Apple critic, get facts straight before writing

April 10, 2008|By DAVID ZEILER

I have just finished reading an opinion piece that, even by the lenient standards of opinion pieces, does a severe injustice to Apple Inc.

The sensationalist attack starts with the article's title: "The Pusher of Cupertino." The author, James Daley (who apparently works for The Independent newspaper of the U.K., though the piece appears on the MacNews World Web site), goes on to speculate that Apple sabotages its iPods with software updates with the intent of disabling them. His sources for this serious accusation are the unfortunate iPod experiences of his wife and the anecdotal stories of friends and people on unnamed Internet forums. No facts, figures or studies, despite his claim of a "growing body of evidence."

Daley even acknowledges in his first sentence that "there's no solid evidence that Apple deliberately kills iPods through software updates," but the entire piece is predicated on the assumed truth of that allegation.

He is upset because his two-year-old iPod has started to malfunction. His wife has had several iPods, including a 30-GB fifth-generation model that went south.

Meanwhile, her iPod Nano still works fine despite being more than two years old because, Daley implies, it has never been synced with a computer. According to his theory, syncing iPods exposes them to the deadly software updates.

Oddly enough, Daley says that despite his suspicions about Apple, he will almost certainly buy another iPod because he "loves" it. But he again faults Apple. The allure of the iPod has seduced him beyond reason: "Even though I know I should take my business elsewhere, it's an addiction."

Another 30-GB iPod his wife bought "never-used" almost immediately began having issues. "Short of it being a defective unit, the only obvious explanation was that it was struggling to get to grips with the newer software," Daley says. How could he be certain his wife didn't receive a defective unit, a considerably more obvious explanation than his software sabotage theory?

I happen to have a 30-GB fifth-generation iPod that I bought in January 2006. I sync it with my Mac frequently. I install every software update. Yet it still works.

I'm not saying my experience proves anything, but neither does Daley's. I can't say with certainty Apple is not sabotaging iPods to get people to replace them with new ones. After all, the company did brick unlocked iPhones.

Perhaps a significant percentage of iPods do fail after two years. But how many last three years? Or four?

For that matter, what's the failure rate of competing MP3 players? Better than Apple's? Worse? The same? Daley offers us no data, just unsubstantiated opinion.

I also have read complaints that iPods don't last much longer than two years, but I haven't seen any research that gives hard numbers on what customers can expect. And I certainly have never read any suggestions that Apple is deliberately killing iPods.

There is usually nothing wrong with offering opinions based on anecdotal evidence. You want to complain about the shorter-than-expected life span of your iPods, fine.

But Daley is accusing Apple of a criminal act. I think that calls for stronger facts than his wife's conspiracy theories, his friends' problems and some rants he read in a few Internet forums.

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