It also reminded us how Apple is the quintessential San Francisco company. The products are expensive. They're not quite as fast as the others, but make up for it with style. There's constant image-spinning, precariously balancing environmentalism and counter-culture with high-tech and money. Their insular fans aggressively defend their devotion. And of course, the smug sense of superiority that comes from being smaller (in market share, or population) but better. We're completely aware of the stereotypes, and yet we couldn't leave either the city or the Mac cult even if we wanted to.

But as Apple's market share and prominence grows, so does the backlash. The latest round of complaints is about the company's stealth firmware update yesterday. It was never documented what the update was supposed to achieve, but users pieced together the clues and determined it was intended to address problems with overheating on the MacBook Pro. Apple's made some pretty boneheaded legal and PR moves in regard to the overheating issue, shutting down websites and pissing off Mac loyalists, instead of being up-front about users' concerns. It's tricky managing a growing company that depends so heavily on brand image — the same cultish fans who give you so much positive word-of-mouth are the same ones who are watching your every move under a microscope.

The Apple branding machine moves on, though. With this week's release of the MacBook (which replaces the iBook line), the company has finally streamlined its consumer-level brands back into a coherent line-up, with everything running Intel processors and everything available in black, white, and silver. (In case you want to buy a laptop that matches your new iPod). MacWorld has benchmark results and a first look at the new MacBooks, claiming that they look great, they're designed well, and they perform well on everything except gaming. In other words: they're Macs.