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 façade 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.

Ocala-Central Florida Geek Pub Night 9/17