One of my clients calls in from home, the power adapter for his powerbook g3 is hosed and we need to get a new one. "No problem", I'm thinking. I go online and search the apple site for anything I can find. I get a link to the support area that not only confirms I have the correct model number for the power adapter for his book, but also some substitute power adapters that also work with that model powerbook. I'm thinking this is great, now all I need to do is order one of these model numbers.
No can do from the web. Kinda sucky, as I'm used to dealing with computer companies that will let me order *anything* by model number through the web (I've even gotten replacement keyboards for laptops that way), but I'm competent with the phone so I figure I'll call the support number listed under the "need to order parts" heading on the powerbook g3's support page (easilly found, very nice). And I go through the menus for a few minutes finally winding up talking to someone. They ask for far more information than I'm comfortable with giving, but I figured this is an official business call so I'll give my business info. No biggie, as I would have needed to give the info before getting the part shipped to me anyway.
Then we hit the problem. The guy asks for a computer serial number. This is not something I have, as the computer is at my client's house. I proceed to explain this to the guy, saying that I do however have the model number for the power supply we need to replace, and a few numbers of compatible power supplies. He says no good, this power supply needs to be attached to a computer. I ask, very calmly, to clarify that simply to purchase a new power supply with our money as we know it's not under warranty, we can't just ask for a specific model number but instead we need to have the serial number for the computer. he confirms that he can't order it without that info. I thank him for his time and hang up.
Now, the part I don't get is thus: Why should it matter what computer I'm plugging this thing into? Perhaps some of the people who work for Apple support who read this can enlighten me about this. Does Apple hard-code the computer serial number into each power supply and it won't work if you plug it in to a different computer? I doubt this, as every time I've gone to connect an Apple laptop with a power supply it didn't seem to care much if it was the exact power supply that shipped with the laptop -- simply being for the proper model was usually sufficient. So why then can't I just contact Apple and say "yes, I need to order a part with model number m4402" and have them say "sure thing, that'll be $100. Where do you want it sent and how will you be paying for this?"
Dell does this no problem (seriously, those quotes above are almost exactly what it was like with them -- different model number and price, but yeah). Gateway is slightly more cumbersome to use their phone system, but they still do it. IBM seems to have some issues with counting quantity when shipping, but they let you order whatever you want just fine. Why does Apple not offer their customers this service?
This is particularly odd when considering the new iMac is rumoured (I haven't personally verified this) to be almost entirely user-serviceable. Supposedly you can easilly pop off the back and the innards are very modular and easy to replace a bad part. With this type of supposed encouragement of the user fixing things on his/her own, one would think Apple would support the ordering of random part numbers from whomever for whatever reason. Particularly for parts which, like the AC power supply for a laptop, are not exactly proprietary trade-secret level parts.
I dunno, am I just asking for too much here? to be able to order a part external to the computer, which doesn't technically rely on the computer in any way, with nothing more than a model number for the part I wish to order? Please, if you think I'm being unreasonable, tell me. My grasp on 'reality' can be weak sometimes so it helps to have folk like yourselves tell me when to shut up.