Is it a lemon? It’s not a question I like to have to ask about an Apple (s aapl) product, but it’s starting to look like Apple’s problem-plagued 27-inch iMac fits that description. And that’s not just a clever joke I’m making about the yellow screen complaint that seems to be popping up everywhere recently. Even beyond that cosmetic (though no less valid) complaint, the machines just aren’t living up to Apple’s reputation for quality.
Before the holidays, Apple put its foot down and delayed shipment on all new larger iMac orders until after Christmas. The ordering page for the 27-inch machine changed today to three weeks, extending delays further still. Maybe it’s just a backlog resulting from the initial delays, but reports of problems don’t seem to be slowing down, so that doesn’t seem likely.
Let’s review the storied past of the iMac that held so much promise when it was announced. Very shortly after that announcement, as soon as the first units started shipping, reports came in from users about problems with Flash performance, hard drive spindowns, bad Snow Leopard installs and permissions issues. So it tripped a bit out of the gate, but this is a distance race, not a sprint, right?
But as the race continues, the iMac in question doesn’t seem to be improving its performance. The display seemed to be the primary cause of concern as time went on. People reported cracked displays on delivery, screen flicker that drove a whopping number of customers crazy, and visual noise and dead pixel issues. The latest and most talked about complaint is significant screen yellowing and gradient change from top to bottom of displays on the 27-inch model.
The screen isn’t the only problem, though. Out of the box, some users are reporting DOA machines that just would not boot, and more complaints than any other about processor performance. A friend of mine had to return theirs twice for the same issue, and still hasn’t received a problem-free unit. Apple has tried software fixes, too, but they haven’t worked for everything.
The question isn’t really whether or not the 27-inch iMac is a lemon, it’s how Apple let this happen to begin with. Cupertino is not known for a tendency to rush machines into production before they’re ready, but this has all the earmarks of that exact situation.
Perhaps Apple was distracted by the tablet it’s apparently been developing, and if so, I’m not optimistic about the future of the Mac line. With the iPhone and a brand new similar platform in the tablet, will QA suffer in other areas? Apple’s reputation depends on two things: innovation and reliability. I, for one, am not willing to sacrifice one for the other. Are you?