The thing I’ve always loved about the Apple way of doing things is the integration of its products and their sense of style.  For about nine years now, I’ve been happy to pay the “Apple premium” to buy and use their products.  But the Apple ecosystem is starting to stink.  The smell began a couple of years ago and is getting worse all the time.  Soon…

Apple has never been shy about changing its horses in the middle of the stream at the expense of its customers.  Up until now, we’ve put up with it.  We marched through the G3/G4/G5 architecture run to Intel, and we did it because we believed the results would be worth it.  They largely have been.  And part of the reason we’ve put up with the time and expense to hang in with those changes is because we always had a little wiggle room.  But it’s increasingly evident to all of us Apple customers how much it really is Jobs’ Way or the Highway, and that can only have one end result. Instead of being driven by technical reason and customer service, it appears that the Apple motto is that profits come first, even at the cost of destroying certain customer bases.  That’s what Apple is doing to me as a prosumer, and I’m not even running one Xserve…  (though I do own Final Cut Pro with the ever stagnant DVD Studio Pro that still has no Blue Ray support).

I own a 2008 2.8 GHz Eight Core Mac Pro.  Since I became an Apple convert, it is the fifth Apple Tower I have owned. (That is a little less than one-fourth the total number of Macs my wife and I have owned in that period.) It is the last.   Here’s why.

The Apple Mac Pro is sold as the Mac you need to get if you want power and expandability.  There is no doubt that it is expandable in comparison to other Macs and is generally more powerful, though the low end machines barely outrace the top iMac anymore.  But by the term “expandable”, Apple means that you can add more RAM and hard disks as you want.  CPU’s are not upgradeable.  In reality, neither are your video cards.  While GPU advances tend to run faster than a greyhound, Apple will only offer you one or maybe two additional video card choices during the entire lifetime of your Mac Pro, and they will provide technical support for employing them in only their newest models, even when there is no technical reason not to support others.  You can see this with Apple’s approach to sales of the Radeon 5770 and 5870 video cards that are only supported for the mid-2010 Mac Pro’s, despite the fact they work in models back to the very first Intel powered models sold.  Apple will gladly sell you the video card, by the way, but once you try to return it…even if it’s defective…they will tell you that you shoulda’ done it their way and they’re not gonna give you your money back.  When I’ve tried to post warnings about that in the question bank associated with Apple’s Online Store, they apparently have blocked that “answer”.

That, Apple, is really bad form, not to mention questionable from both a legal and ethical standpoint.

Let’s consider their video card sales and support policies in conjunction with how Apple has marketed their LCD backlit monitors over the past couple of years.  They have been happy to sell their MacBook Pro’s as a “matched pair”, first with their 24 inch backlit-LCD and now their 27 inch backlit-LCD.   When they first did it, I bought a MacBook, Macbook Pro, and a couple of those 24 inch monitors as replacements for iMacs my wife and I both had been running. (The iMacs went to other family members.)  We did that to consolidate our operations (drop from 5 Macs total to 3) and maximize our investments; and we’ve been happy with that set-up.  I have upgraded my MacBook Pro once since then.  A year after that, Apple dropped the 24 inch iMac out of the line and also the 24 inch monitor, leaving those of us who had bought MacBook Pro’s as integrated desktop systems no place to go.  Oh, excuse me, Apple did replace the 24 inch overpriced LCD monitor with an even more overpriced 27 inch backlit-monitor that costs a GRAND!  Yes, there are still 24-inch monitors, still over-priced, sometimes available in refurbished form; but now there is only one Apple choice!  And it’s a doosey!  A thousand dollars for a monitor (and the only one Apple offers with mini-display port integration) may not seem like a big deal if you bought a 30 inch Apple Cinema Display and are looking at a 27 incher as a replacement, but I assure it’s a big deal when you are being “forced up” from your old 24’s.  Especially, when you might need to buy two!

Let’s say, for a moment, that you decide you would like one of these highly-priced 27 incher displays for use with your Mac Pro.  Well, only the 2009 and 2010 Mac Pro’s have video cards that will accept the proprietary mini-display port connector Apple uses for that display, so earlier Mac Pro owners have to run the display with a third party adapter or buy a video card that contains the proper interface.  Where can you get those?  Only from Apple, of course!  And they’ll gladly sell you one for your older Mac Pro, especially when they know it means more sales of Apple monitors. But, if that card’s defective, stand by; Apple will do nothing to help you diagnose the problem or the card.  They will simply take your money and be gone.

And, that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what they did to me.  I bought a Radeon 5770 video card from Apple for by 2008 Mac Pro, and it started hanging up my system from the get-go. It took me a while to troubleshoot it; by the time I was convinced it was the card and not my system, the 14 day return window had passed.  When I called Apple for support, Technical support would only refer me to sales because my 2008 Mac Pro (protected via AppleCare) was “not supported”.  Sales would do nothing because I was outside the 14 day return period for the card.  At tech support, the tech commented that the problem perhaps laid with my power supply.  I ended that discussion by pointing out to him that my Mac Pro was covered under AppleCare; and if there was a power supply problem, they owed me a fix.   They didn’t suggest I take the machine down to have it checked, and I have no reason to suspect any other part of the machine than the new card itself.  The machine has run impeccably well except when the 5770 was in place.  The ridiculousness of the whole thing is that all I was trying to do was position myself to continue to participate in the Apple Reality Distortion Field.  For that, I got burned.  And that really pisses me off!

As I told the Apple sales people days ago, I intended to refute the charge for the video card with my credit card holder and I did.  We’ll see if and how Apple responds.  I’m also watching how Apple reacts to my attempts to make sure other Apple customers with older Mac Pros and buying either the 5770 or the 5870 video cards understand they are risking just throwing their money away.  It’d be one thing if we were talking fifty bucks, but we’re talking between two and four hundred dollars.  I’ve got better charities to give to than Apple, especially when times are so hard.

Moreover, there’s been a lot of online speculation about Apple’s ditching of the pro and enterprise crowds.  I believe Apple is doing just that; the consumer line is where the money is.  They’re just not being honest with us about it because they don’t want to lose that market until they’re ready. Their attitude toward the Mac Pro market, including this questionable attitude toward older Mac Pro support for newer video cards, is evidence of it.

Moreover, the recent update of the iPad/iPhone operating system forces on users several undesirable changes.  First, I have a lot more use for the original function of the “lock switch” as an orientation (portrait/landscape) lock button and ABSOLUTELY NO USE FOR IT AS A MUTE SWITCH!  Changing it up may be a great idea for a phone, but stinks for the iPad!  Additionally, Apple has forced us all to accept Game Center WITHOUT the ability to remove it!  So, now I have a TOTALLY USELESS application on my iPad, one I will never use.

Anyone else starting to pick up on the smell?