About two weeks ago my wife and I swallowed hard and bought a 500 gigabyte Apple (AAPL) TimeCapsule. The primary reason we purchased this combination hard-drive and WiFi base station was because, no matter how hard we tried, we could not get iTunes to stream wirelessly from a third-party hard-drive.
We weren't the only ones who had trouble with this; even after three visits to the Apple store, offending gear in tow, the company's own geniuses were unable to figure out the problem. For my wife, a musician with an enormous music library, this widely-discussed issue was a deal breaker, and we had read that streaming music wirelessly off the TimeCapsule worked very well. We elected to buy the smaller version for $299.
On July 30, without any warning, Apple decided to upgrade the TimeCapsule line. Suddenly, the TimeCapsule we bought was ridiculously overpriced. In fact, the 1 terabyte version was priced at $299 and a new 2 terabyte version was priced at $499. I was angry, and my wife was very sad -- she had winnowed her music collection specifically to fit it onto a 500 gb drive. And Apple? Well, Apple doesn't seem to have any problem abusing its best customers with this type of "gotcha" behavior.
What was particularly galling was that this was my second Apple "gotcha" of the summer. Earlier, I had bought a 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro. 17 days after my purchase -- just far enough out that I could not return my machine -- Apple released a cheaper but better-equipped replacement with much longer battery life. I had dropped over $2500 on the deal; now when I look at my laptop, a beautiful aluminum-clad work of art, I just think about how Apple screwed me not once but twice in the course of a single season.
I don't know why Apple hates me. All told, between iPhones, laptops, WiFi modems, mice, and software, my family has collectively spent over $10,000 on Apple gear in the past five years. And that doesn't count the highly profitable "accessories" we snapped up at Apple's retail stores. However, Apple persists in this type of surprise upgrade release misbehavior that makes buying any Apple product a game of wallet roulette. Because of this trend, several sites have popped up to help Apple buyers predict when product upgrades are coming out.
Of course, the trend-watcher sites managed to miss both of the upgrades that left me fuming. With that in mind -- and on behalf of Apple users everywhere -- I'm going to appeal directly to the big guy: Steve, I am asking you: stop with the surprise upgrades. Yes, I understand that new product releases must be a surprise. Yes, I understand that you want to clear your sales channels and therefore don't want to discourage customers from paying full price for products in the brief period before you roll out an improved version.
The thing is, while this may be good business, it doesn't pass the Golden Rule. Apple has been on a tremendous run of late. The Apple brand is -- bar none -- the strongest in the consumer electronics world. Apple products are clearly the cream of the crop in terms of industrial design and mass fetish effect. With this in mind, Steve, it's worth asking why you seem so quick to ruin the goodwill of the very people who are most eager to load up on your gear. A better way to handle this is like many other manufacturers do: announce the upgrade, drop the price on the orphaned inventory, and do the right thing for your customers. Okay?
Upgrade abuse: Apple, TimeCapsule and the price of goodwill