FORTUNE -- One of the reasons Apple (AAPL) can charge a premium for its products -- and enjoy profit margins that are the envy of tech world -- is that they come, as Steve Jobs once put it, "with motherhood built in." Not only are they usually better made than the competition, but they are accompanied with unmatched service and support.
So when there is a change in that level of support, it tends to get noticed. Witness Wednesday's blanket coverage of the news that Apple's 30-day iPhone return policy -- which let customers bring phones back to the store within a month and get a full refund, no questions asked -- had been cut to 14 days.
It was the second such cutback in as many weeks. At the end of February 9to5Mac reported that Apple will be charging $19 per incident for out-of-warranty chat support that used to be free. (Phone calls are even more expensive: $29 per incident for iOS devices, $49 for Macs.)
The timing of these changes -- in late February and early March -- is interesting. Spring is only a week away, and spring is when Angela Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry's (BURBY), is expected to move into her new role as Apple's new senior vice president for retail, reporting directly to Tim Cook.
One of the mistakes Ahrendts' predecessor made was to alienate Apple's T-shirted retail staff by letting it be known that he thought the Apple Stores were "too bloated" with employees. Four months after John Browett arrived, the company issued a memo to staff describing his cutbacks as "a mistake." Two months later, he was gone.
Apple seems to have learned from the Browett debacle. If cutbacks in Apple's vaunted service and support need to be made, better to make them before Angela Ahrendts arrives.
How did the CEO of Burberry get hired to run Apple retail?
FORTUNE -- Angela Ahrendts was happy to be interviewed last summer by Jeff Chu -- my former Time Magazine colleague -- while she was still running Burberry (BURBY).
That door slammed shut the day Apple (AAPL) announced that she had been hired to run Cupertino's retail empire. But by then Chu had gathered enough material to put together the best profile yet MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 7, 2014 10:56 AM ET
Is Angela Ahrendts the speaker who will lift Apple from the rhetorical hole Steve Jobs dug?
FORTUNE -- Tim Cook, as he would be first to admit, was not born with Steve Jobs' gift for gab.
But it doesn't help that he -- and the rest of Apple's (AAPL) senior staff -- still talk as if there were no adjectives in the English language but the handful that Jobs used again and MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 27, 2013 10:31 AM ET
Apple's new retail chief on the blurring of the physical world and social media.
FORTUNE -- "I grew up in a physical world, and I speak English. The next generation is growing up in a digital world, and they speak social."
So begins Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts in this four-minute YouTube video promoting her store's partnership with Salesforce (CRM). It was shot a year before Tim Cook tapped her to be Apple's (AAPL) new MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 22, 2013 7:18 AM ET
The new -- and only -- woman in Apple's top ranks is the talk of the tech world.
FORTUNE -- Tim Cook's pick to head his retail operations may be famous in the fashion business, but it took Apple (AAPL) watchers -- most of whom have never set foot in a Burberry outlet -- much of Tuesday to figure out who Angela Ahrendts is.
Then the pundits weighed in.
Henry Blodget, Business Insider: "One question that arose MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 16, 2013 10:23 AM ET
Angela Ahrendts' move to Apple is big news in Britain and the fashion world.
FORTUNE -- Having apparently learned his lesson when he went down market and tapped John Browett, the head of Dixons, to run Apple's (AAPL) retail empire, Tim Cook went up market this time and replaced Browett with the CEO of a 157-year-old British luxury brand.
By the time Americans woke up to the press release announcing that Angela Ahrendts, the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 15, 2013 7:45 AM ET
Mass-market tastes are changing at a rapid clip.
By Brian Dumaine, senior editor-at-large
FORTUNE -- At today's town hall meeting at Fortune's Global Forum in Chengdu, China, leaders of some of the world's largest corporations engaged in a lively debate over the shape of China's changing culture. Mass-market tastes -- especially among China's younger generation -- are changing fast as urbanization, technology, and travel remake consumer experiences and demands. The panelists discussed what MOREJun 6, 2013 6:50 AM ET
Ahrendts is making Burberry (yes, Burberry) into an innovation machine.
By Beth Kowitt, writer
FORTUNE -- Last May, Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts flew to California from her London headquarters to introduce herself to an executive she thought could be critical to the future of her business: Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff. When the two met at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, they stood in the hall batting around ideas for 15 MOREJun 5, 2012 5:00 AM ET
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