3 Times Unlucky or the Start of a Larger Trend?

After using a MacBook Air as my primary laptop for nearly two years, a month ago I bought a new, 15.4-inch MacBook Pro, mostly because I wanted to watch more videos when on the go. I also wanted the larger screen and the comforts of a larger keyboard. Furthermore, the matte screen was an option.

This Sunday, just about five weeks after I acquired the MacBook Pro, the machine just froze on me. I restarted but got the blue screen of death. Yes, you read it right -– blue screen of death. I tried the usual tricks, such as running disk utilities and rebooting from the install DVD. Nothing worked –- so off I went to the Apple store to get it fixed.

The Genius Bar was running behind schedule, so I waited. I admired the $999 MacBook. I gushed over the new iMac and a few minutes later, I was talking to the Genius Guy. He basically looked at it and said that my hard disk was gone. I would have to send it back for repairs. I was crestfallen and angry. And for some odd reason, the Genius Bar guy decided to replace the machine. He said, sorry, but here you go — have a new machine! Once bitten twice shy, I ended up buying the Apple Care plan for about$350. And thank God I did.

I came home, booted up the machine and used my Time Machine backup to restore it. Things worked just fine for about 12 hours. Just after 12 noon on Monday, like the witching hour, my bad luck started again: the computer froze, though it didn’t show any blue screen. I couldn’t do anything. Since there are no batteries to remove, all you can do is reboot the machine and pray that it works. Well, it didn’t. So back to the Apple store, though this time a colleague went to the Apple store because I couldn’t back out of some prior commitments.

We were told that there were some problems with the hard disks of these 15-inch MacBook Pros. Anyway, they gave me a new machine. I went through the same process of setting it up. Today, at around 11 am, the machine went comatose on me again. You guessed it — the hard drive died.

Apple replaced the machine after much arguing. They say that the migration assistant might be the reason for the machine failures. Anyway they gave me a brand-new 15-inch laptop. And I got a \$5 coupon for the iTunes store for being patient, whatever that means. (By the way, these machines were replaced at three different stores — two in San Francisco and one in Palo Alto. The restore from the Time Machine is working just fine on the old MacBook Air. )

Back home, the machine is sitting on the table, wrapped up in cellophane. I dread even booting it up. What’s the point if this one is going to be another lemon. Three in a row is a pretty bad sign, don’t you think? I’m not even angry anymore. I’ve lost the data and I’ve but lost my time, but more importantly, I’ve lost my trust in Apple and its hardware. As an unabashed fan boy of Apple products, that is the worst part of this whole ordeal.

Now I understand it can happen with any PC –- not just Macs -– but then PCs cost a lot less than Apple machines. And no, three machines in a row don’t malfunction. And please don’t tell me it’s just bad luck. Bad luck is buying a winning lottery ticket and losing it in a laundromat.

Apple and Steve Jobs have thrived on the idea of quality-always-costs-more. As we see wider adoption of Apple’s Mac machines and sales grow higher, I wonder if we’re going to see more of these hardware problems. Will quality suffer because of scale? I don’t know. I appreciate the replacements and the Genius Bar, but if these hardware problems happen way too often, then Apple is in trouble.

Today, as I write this on a Lenovo ThinkPad X300, I’m not angry at Apple -– just disappointed!

Photo courtesy of Zack Klein via Flickr.