Apple’s strategy of built-in obsolescence

By Felix Salmon
June 14, 2012

Ross Miller made a good point about Apple’s new flagship laptop, in his review for the Verge. Once you take into account that it has a solid-state drive, it’s actually not nearly as expensive as you might think.

Yes, $2,200 is a lot of money. But if you want a basic MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive but without a Retina display, that’ll cost you $2,400. And if you upgrade both to a 512GB solid-state drive, the new computer is $2,800 — but the older, heavier, slower, clunkier computer, featuring a mere 1440×900 pixels of screen space, will set you back $3,100. Essentially, if you pay for the solid-state drive, you get the Retina display for less than nothing.

I’ve been a convert to solid-state drives since I got my first MacBook Air, and I custom-ordered the desktop machines both at home and at the office to have them as well. They’re wonderful things, and I’m never going to buy another computer with a hard drive. (I hate hard drives, they always fail on me at the worst possible moment.) Right now, computers with solid-state drives are still in the early-and-expensive stage of technological progress, but Apple’s on the right side of history here, and prices will surely come down.

That said, however, Richard Gaywood makes an equally good point about the new Apple machine: it’s much less accessible than anything which has ever carried the “Pro” name in the past. You can’t upgrade the RAM, because it’s soldered to the motherboard. You can’t upgrade the solid-state drive, because it’s an Apple proprietary drive, and no other drive will fit there. You can’t replace the battery. And so on. It even has proprietary pentalobe screws.

Writes Gaywood:

My last MacBook Pro saw a little over 2.5 years as my primary computer, and I would expect no less of any computer I was paying in excess of $2200 for. In that time, I upgraded the memory once, the hard drive three times, and replaced the battery once. None of these options would be available to me with a new MBPwRD. SSDs, batteries, and RAM can degrade or fail in time — is a $349 AppleCare purchase a hard requirement now? What if I want to keep my MacBook longer than the three years coverage AppleCare offers?

Of course AppleCare won’t just give you a new hard drive or new RAM or a new battery just because you feel like an upgrade — all those cost extra too, and cost much more if you buy them from Apple (which you have to, now) than if you just buy your own and do the fix yourself.

Which means that the Apple ecosystem has just closed in much further — while on every previous Pro machine consumers could fiddle around quite a lot, this one is a completely inaccessible box. It’s about as far as you can get from the Apple 1, which came as a kit. The control-freakery which started in the operating system and then moved into software is now very much built into the hardware as well.

As a result, Apple’s post-purchase revenue from every one of these new laptops that it sells will be significantly higher than what it’s seeing right now on the MacBook Pro line.

And have you wondered why the Mac Pro is little more than an afterthought, these days? It was originally released in 2006, and has had only evolutionary changes since then; the basic model has less RAM than the new laptop, comes with no display at all, weighs 40 pounds, and still contrives to cost $2,500. With Thunderbolt allowing power users to add as many screens and external hard drives to the new laptop as they like, Apple’s treatment of the easy-to-upgrade, easy-to-customize Mac Pro looks very much like deliberate neglect.

Apple Computer became Apple Inc back in 2007, and the overwhelming majority of its half-trillion-dollar market cap has absolutely nothing to do with revenues from selling laptops or desktops.* The real money, it turns out, is in flows rather than stocks: the income stream from selling songs and apps, or from a cellphone contract, is much more valuable than a one-off computer purchase.

And it seems to me that with this latest model, Apple is trying to turn its computers into a flow product, too. It’s a beautiful shiny object — but it has much more built-in obsolescence than anything the Pro line has ever had in the past. And the more frequently Apple can persuade its customers to upgrade or replace their computers, the more its Mac operation will be worth. You might adore that Retina display now. But I suspect you’ll be replacing it sooner than you might think.

*Update: See, for instance, the analysis from Trefis, which says that just 11% of Apple’s market cap is Mac-related. The entire Mac franchise, even with the halo effect from the iPhone and iPad, is worth less than the amount of cash Apple has on hand.

32 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Felix, be sure to have plenty of backups. Cuz if you hate the MTBF of old spindles and platters, when SSDs go, they really go. And the MTBF of SSD is even shorter than hard drives depending on how much you hit them.

But to the point of your and Gaywood, you’re quite right and in fact, the lack of upgradability/accessibility is a big part of the reason why I didn’t purchase the retina display mbp on launch and probably wouldn’t with my own money (work, now that’s a different story). In fact, if you take a look at the ifixit breakdown page for the new retina mbp (http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook- Pro-with-Retina-Display-Teardown/9462/), I wonder if it’s even possible to pay Apple to put in a new battery now since instead of screwing down the battery packs, they’ve decided to glue them down.

