Apple store takes reviews--but not of its own stuff

Apple will brook no criticism of its offerings on its new product review page--but praise and pan other makers' stuff all you like.

Customers visiting Apple Computer's online store can now post their own reviews of the products they buy--unless it's the latest iPod.

That's because, though users can offer their takes on a variety of Mac and iPod gear from other companies, Apple automatically gives its own products a top "5-Apple" rating.

Apple allows customers to assign their own ratings, from one to five stars to products from other companies, such as iPod cases and speakers. In a frequently asked questions page, Apple explains its thinking.

"We give all Apple products a rating of '5 Apples' because we think they're great," the company said. Apple went on to say, "Would you trust us to display less-than-perfect ratings on our own products? We didn't think so," but deleted that line Thursday afternoon.

An Apple representative declined to comment on the reviews policy.

Customer reviews have been an important feature on independent online stores for some time. Amazon.com, which has long had such reviews, recently expanded the feature so that customers can also post photos of the products they buy.

But the idea of customers reviewing products on a company's own site is more novel--and indeed a bit trickier. Hewlett-Packard and Dell, for example, sell a variety of accessories and software from other companies, but neither offer customers a way to review either their own, or third-party, products. By making its own rating in apples, rather than stars, Apple does somewhat distinguish the difference in the ratings methods.

Apple has been trying to build a community around its sites, particularly its iTunes Music Store, where customers can post their own playlists, or iMixes.

Most of the initial reviews appear to be for accessories for the iPod digital-music player. Apple last week launched a separate online "iPod Store" within the broader shopping environment on its site.

Those who want to review products need to register with Apple. The company examines the content of reviews over a few days, posting the comments to its site if they meet the company's terms and conditions. Apple requires that the review not be obscene, threatening or defamatory, among other conditions. The company also reserves the right not to publish any review.

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