Is There a Bruise on Apple's Reputation?

Apple's comeback and growth have been nothing short of amazing, but despite its hits, or perhaps because of them, it appears to many that customer service and quality have suffered.

By broadening its share of the computer market and diving into whole new businesses, the company has become a case study in the challenges of taking a cherished brand with a devoted (some would say cult) following into the mainstream.

Today, Apple is selling huge volumes of products to a much wider, and perhaps less patient, audience. The iPod, starting at just $79, has put its name in the hands of millions of mainstream consumers, many of whom, analysts say, have gone on to buy Macs and iPhones. In the most recent quarter, ended on June 30, Apple sold 1.76 million Macs, up 33 percent from the prior year. That gave it 5.6 percent of the U.S. PC market, up from 4.8 percent, says researcher IDC.

Those new customers, lured by the company's sterling reputation and marketing power, may feel deceived when they encounter bugs.

Yes, it's a lot easier to satisfy a "fanatic" audience than the general population.  But it's not simply quality or other such issues.  Apple has made several missteps or miscalculations, such as the effect of the $200 price drop on the iPhone, which have turned into extremely heated debates online and in customer forums.  These have really dinged Apple in the eyes of the more general consumer.
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