iPad 3 is Glorious, but Apple’s Internal Technology is Behind the Times

The shoemaker's children go barefoot, as the saying goes. The launch of the third generation iPad (aka iPad 3) the other day was probably noticed by most. Maybe you missed that it brought Apple's IT infrastructure to its knees? Their e-commerce platform was unable to handle the onslaught -- with the dynamic content (the critical shopping basket and checkout) of the Apple Store not functional for a good part of the day. Considering the huge outlier nature of the traffic that day, I'll readily cut Apple slack for this -- but here are some issues that plague Apple's internal systems 24/7. Some advice when buying from Apple:

  • Order under an Apple ID: don't use Apple's "guest" checkout process. Use of the guest checkout disables the otherwise available "pre-approve delivery" option. Since Apple chooses to require signatures for deliveries this is convenient for those who might not be home during the day. Apple's own Customer Support team can't override this either -- their solution consists of emailing a generic release form to print, fill out (nothing pre-populated!) and then place this on the door for FedEx or UPS to pick up in lieu of a signature. I had to laugh when the front-line Customer Support worker on the phone told me that she had to go to her manager to have the manager email me this form. Seriously Apple?? You are better than this!
  • Multiple Apple IDs cannot be consolidated: I actively started buying Apple computers for companies in the mid '90s, so I have managed to create more than one Apple account over the years. I tried to do some housekeeping this time around by merging my accounts to reduce confusion only to discover that this can't be done. I spoke with Apple employees that have the same issue, which tells me that they can't even do this for themselves -- it's a known issue. I wouldn't be surprised if this is because of music/video ownership rights, but still, an odd situation. Perhaps Apple should head across town (less than 10 miles actually) to the Google campus and see how Gmail addressed this.
  • No callback option: the better customer support solutions these days have the option to "press 5" or something like that and leave your phone number so you can be called back when it's your turn. All automated of course -- convenient for both parties. Not so with Apple: you wait on hold, and you wait some more. Old-school, and not in a good way.
  • Better quality music, please: for a company that has pioneered ready access to any music you want, why not have an option to select your hold music? Instead, the user experience is one of listening to horribly low bitrate music (perhaps to keep bandwidth needs down?) but I have heard better AM radio music. I'm not asking for lossless audiophile-grade audio here -- just something that is identifiable as music rather than garbled static.

In some ways it is nice to see that even the sun has its spots, but I hope Apple can make its e-commerce experience as "insanely great" as the new iPad appears to be.

- Thomas Kase

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