From a business perspective though, it’s not difficult to see why Apple has moved in this direction, whereas in years past they’ve not had the market size (or hysteria) to fully enforce their closed ecosystem, they do now. So they’re going to try to extract maximal rent.

Posted by GregHao | Report as abusive

Wrong-O Felix.

Macs are usable longer than Windoze machines.

Posted by surfish | Report as abusive

uhhh, you are way off… the VAST majority of apple revenue comes from selling iphones and ipads. Its revenue stream from songs and apps is an afterthought at best and the company doesn’t make money from carrier contracts.

Posted by mdc10 | Report as abusive

This trend is overdetermined. Even if nothing you said is true, they would still make these design decisions to make the various MacBook lines lighter and thinner.

You could argue the opposite effect too: because you can’t upgrade later, people might are more likely to buy a laptop now that is fully loaded with memory and storage, and still keep it for 3–5 years. Apple gets more revenue up front, rather than as a flow.

Posted by guanix | Report as abusive

“Macs are usable longer than Windoze machines.”

Not my experience with the Macintosh Performa. Was the last Apple product I bought — not particularly interested in wasting money on another.

The Performa lasted 3-4 years, and was really dragging by the end. Have owned just two PC boxes in the 12+ years since then, easily upgraded for $25-$50 at the 3-4 year mark.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

1) all computers are designed to become obsolete. That’s the nature of technology, and semiconductor technology evolves so rapidly that every electronic product becomes obsolete within months of introduction.

2) Apple does not make most of its money from music, apps and cellphone contracts. The net profit and gross margins are far below what they make on hardware; they are the key part of an ecosystem that makes their hardware so desirable. Their hardware has incredible margins, far greater than all of their competition.

3) Making components like SSDs and DRAM upgradable increases the cost, and may even compromise performance. Apple computers have decent resale value; if you want to upgrade, you can sell it, and buy the more advanced model. Or not.

Nobody is forced to buy Apple computers or phones, there are lots of alternatives. The lack of upgradability is one factor people need to consider when buying these products, and if it’s important, then they shouldn’t buy them. Judging by their sales, it doesn’t seem to be too important.

Disclosure: I own Apple stock (but an not thrilled with the performance of some of my Apple computers).

Posted by KenG_CA | Report as abusive

I find the change to no user-upgradeable RAM retrograde – this must be the first Mac for a long while where the RAM could not be changed by the user. That’s a real shame.

As for the other points raised, I recently bought a ten year old Performa for my daughter to play with, and it worked fine. OK, it was underspecced for many of today’s games but the machine itself worked fine. Can’t say that about the old Compaq with the battery that won’t come out of the machine any more (it needs to to be charged) or the IBM Thinkpad that kept on breaking the keyboard because there was too much flexing in the plastic it was made from. You also can’t say that from the series of PC desktops I used at work where each one lasted about 18mths before needing parts, and had to be replaced after three years as they became unusable. No Mac I have owned since 2005 has needed any attention to repair anything. All of them work fine. And all of them still have resale prices – the PCs had to be thrown in a skip.

Apple’s obsession is to make smaller, thinner, lighter machines to the highest engineering specs using the latest technology and industrial design ideas. They have high margins because they use the same components across many machines, and have a carefully targeted and selective range. They then buy in bulk – one year I remember they made an order that cornered 5/7ths of the world demand for memory on a stick; the order was was worth billions and the economies of scale allowed them to buy at really great prices.

The sad side effect about this obsession seems to be this lack of upgrades – but let’s be honest, most people only ‘upgrade’ because something on their PC breaks and a bigger, better, faster part is all that is available – until about 3 yrs later when they are not compatible any more and a new computer has to be bought.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

Apple’s record of supporting OS upgrades on older machines is much better than any other hardware manufacturer out there. The percentage of old Apple beaters still doing work is amazing, compared to Microsoft Windows machines.

Apple always leads the pack in eliminating features that people think they need, in order to give them things they didn’t know they wanted. With every shift, there are some who are left out of the party, and they write articles implying this is a major shift in focus or philosophy.

Apple has proven very successful at understanding their customers’ preferences (which might not be yours, or those of the majority of consumers), so I am giving them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Posted by AngryInCali | Report as abusive

It’s true, Apple is no longer a computer company in the usual sense–they’re now a phone and media company that happens to also sell computers. Which they are basically trying to transform into larger versions of the phone. I’m a long time Mac user (I had an Apple II in 1979 as well) and find this complete closing of the system to be distressing. And they’re moving in the direction of control of the software environment too. They’re going to try to control Mac software the way they do on the iPhone. Personally, I’m going to put off my next upgrade as long as possible.

