Great Apple Conspiracies Abound

February 8th, 2017

It’s true that reactions to Apple are polarizing. In recent days, I’ve written perfectly ordinary articles about possible future Macs, and received comments from readers who are concerned that Apple isn’t building the Mac of their dreams. These responses have extended across two articles so far, and perhaps this column will be the third.

So let’s end that discussion here: That Apple chooses to earn a profit from the sales of its products is not a reason to damn that company, to assume it doesn’t care about its customers. Why not both? Apple clearly succeeds because hundreds of millions of people continue to buy their products, and the satisfaction rate is, as some have suggested, usually off the charts.

Now that doesn’t meet Apple meets the needs of all its customers, or all potential customers. Clearly that’s not possible. Since Apple deliberately restricts the number of models and model variations it builds, customers may have to compromise if they choose Apple. Unfortunately, some people appear to want to turn this into a deliberate betrayal of the customer in favor of Apple’s priorities that, once again, somehow are intended to ignore your needs.

The illogic in this belief is simple: If Apple builds additional Macs, additional iPhones and additional iPads, you would assume they’d all be priced in a way that delivers similar margins. Nothing would be lost, other than simplicity. But Apple long ago choose to keep the model lineups fairly small.

Besides, it’s silly to suggest that Alphabet (Google), Microsoft and Samsung are any less interested in maximizing sales and profits in accordance with their own marketing plans. Let’s not forget that Surface computers aren’t exactly cheap, nor are the high-end versions of Samsung smartphones. They, too, build high-end gear that delivers higher profits.

Yet another claim is that Apple deliberately designs its gear to last a finite amount of time, and loads new operating systems with features that don’t work on older gear. Thus you will be tempted — or forced — to continue to buy new products. That’s true for most manufacturers. Car makers hope that the new features in the latest models will tempt you to trade in that old car even if still runs reliably. Obviously Microsoft hopes you’ll upgrade to Windows 10, and Samsung hopes you’ll be eagerly awaiting the next Galaxy smartphone.

So how does that make Apple any worse or different from any other company?

All right, it’s Apple.

Besides, I hardly think Apple has gone overboard to drop support for older gear with its operating systems. You can run macOS Sierra on any Mac from 2010 and later, and some from 2009. Imagine having a Mac nearly eight years old that can still run the latest and greatest operating system. That doesn’t show a deliberate effort to make older gear obsolete. True, some features will not run on the vintage Macs, but that is no reason for Apple not to develop those features.

For iOS gear, it takes three or four years before your iPhone and iPad is no longer supported. With smartphones, most people will have upgraded by then. Of course, you can’t compare any of this with Android gear, since most of the mobile handsets and tablets are running older versions of that OS and will probably never be able to be upgraded. It’s a very different situation.

Certainly, it’s fair to argue whether Apple’s design priorities have changed from the tastes of Steve Jobs in the years since Tim Cook took over the company. But just quoting Jobs isn’t going to cut it, because he was famous for changing his opinions. Guessing what he might have done might be fun, but it has no realistic value. Besides, Jobs famously told Cook never to consider what he would have done in making any decision. That would simply stall the company and prevent it from moving forward.

So imagine Cook and his cronies holding meetings in incense-filled rooms deciding how to build products that meet artistic priorities that have no connection with the needs of the customer. Maybe that’s true to some extent, and it’s fair to argue that the Mac Pro and Late 2016 MacBook Pros were designed in ways that yield no significant advantages to the customer.

But Apple is not a democracy. They are not obligated to build gear to confirm to your design sensibilities. It’s about compromise and setting priorities, or just because they can.

So, for example, Apple could have made it possible for the MacBook Pro to use 32GB of RAM. The tradeoff of using a different memory controller would have meant slower memory and shorter battery life. Apple chose to maximize performance and achieve decent battery life. A future Intel processor will allow for using more RAM without the tradeoff.

Perhaps Apple could have simply refreshed the MacBook Pro with new parts and left the design alone. That wouldn’t have prevented the use of the Touch Bar.

It all comes down to this: If Apple isn’t making the gear you want, tell them so. Send feedback explaining that you aren’t going to spend hard-earned money on their gadgets until they come closer to meeting your needs. If enough people do that, and sales suffer accordingly, I fully expect that things will change. But not when sales continue to grow.

Or just go elsewhere and find another company that better meets your needs.

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3 Responses to “Great Apple Conspiracies Abound”

  1. DaveD says:

    I love had gone through knowing that Apple has a goal in mind for the notebook. My 1998 “Wallstreet” PowerBook G3 Series represented the height of notebook expandability. Two expansion bays for batteries, DVD player, floppy disk drive, and others. A row of various connectors in the back to handle almost any external devices. That first model Wallstreet failed in its fourth year. Apple had moved on after the second revision of the G3 Series and made the next notebook, the “Bronze Keyboard” PowerBook G3, 20 percent slimmer (almost two pound lighter and longer battery life). It still had the two bays, but my bay devices could not be utilized. Apple doesn’t believe in backward compatibility. I ended picking up a refurbished second model “PDQ” G3 Series and continued to use my bay devices for almost 10 more years. Apple fixed the heat issue on the first model.

  2. City Dog says:

    Everything you say is quite reasonable, Joe. Apple is obviously pleasing a lot of people.

    I just find it baffling, though, that they once made buckets of money marketing an even smaller selection of Macs that many of us found more compelling than the current batch. So profit can’t be the sole reason for this sea change. The deliberate de-professionalizing of their hardware and software just seems arbitrary … until you factor in the mobile products. The Mac is now fated to serve the interests of the iPhone, iPad, etc., not the other way around, which is how things once were and is the mindset in which many of us are stuck. And it’s highly unlikely this will change.

    As I prefer the Mac to the alternatives, I will render my opinions to Apple while continuing to use what remains (at least for me) the best computer system: the Mac. Still doesn’t sit right, though. ‘Nuf said.

  3. x says:

    Actually one way to look at Gene’s recent comments is that like it or hate it, Apple is extremely smart. That is what I said last year when my 2008 Macbook Pro finally died, I don’t like laptops that are less than 15″ but I did not want to spend $2000 and I was lamenting the fact that Apple had me boxed in, spend the money or go to Windows and you know what, I waited for a sale and I bought the Macbook Pro because I am just not ready to go back to Windows after leaving with the arrival of Windows Vista.

    Does anyone here think that Apple does not study how to box in their customers with scientific precision. They probably run algorithms monthly on the buying habits of their customers and figure out the price points and features they can put in each model in order to extract the maximum amount of dollar out of all of us.

    And right now it is still working but it might not and probably will not work forever because Windows 10 is getting better, the trackpads on the Dell XPS are getting better, heck they even offer matte screens on the XPS line. I hope Apple gets back to its roots and puts more time into their software and operating systems because I would rather stay here but currently the OS advantage is shrinking. Of course reading about the Windows 10 privacy situation has me glad I stayed with MacOS but again, Apple should not get complacent, I think that some of the negative sentiment you read online is the feeling that Apple is taking their attention away from the nuts and bolts of what brought many people to the product line in the first place.

    Somebody will finally make a smartwatch that is totally independent of a smartphone, hopefully it will be the Apple Watch.

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