Apple Says I’m Obsolete — Sort Of!

March 10th, 2016

In 2010, I acquired a 17-inch MacBook Pro to replace a similar notebook purchased early in the Intel-based Mac era. I had grown so accustomed to using large displays when working in my home office that I wanted to duplicate as much of that experience as possible on the road.

Of course, I had to accept the downsides.

So, although light for a large notebook, that MacBook Pro weighs in at 6.6 pounds. Add to that the stuff that I consider essential, such as a hefty USB mic for on-site recordings, and my filled portable case weighs more than 10 pounds. It may not seem all that heavy, but when you lug it on your shoulder across the long pathways from security check-in to the gate at an airport, it can get to be really painful. Well, maybe I should not have purchased a case with straps that dug in to my shoulders, but this was supposed to be a product that was designed to minimize such symptoms.

In any case, I haven’t traveled all that much in recent years for lots of reasons. So the MacBook Pro doesn’t get a whole lot of use. But I did a couple of upgrades, because the slow hard drive just made routine operations take forever to complete. So I fitted it with a RAM upgrade from Other World Computing, from 4GB to 8GB, and one of their 480GB SSDs. The latter made the real difference, since so many functions depend on the speed of storage devices.

Now I have not felt the urge to replace that MacBook Pro. As a business investment, it wouldn’t make sense even if I had a spare two grand or so on hand for a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. But it does appear Apple is hastening the time when this computer will become obsolete.

So as of this week, it’s now a “vintage” product. Thus, it hasn’t been manufactured in more than five years, and is no longer eligible for service at, I presume, an Apple Store. There are two exceptions. If you bought a Mac in California or Turkey, they are eligible for service for up to seven years after being discontinued.

I can certainly understand Apple’s position. It would mean keeping parts on hand to service old hardware, which can represent an added expense. Just as important, it’s still possible to have it repaired, since third party dealers continue to provide service and parts. So I’m not feeling at all abandoned. Indeed, Apple has delivered far better support than I might have expected, since it runs OS X El Capitan with good performance and compatibility.

Even if the MacBook Pro required a brand new logic board or LCD, paying several hundred dollars is a far better choice than buying a new Mac. The RAM has a lifetime guarantee, and the SSD should deliver years of faithful service. So, even if it breaks, I should manage to get several more years of faithful service from it should I invest in a repair. Even when Apple stops delivering OS X updates, I’ll still be able to use the apps I want.

Remember, that my basic needs are Internet access to manage my sites and the server, word processing software for writing, and audio editing apps to record my radio shows.

I realize that some of you would like to see Apple support every single product they’ve manufactured forever, or at least as long as there is a decent user base. I don’t know how many of these MacBook Pros remain in service, but they were built at a time when Mac sales were considerably less than they are today; the total was 13.66 million in 2010. It’s around 20 million now. Even though notebooks account for the vast majority of sales, the 17-inch MacBook Pro was not a huge seller, which surely explains why Apple made the decision to stop building them.

As a practical matter, getting a 15-inch MacBook Pro would lighten the load by more than two pounds. Armed with a smaller case, and being less obsessive about what I take with me, would no doubt account for another pound or so. That would make a fairly big difference when I’m lugging it around. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple came out with a new generation model, perhaps descended from the 2015 MacBook, where weight was reduced by another pound or so.

Obviously an iPad Pro would be a cheaper and lighter alternatives. But it’s just not for me, at least not yet. The lack of apps and functionality makes it impossible to manage my workflow, although I suppose that could change if Apple opens up iOS to allow for additional features that would serve the needs of the broadcaster or podcaster. I cannot, for example, find any equivalent to Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack. Being able to only run two apps at a time is not adequate; Apple should consider a quad-screen feature, managing four apps on an iPad Pro, for the next OS update.

For now, I’ll continue to enjoy my MacBook Pro. It’s in great shape, with only a few surface scratches on the case. I expect when I do sell it, it will command a decent price.

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11 Responses to “Apple Says I’m Obsolete — Sort Of!”

  1. SteveS says:

    You haven’t really stated your use case or your needs. It sounds like your primary use case is with regard to audio editing for your podcast. Why no mention of an iMac? There is more bang for your buck with an iMac and you get a much bigger screen. Do you need a portable computing device? If so, what for? That should help you better understand your needs. Either way, yes, the 17″ laptop days are over. Time to move on.

