’s interesting to see everyone taking Scott to task on this. It seems like a phenomenon almost unique in the Apple world.

    Many people expect flawless results from support from other vendors, and B&M if they don’t get it. Folks return well-used equipment to Home Depot and expect a full refund (the unofficial HD rental plan). Other tech vendors certainly get more abuse over far lesser customer service problems than this.

    But why are people willing to put up with less than stellar results (to the extent of actively defending/supporting the vendor) from Apple? Is the religion that strong?

    To Scott’s point, which many seemed to have missed, coffee was just the agent this time. It could be any number of things that trigger a failure, not all involving a mistake on the user’s part.

    The “suck it up, it was your fault” type comments typically won’t float in the IT world. If Apple does want to get into IT shops this size, they need to provide something better than this.

    As development of RIAs increases, I expect to see more and more developers opt for Apple hardware, if not software, as the design/creative tools are generally better. We’re already seeing the start of that.

    When IBM sold off their laptop line to Lenovo, my company switched to HP specifically because of the service terms. I had a problem with an HP laptop once and the repair guy went to my house and did the fixes at my kitchen table.

    Pete

  20. @Pete

    Thank you!!! I had given up the hope that someone would actually read and comprehend before knee-jerk apple defense mechanisms kicked in. You’ve restored my faith in the interwebs.

  21. KillJones says:

    You know, it bothers me when people of such obvious intelligence temporarily lose their ability to read what I would estimate to be some of the Internet’s more plain English. I am not going to @Anyone in particular as blarguments aren’t my idea of a Friday night well spent. I would, however, love to clear my own chest (which, having read select posts is heavy with the need to rant).

    Who is this Scott guy anyway? I mean, everyone knows that a real Mac guy buys a few extra Macs just in case an unforseen hardware failure occurs (spill induced or otherwise). I keep one in my freezer, two in the porn drawer that lost its purpose when I met the Internet, and a fourth in a hermetically sealed box upon which I have cast spells of protection.

    And Apple? Pfft… Of course they aren’t to blame! I mean, who needs a vendor that will swap out your motherboard at an airport on your way to a conference in Vegas? You should know that you can’t just buy their products and expect them to support you! You need to do it through an obscure combination of steps involving a website, a 2 hour drive, and a meeting in a glass construct where geniusen outnumber shoppers thirteen to one. Oh, and when you go in for help, make sure to pick the Abercrombie kid who appears to have been laid. He’s probably indifferent to how you came upon your broken companion.

    I absolutely love my MBP but not to the point where I would blindly defend Apple for having a terrible and inconsistent warranty and support practice.

    Nice post, Scott. I get it. DIAF.

  22. Robz says:

    For everyone that read this and heard it negatively, replace the word “Apple” with “Microsoft.” See if you still have the same negative feelings. If you want to slap Scott on the back and say “Golly good show!” you probably are a little too subjective about this subject and should withhold comments until you can look at this post objectively.

  23. AppleStoreEqualsFail says:

    Apple’s biggest failure is THE STORE. I have never seen so many people stand around without being able to help. The scheduling thing is absolutely retarded. I paid how much for you to tell me I have to wait?

    Meh. I like their products, but the store is nothing short of frustration in colorful t-shirts.

  24. JBG says:

    If the nearest Apple Store was 100 miles away, you should have called in the problem to AppleCare’s toll-free number, they would have had a FedEx box (with deliveryman waiting for the pickup) at your door the next day, and you would have had the machine back in three working days if experience is any guide. That is part of the AppleCare (and everyone’s first 90-day) service plan.

    I agree about the hassle of correcting any issue with the AppleCAre plan itself, but I’ve had nothing but good luck with AppleCare on Apple laptops.