MacBook Air bugs are a reminder of iPhone woes

If bugs with the new MacBook Air are the result of Apple hurrying the product to market, the company should know better

Some users of the new MacBook Air have been reporting frustrations on the screen, such as random flashing, the appearance of horizontal or vertical lines, and in some cases, different colors filling the screen just before the computer crashes.

While Apple is looking into a software fix for the problem that has surfaced in its Support forums and on YouTube, perhaps the problem stems from Apple rushing to get the MacBook Air to market so it could capitalize on its iPad success.

Apple is still finding a way to stop the kernel issues and strobe-light effects, but for now it allows users to exchange an affected MacBook Air for another one. Users have found that only rebooting the computer seems to restore it back to normal, or at least until the screen goes wonky again. So far, Apple hasn't commented publicly on the problem.

However, the MacBook Air's bugginess is such an obvious, visual assault that it's hard to believe that no one at Apple saw it before the machines were shipped to stores. It's not as if the MacBook Air didn't receive a lot of hype. Its commercials are still in heavy rotation, and it was the star of Apple's recent "Back to the Mac" event last month.

Reviews were mostly glowing, and no one seemed to breathe a word about screen problems, so it's likely the bugs will appear only with extended or repeated use--all things that should have been caught in the testing phase.

Don't think it's because Apple skimped on the hardware. The MacBook Air is not a cheap laptop. It owes its thinness to being strategically built--and it was, with a custom solid-state drive by Toshiba. The 11-inch model starts at US$999 and its 13.3-inch model starts at $1299, but most people will probably pay at least $200 for more memory, especially since the machine can't be upgraded or modified.

Was Apple under the gun to produce something exciting for its latest publicity blitz? It's likely that without any new iPhone or iPad announcements, Apple pinned its hopes on the MacBook Air. It certainly could become the hottest new laptop, especially now that businesses and consumers have been embracing Apple by buying the iPad in record numbers. But maybe Apple failed to scrutinize the slim computer closely enough.

Not having personal insight into the inner workings of Apple, I can only assume the reasons that made Apple not fix a faulty antenna on its iPhone 4 were probably the same that no one fixed the MacBook Air's screen. Perhaps someone noticed and voiced concern, but either it wasn't considered a dealbreaker, or Apple decided it was more important to push the product out than waste time on a fix.

It's too bad that Apple apparently didn't learn from its previous experience with the iPhone, and didn't wait long enough to put out a quality product that wouldn't hurt its reputation.

New MacBook Air users experiencing problems can contact the nearest Apple Store or call AppleCare for options.

Reach or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter: @bhern.

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Barbara E. Hernandez

PC World (US online)
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