Posted by Moopheus | Report as abusive

FifthDecade, one of my responsibilities at work is maintaining our network of ~80 machines. We accept donations of used Dell boxes (after the office “throws them in the skip”), typically 5-6 years old, and then we use them for another 5-6 years. Surprisingly few issues aside from mice, dead CMOS batteries, and an occasional CD drive or cooling fan. The vast majority of these machines will work flawlessly for more than a decade.

The major issues in using older PCs:
* You need sufficient RAM. Can run XP with modern software nicely with 1 GB, but they’ll barely boot up with 512 MB. Performance falls off a cliff when the machine starts swapping.

* You need to keep the registry clean. Some programs (iTunes is a particular offender) install half a dozen always-on components. Those might run nicely on a newer/faster/larger machine but older systems can’t take the load.

Apple computers are for techie geeks, offering nifty features that are years ahead of their time. But PCs are cheap, reliable, workhorses. Functional, not stylish.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

look at all these kool-aid kids crying ‘well atleast its not blah blah blah windoze.’

the article doesnt mention once that the user is switching, merely the woes of usage and future products.

the things apple is selling to you now, windows users have had in their boxes six years ago.

funny no one says. well atleast its not a linux machine.

oh wait. i can actually upgrade every aspect of every component in my PC at any time, forever.

the ONLY company that can get away with soldered ram is this fruit group.

its nice to see some commentors saying ‘enough is enough’ and moved away from ridiculousness.

i remember some years ago when i upgraded to a 8800GTS and i looked to see what apple offered on their desktop configurations. it was the previous generation of GPUs for twice the price.

the only thing the apple logo has served, is to show the rest of us whom amongst us are idiots.

Posted by S0MA | Report as abusive

oh look, i can get SLI and raid0 on my LAPTOP.

meanwhile ppl act like apple using LG’s displays marketed as ‘retina’ act like they cured cancer. one need only look to see which groups leads the bleeding-edge gaming front, and you can see every other manuf. behind them pretending to be in the race.

remember when apple was all about touting the power of motorola PowerPC cpus? and now what? they are all INTEL MACHINES. irony?

the best you can config a mac pro is with an ATI 5870? is that a joke? what is this? 2009?

the amount of money apple loyalists have been spending on mediocre hardware is a cruel sentiment. then again i dont expect any user that backs apple to build a water-cooled SLI rig at every turn.

what you are buying is the perception of advancement; not actual advancement.

Posted by S0MA | Report as abusive

Exactly@S0MA

@Ken –

1) all computers are designed to become obsolete. That’s the nature of technology, and semiconductor technology evolves so rapidly that every electronic product becomes obsolete within months of introduction.

Actually, by the time technology reaches the average consumer’s hand it’s already obsolete. That’s the nature of progress. However, knowing that, it is that much more criminal (at least morally) to lock your system in such a way that your users can no longer upgrade!

3) Making components like SSDs and DRAM upgradable increases the cost, and may even compromise performance. Apple computers have decent resale value; if you want to upgrade, you can sell it, and buy the more advanced model. Or not.
Nobody is forced to buy Apple computers or phones, there are lots of alternatives. The lack of upgradability is one factor people need to consider when buying these products, and if it’s important, then they shouldn’t buy them. Judging by their sales, it doesn’t seem to be too important.

The decision to solder on RAM & use of proprietary daughter cards (and pentalobe screws) are design and lock in. It is most definitely _not_ a performance decision. Apple uses Samsung for their SSD (controller & NAND). Samsung stuff is known for reliability but not cutting edge performance. It’s about 10 to 20% slower than the “best” cutting edge stuff. The daughter card that the SSD comes on is essentially a normal SSD but with a non standard connector and without the plastic/metal outer shell of an SSD that you can buy on the street.

You second point about most of their consumers not caring, that’s absolutely right. But, there is a certain segment that does (I count myself amongst them) and it does affect Apple’s business at the margin.

Posted by GregHao | Report as abusive

If software development were pitched toward efficiency and usefulness instead of bloat and complexity, computers could last many times longer than they do.

Our hardware waste, which is truly epic and unprecedented, is almost entirely driven by a software development system stuck on stupid.

Forced stupidity being much more lucrative than smartness.

Posted by Eericsonjr | Report as abusive

If you’ve bought into SSDs because you believe they’re more reliable than traditional hard-drives, you may be in for a surprise.

I’d keep doing your backups.

Posted by TWAndrews | Report as abusive

@TFF One of my contacts in the tech world in the US ran the tech side of a company with between 100,000 and 200,000 computers. Naturally they ran a study to measure the costs of running each platform (they were about 60/40 PC/Mac). He told me the Macs (more than 65,000 of them) were over a five year period much cheaper to run than the PCs because they hardly broke down at all, needed far less time from maintenance staff, and were altogether easier to use.

