Apple takes proactive approach to system glitches

If it weren't for bad luck, Apple probably wouldn't have any at all.

Last week an attempt to proactively address problems with models of the Performa 5200 and 5300, Power Macintosh 6200 and 6300, and PowerBook 5300 and 190 lines backfired when word that Apple was making contingency plans to fix the systems leaked out before the company was ready to act.

In a memo sent to resellers last week, Apple outlined a preliminary plan for fixing a series of unrelated problems with those systems that involved increasing the product warranty to seven years.

However, Apple had not completely identified the cause of crashes of the affected Performa systems, didn't have enough inventory to correct a colour-registration problem with the Powermacs and hadn't set up a facility to handle expected returns for its PowerBook models that were in danger of developing cracks in the casing or had loose power supplies.

Apple has not yet informed dealers which desktop systems will qualify for the extended warranties and free repairs through the service centres.

Some US dealers are worried that Mac owners will flood them with repair requests that may not be covered by the warranty programme.

"The worst thing that could happen is if hordes of Mac users that experienced a crash or weren't happy with the colour on their monitors came in and expected a repair," says Tom Santos, principal of MacAdam, a dealer in San Francisco.

"We've only seen these problems in very rare instances," Santos says. "If a user brings in a system, and it doesn't have the problem Apple's identifying, the user's going to end up having to pay for service."

The problems raise the spectre of Apple's quality suffering while the company copes with 2400 layoffs and losses that are expected to drag on for the next year.

"We're very committed to producing quality products," an Apple representative says.

Apple's problem children

Performa 5200/5300

-- Faulty components can cause the system to crash. Apple hasn't identified which models are affected yet.

Power Macintosh 6200/6300

-- The colour can unexpectedly change on some monitors.

PowerBook 5300 and 190

-- The casing of the portables' displays can crack at the hinge, and the power supplies can come loose.

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