    • As I indicated in the article, for remote recording. Can’t take the 27-inch iMac with me on the plane. 🙂


      • SteveS says:

        To be fair, you mentioned “on-site recording” and not “remote recording”. While I’m sure “on-site recording” might mean remote recording to you, that was not very clear based solely on what you’ve written. Either way, I now get the point that you have remote recording needs. Either way, it’s hard to imagine how a 15″ Macbook Pro wouldn’t get the job done just fine.

        • Well, it’s six of one, half dozen or another. I’m thinking not so much of recording, but doing the editing on the road. I’m so accustomed to the advantages of the larger display.


  2. DaveD says:

    Even my late-2008 (white) MacBook is way beyond “vintage” status, it still get used from time to time. It holds my central iTunes library and does syncing and backup of my iPad mini. When it get lugged around on the road, it is quite heavy. This MacBook had the best design for user serviceable parts. Access to hard drive and memory is through the battery compartment. Reminded me of the 1998 PowerBook G3 Series where easy access is through the keyboard compartment. That machine lasted over 10 years. I can see the MacBook lasting longer.

    I feel that with the lack of access to internal components and annual releases of OS X, Apple is trying to “prime the pump” nudging satisfied Mac owners to buy a newer, slimmer, more packed with new features one. A Mac user cannot replace a 17-inch MacBook Pro with a newer like-machine, Apple has not made the big screen one since late 2011. I still see the occasional wish for Apple to bring it back. Maybe in the big financial picture, 20 million Macs per year is chump change. But the fondness of my old Macs will not diminish.

    • Dave, I wouldn’t consider buying a 15-inch notebook until I had a chance to actually use it. Maybe I’ll put in a request when Apple updates the MacBook Pro with Retina display, which should come soon.

      Sometimes they even listen to those requests.


      • DaveD says:

        Gene, I would imagine the Apple hardware group would love to have a nice big playground to play in. After years of downsizing the MacBooks, they get to experiment with a new 17-inch configuration like working on the big iPad Pro.

        Kind regards,

  3. David says:

    I used to lug a 17″ MBP to and from work every day. At both ends it was plugged into an external display because I found that a single screen simply wasn’t enough. During meetings when I was down to one screen I could always fit reference documents and notes on my screen at the same time. My colleagues with 13″ and 15″ displays usually had overlapping windows and had to keep tapping to switch from one to the other.

    There’s a big usability/productivity difference between 1920×1200 and 1440×900 that I don’t think enough people fully appreciate. So while Apple certainly could make a modern, light notebook with a 17″ display I don’t think it will ever happen.

  4. DK Jones says:

    There is another option. A 15″ MacBookPro Retina, paired with an iPad Air via the Duet app, that turns the iPad into a 2nd screen. I’ve not tried it but have seen several reviews and seems like it might be something that could work for you. The app may even work with the iPad Pro.

  5. Seth says:

    I use (and tote around) a 2011 vintage 17″ i7 MacBook Pro which is a wonderful machine – it’s a real computer by which I mean it has an array of ports, an optical drive, its internals are user-accessible and it’s theft-proof. Anyone trying to grab it from me will be struck on the head with a corner of it, immediately rendering the would be grabber unconscious. When I retired my 2006 MacPro recently I moved that machine’s boot drive into a Sonnet Echo Thunderbolt dock to which all my home peripherals and network are connected. When at home the MBP boots from the drive in the Sonnet and connects to everything via a single TBolt cable. One environment for my home, the MBP’s internal drive for portable use and all is well, I hope for years to come. I have reason for optimism as I’ve still got a 2002 TiBook 667 DVI up & running to handle Classic and Tiger. Works fine 14 years after it was bought.

  6. Kaleberg says:

    I still have my old 17″ sitting around as my “media machine”. It’s hooked up to other antiques like a laserdisc player and a PAL/NTSC converter. I mainly use a 15″ Macbook Pro Retina. Since Mac OS supports multiple screens with an extremely quick switch time, I haven’t noticed the loss of screen real estate all that much. I run a few apps in full screen mode and tend to cluster the others in preferred alternate screens. Zipping around with control right or left arrow isn’t all that much slower than using command-tab.

    I don’t think everyone would find this acceptable, but it is worth thinking about.

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