The Computer Blog

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bring Back the external iSight, Apple!

A month or so ago, Apple quietly removed any mention of its external iSight camera from the Apple store. Speculation around the Internet was that it was because of environmental regulations in Europe that forced Apple to halt the sale of the device, but that doesn’t explain why they would give up US or Asian markets as well. Many of us are hoping the device reappears, perhaps in a form that meets European regulator approval; but in any case, the current quiet extermination of the device has left many of us Mac users who are dependent on it in the lurch. Apple has maintained its usual and unfortunately characteristic silence about the disappearance of the thing, leaving its customers with a lot of uncertainty about how to maintain the functionality it has established.

I’ve seen a few reports that have hypothetically linked the disappearance of the device with the appearance of new Apple Cinema Displays incorporating an internal version of the thing. If this is true, and the removal of the device is connected with that, then Apple will be demonstrating that its stripes may be of a slightly different color than Microsoft’s but really are the same. Personally, I can tell you I will not, just to get iSight capability back, be buying new Apple Cinema Displays to replace the 23 inch and the 20 inch my wife and I have bought in the last few months. Additionally, many corporate users have openly stated they oppose Apple incorporating an iSight into its displays because their company policies would prohibit future ACD purchases due to the security breaches the devices might expose them to. Apple could solve that dilemma by offering the internal iSight as an option. So, it’s not inconceivable that Apple could go there anyway. My complaint is not that Apple might do it, but that they would try to force sales of the new monitors by allowing the external iSight to disappear from the market.

I’ve seen some speculation that this is exactly what Apple’s motivation is. I would hope not. If an Apple rep said to me “we’ve discontinued the external iSight because all the new Macs have internal versions”, I would tell them they are displaying the same arrogance that has alienated much of Microsoft’s customer base over the years, and I will personally have to start reconsidering future Mac purchases. If I can’t trust that Apple isn’t going to abandon its users after they have introduced a technology, then I simply am going to have to make the decision that living the Apple way is too expensive. (And believe me, this was what we already had to deal with when Apple switched CPU’s to Intel.) It is simply too soon to withdraw the external iSight from the market.

If you’ve never used iSight to video conference with anyone else, then you’re probably wondering why I’m not simply looking to third party solutions. There are two reasons. The first is I have been exploring third party options, and there just aren’t that many for the Mac. The ones that exist simply aren’t as good. (From reactions of my Windows’ only friends and family, there isn’t anything in the Windows community that can touch it, either.) The second one has to do with Apple’s responsibilities to its customers. It set up this situation, so I expect it also to provide the solution and not one that costs several thousand dollars and lines its pockets in the process. Yes, Apple’s purpose is to make money; but if it puts that before its duty to its customers, it will eventually sabotage its own bottom line. I can tell you for a fact that I will make purchasing decisions based on the outcome of this; and that while Apple might get some extra bucks from me in the short term, they will immediately lose at least $1000 from the loss of the Mac Pro I won’t buy.

So, Apple, it’s time to step up to the bar. It’s time to bring back the external iSight (which has more utility than the internal version anyway). At the very least, you owe your customer base an explanation about what’s really going on here. Continued silence will only make us more suspicious that you’re trying to run a con; and none of us will take kindly to that.

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