Robert asks why Apple doesn’t get the negative coverage Dell gets. I answer.

[Photo: My Mac.]

Robert Scoble asks, “If it’s OK to print miles of bad press about Dell, why isn’t it OK to print miles of bad press about Apple?”

Before I list my top ten reasons for why Apple seems to get a pass on the type of negative press Dell gets, let me say once more for any pro- or anti- Apple readers who may not be familiar with this blog: I continuously have problems with the four Macs my family uses and the over 25 Macs my company has. I have an employee who spends a part of each day trouble-shooting problems employees have with their Macs. During the past 48 hours, my wife’s Mac wouldn’t boot up properly as the screen would merely flash a globe icon that was a new one to me. There is one batch of five PowerBooks my firm purchased about 18 months ago that have all required replacing failed hard-drives. Macs break. Macs crash. And Apple is a big corporate, secretive, walled-off, litigious, at-times-arrogant institution with customer service that, at times, is byzantine and non-existent. I have blogged many, many times of my frustrations and disagreements with Apple. That said, here are the reasons Apple doesn’t get the same negative press Dell gets:

1. In the corporate marketplace, where PCs run “mission critical” operations, Macs rarely sit on “mission critical” desks. In those places, Dells are easy to be found. When Dells don’t work, it can create problems for people running nuclear reactors. When my wife or Robert’s son’s Macs don’t work, it’s a pain in the ass, but nothing that is going to melt down a portion of West Virginia, say.

2. The Macs our company runs are a lot less problematic that the Dells our company runs. I could start with issues related to viruses, but there is no reason to re-hash the obvious.

3. I have employees who have said that one of the reasons they like working here is because we all use Macs. For employees to comment on the “brand” of office equipment and note that it is “something special” about the place they work is, well, unusual. (I have one Austin-based employee who “hates” Macs, however, and she will tell you that I am happy to provide her a Dell. Actually, happy is not the word she would use, but I am, indeed, happy to provide her a Dell.)

4. Apple has one of the most helpful “user communities” ever known. In fact, their “user community” is the role model for consumer “communities.” Perhaps, it’s because the Mac “community” is something Apple didn’t create (at least, not the real community) and don’t try to (at least, overtly) control, but have had the wisdom to support and foster. Indeed, I have a hard time thinking of another consumer brand (or even, media brand) “community” that is actually a “community” and not something a corporate communications or marketing department dreamed up and called a “community.” In 1986, I was attending monthly meetings of the Nashville Mac Users, a group that is still very active.

5. Related to #4, Apple users, perhaps because of their small (relatively speaking) numbers, have developed small tribes that hang out in places like MacAuthority in Nashville. These small businesses helped create and foster the Mac community yet have been, in many instances, crushed by Apple’s retail store strategy. However, MacAuthority and others like them still survive and thrive among niche power-user communities of Mac owners. Professional designers, filmmakers and musicians, for example, know that the local Apple Store is more geared to consumers than to them. If you are setting up a studio or editing bay, a place like MacAuthority is a god-send. (It’s also a great place if you are a consumer — it’s just a little less convenient than the mall.)

6. Apple may not allow employees to blog, but they have hosted a user discussion forum for as long as I can remember.

7. The proliferation of Apple stores gives the appearance (and reality) of the chance to interact with a live human-being that can help you solve your Mac delimma. I could rant here about the way the “genius bar” outrages me when I can’t get an appointment or when I’m told I need to pay extra to be insured that I can get a place in the line, but I still know there is a place I (in theory, at least) can go for help. (Again, I’m fortunate, because I have a much better “genius bar” at the office.)

8. It’s false the suggest Apple gets only “positive press.” As a long-time Mac user, I am constantly aware of negative reports about anything Apple does. That’s because there is a dedicated corp. of Mac users who spend their free time looking for such negative coverage and refuting it. Apple needs no PR response to negative press primarily because there are many bulldog niche bloggers who stand ready to defend Apple, even when it’s wrong. That said, this same group is constantly pushing Apple for newer, better, cooler stuff — and spreading any Apple conspiracy story or rumor they can detect. They also constantly write about “what Apple could do wrong” that would make it uncool and just like other computer companies.

9. Three words: “compared-to-what?” Yes, I can tell you several ways my Mac sucks and how outrageously Apple handles things like DRM. At times, I get impatient with my Mac when it doesn’t respond the way I think it should…but it works better and more easily and more dependably than most of the technology I encounter — heck, my cell-phone is a lot more difficult to use and is way less dependable.

10. My Mac is a part of me. It transcends being merely a “tool” or piece of equipment. I spend half my life touching it in some way. I run a business with it. I communicate with the world — and my family — with it. I expect to have to learn how to use it and to keep learning how to use it better — and have come to accept that, like everything else in my life, glitches occur with what is, at least for me, a mission-critical part of what I do. I am convinced — for many reasons — my Mac is special. It’s like my children. They are special. Especially, they are special to me. But I think they are special, in general. Despite their specialness, they sometimes (rarely) do something that makes me believe their operating system must be fried. However, even when I have to reboot them and they have to spend a week-or-so in the shop, I know I’d never want to trade them in for a kid running Windows.

Note: I will be attending the keynote speech at MacWorld next week and will probably pick up this conversation again after that. While I’m sure I’ll blog the event here, I’m “covering” it as part of another hat I wear.

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