5.30.2016

Why It’s Impossible to Own an Apple Product

iTold you so

Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs Holds a MacBook Air

Apple, the world’s most valuable company, has two major product categories: the iPhone* and the Mac. However their Macintosh line, which was once geared towards professionals, has become a status symbol no different than their line of cellphones. Think: what brand of computer fills coffee shops the world over?

*(You could divide it up into “iOS devices” and “OS X devices” but with consistently shrinking iPad sales, it’s simpler to think of Apple’s mobile category as just smartphones. Not to mention, the iPhone accounts for over three-fifths of Apple’s revenue).

In recent years, the advent of the smartphone has changed consumer culture in a serious way; people no longer think of a computer (including iPhones and everything “smart”) as an appliance that one buys to fulfill a need, a costly once-on-a-blue-moon purchase one clings to until it ceases to function. As a computer salesman, I see it everyday; people are downright embarrassed of their dated technology. Thrift nowadays is not associated with savvy but rather with poverty and/or a personal failure to keep up with the times.

"People are downright embarrassed of their dated technology."

The frequency with which the average person upgrades their smartphone and laptop is now cyclical, a bi-annual tax on computer ownership. It’s for this reason that people no longer own their trendy cellphones and computer, and Apple has spearheaded this consumer trend.

The MacBook Air, released in 2008 and perfected in 2010 with the inclusion of an SSD, became its best-selling notebook. In fact, it was so well-received that Intel devised a pseudo-standard just to compete with the Air. Dubbed “Ultrabooks” and also known as “thin and lights”, these laptops borrowed heavily not just from Apple’s killer design aesthetic but their policy of sealing in components and soldering the memory and hard drive to the motherboard, making upgrades and repair out of the question for most owners. In the case of Ultrabooks, users will ship the computer to the manufacturer if the limited warranty is active and applicable. Otherwise, they must buy an entirely new machine or pay hundreds of dollars to a technician. 

Clearly, computer technicians have an important role to play when diagnosing and remedying serious issues like a haywire LCD or defective motherboard, but bad RAM or a failing HDD were once user replaceable. In the case of modern Apple computers, Apple offers its expensive AppleCare program for both iPhone and Macs. The end user isn’t expected to repair their own product, they must pay upfront for computer insurance or risk having to pay even more money in the event of system failure.

"The end user isn’t expected to repair their own product."

The line between smartphone and personal computer has been blurred so thoroughly that they are nearly the same product, albeit in a different form factor. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously dubbed the Apple iMac, an all-in-one desktop, “the digital hub.” By this he meant that our various peripherals would be managed, backed up and synced to the PC. In essence, he was promising that the personal computer would be anything but a throwaway device.

In the final keynote presentation of his life, Jobs declared an end to his company’s digital hub strategy. The cloud would now play this role. It doesn’t matter that Macs cost over $1,000 or that an iPhone will set you back roughly $700, Jobs’ brainchild will rent you your stylish toy and the servers that host your personal data. No wonder Apple is the planet’s richest corporation, long after Apple’s mastermind and the promise he made are both dead.