Apple Update

Petition demands Apple fix MacBook Pro graphics woes

Passes 10K signatures, part of long-running campaign to get Apple to fix bad video cards in 2011 laptops

Apple Update

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A petition started last year that urges Apple's CEO to recall older MacBook Pro laptops to fix a graphics problem has passed the 10,000-signature mark, part of an ongoing effort by customers to get Apple to step up.

"Everyone who bought a macbook pro spent a huge premium to buy macbook pro's [sic] and did not expect to have a manufacturing defect," the introduction to the petition reads. "This issue had made a 2500$ investment a piece of junk in 2 years. We do not buy Apple products with this in mind."

The petition was launched late last year by Raj Dsouza of Sydney, Australia. As of Monday, it had more than 10,300 signatures. The petition's goal: 15,000.

Addressed to CEO Tim Cook and Craig Federighi, the senior vice president in charge of software engineering -- and thus not really the right person to pester at Apple for a hardware malfunction -- was short and to the point.

"Replace or Fix All Early 2011 Macbook Pro with Graphics Failure," it read.

The petition was only part of a long-running campaign by MacBook Pro owners with notebooks they purchased in 2011. Those 15-in. and 17-in. laptops came with both an integrated graphics chipset made by Intel and a discrete graphics processor unit (GPU), either Advanced Micro Devices' Radeon HD 6490M or 6750M. The larger-screen MacBook Pros were priced starting at $1,799 (15-in.) and climbed to $2,499 (17-in.).

Apple refreshed the MacBook Pros in February 2011; two years later, a now-enormous discussion thread on Apple's support forum kicked off.

"As of two days ago, the problem has become substantially more severe," wrote abelliveau on Feb. 1, 2013, in the thread's opening message. "The computer was working fine, when all of a sudden the screen [went] completely blue. I had to force restart the computer. Since then, the screen has gone awry on numerous occasions -- each time necessitating a hard reset."

That thread has grown to include more than 7,800 messages, and has been viewed an amazing 1.1 million times. By any measurement, but especially for an Apple support thread, that's massive with a capital "M."

On the thread, users have traded horror stories of their MacBook Pros' graphics breakdowns, swapped tales of trying to get Apple to repair the notebooks -- sometimes with success, many times without -- and raked the Cupertino, Calif. company over the coals.

In some cases, MacBook Pro owners said that Apple or a reseller had replaced the system's logic board multiple times under their AppleCare or third-party warranties, or because of national or regional consumer protection laws.

Messages on the thread continued to accumulate Monday.

"Add my MBPro to the list!" chimed in llhjunk1 yesterday. "It just crapped out today. Started with blocks of pixels blacking out on external monitor. Shut down unit, rebooted with nothing plugged into the computer, noted horizontal lines throughout initial screen and if it boots through, next screen is deep blue with colored lines."

"With so many affected customers, it certainly is disgusting that Apple refuses to take responsibility for this issue," added trithodex. "This will most likely be my last Apple purchase unless Apple stands by its product and provides some level of support to its customers regarding this issue."

The issue has been well-reported in Apple-centric media for months. Among one of the more recent was a May 13, 2014, piece from AppleInsider that petition instigator Dsouza cited.

The petition also included hundreds of messages from people who claimed that their expensive notebooks were affected. "If I wanted crap, would have bought a PC!!!" said someone identified as Jonathan Martinez from Eugene, Ore. on Monday.

While petitions like Dsouza's typically have little, if any, impact on decisions by companies, MacBook Pro owners have hope, if only because Apple has announced recalls or promised free repairs before. A year ago, for example, Apple offered free video card replacements for 27-in. iMacs sold between May 2011 and October 2012 equipped with the AMD Radeon HD 6970M video card. Like the GPUs soldered to the suspect MacBook Pros' logic boards, that iMac video card was based on AMD's Terascale 2 architecture.

The symptoms Apple listed for faulty iMac video cards were similar to those reported by MacBook Pro owners, including "causing the computer's display to appear distorted, white or blue with vertical lines, or to turn black."

MacBook Pros introduced in 2011 -- Apple revised the line twice that year, in February and in October -- were the foundation of the complaints, but some users reported that their 2012 notebooks were also affected. Apple switched to using Nvidia's discrete graphic cards in the 15-in. MacBook Pro in June 2012, when the company also dropped the 17-in. laptop from the line.

Apple did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the large support discussion thread or the petition.

But one customer wanted others to spread the word, and put whatever pressure they could on Apple to make good.

"There's been some people saying the size and scope of this thread means very little," said Denisism in an Aug. 17 message on the thread. "I think most of us with a bit of common sense disagree with that assessment. Here's an interesting development that supports the latter."

Denisism then cited a recent Computerworld news story about Microsoft recalling a Windows patch. The story had noted the size of the Microsoft support discussion thread -- 380 messages and nearly 50,000 views -- as a hint of the scope of the problem.

"Meanwhile, this thread (one of several) that's dedicated to an Apple product defect is currently at nearly 8,000 messages with well over a whopping 1.1 million views even though Apple's PC market share is only a small fraction of Microsoft's," Denisism said (emphasis in original). "This is very embarrassing, Apple. Where's our recall? Where's our replacement program? How much longer do you think you can push your customers around like this?"

Read more about mac os x in Computerworld's Mac OS X Topic Center.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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