The trouble with a subject like this though is that there is such a lot of money tied up in the support and supply of Windows machines that there will always be many more people backing PCs over Macs. They feel threatened by Mac’s market share having risen 300% since it’s low point of 3% and hate the idea that when facts are used instead of opinions or scare stories Macs compare very favourably with PCs. Now that users have more say in the choice of computer they have at work though, the number of Macs is rising again.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

FifthDecade, it is quite possible that Macs need less software maintenance. Windows (at least through XP) is poorly designed and clutters itself into a stasis within a couple years.

Dell hardware has been quite reliable for us, however, *AND* the parts are easily swappable on those rare occasions that something breaks. Strip down one broken machine and you can reuse the hard-drive, RAM, fan assembly, and network cards. Minimizes the number we throw away. Software maintenance isn’t a consideration — I do that on a volunteer basis, so it is free. :)

Your original premise that PCs are good for just 3 years before they are obsolete and need to be trashed is patently ridiculous. None of our equipment is younger than that and some of what we operate is more than twice that age.

If instead you want to argue that Macs are more user-friendly, better designed, easier to maintain, then you might have a point. But that isn’t what you said.

Anybody want to give us a couple dozen late-model Macs (and software) to test out Fifth’s claims?

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

@TFF & FifthDecade – Windows 2000 was for a long time the bedrock OS (most companies & sys admins I know refused to run XP or Vista) and Windows 7 has been very solid. The thing about Macs “breaking down” is that for a long time (pre Jobs’ second tenure with AAPL) they ran with the closed architecture both hardware and software. There was a very limited number of applications for the mac and therefore the laws of big numbers worked in their favour. This is not to discount the amount of time that AAPL spent on their products but it’s like comparing apples and oranges (pun intended).

However, it wasn’t always a bed of roses with Dells. Up to until about five to eight years ago, Dell actually had a closed ecosystem as well with their systems. They did not use industry standard sizes for their parts and after a lot of customer outcry, they finally saw the light and conformed with industry standards.

The idea that computers of any kind needs to be trashed after 3 years is false no matter the system (MSFT/OS X/whatever). They may no longer feel quite as snappy but for the casual user, they are absolutely fine.

Posted by GregHao | Report as abusive

@TFF and @GregHao
First of all, I have no Apple stock or any financial interest in that company. TFF, the fact that you say you have to fix the broken PCs in order to get them to work (and the fact that you get old ones given to you because they are no longer usable by their previous owners) just proves my point. With a PC you NEED to be able to easily swap the components around because of their (relative) lack of reliability. This should not be a surprise because with so many PC makers going for volume and low margins (eg HP with something like a 5% margin apparently) quality is necessarily a casualty of the process of a very competitive environment where sales have been declining for years.

My point about Macs is that, in my experience and that of my contact (who has a much larger sample set to base his findings on) it doesn’t matter if they become harder to fix since they don’t go wrong so easily because the effort Apple’s higher margins (gained as I said through clever purchasing) allow them to spend more time designing the internals for longevity through better heat management, vibration control and so on.

It’s a bit like when they invented the transistor radio, the old school radio guys pooh poohed the fact the transistors were soldered to the boards, their complaint was that it would be impossible to replace the valves if everything was soldered together. We now know that the PCB is far more reliable than the old valves BECAUSE it was soldered together.

Greg, you make a good point about the proprietary components in Dells of a certain generation. As for the three year point, I wasn’t saying that a working PC needed to be trashed after three years, just that that was the age in my company’s experience by when most of the PCs had had a problem and that after that point, either the parts it was made from were no longer available, or the cost of repairs needed had added up enough to have bought a new computer instead. Now THAT’S built in obsolescence.

This is exacerbated by software needs, and we have to have the latest software each year. This also means upgrading the OS and in the past this meant a new computer too. But that’s a criticism that can be leveled at both Microsoft and Apple; it’s just more frustrating in Apple’s case because their machines are still like new at that point, the PCs are already beginning to look worn out, have probably had a non-original component or two added, and are probably much slower to work on as a result of the way the OS and the Registry deal with things.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

FifthDecade, we run 80 machines, mostly Dell, that are variously 5-10 years old. A handful break down each year. Even then, it is usually possible to get them back up and running by swapping in a spare part from another. If that “proves their relative lack of reliability”, then you have ridiculously high standards.

The swapping is most useful when we take in donations. Of the 50 donated boxes in the last batch, perhaps half a dozen were inoperable when we received them. Swapping parts around got that down to two. Nice that we could put out 48 machines instead of 44.

It was ridiculous for you to suggest that their expected lifetime is three years, and the fact that we are running a very low attrition rate on machines that are nearly twice that old proves that.

If you “need” to replace your machines every three years, then I suspect it is the software rather than the hardware. Older computers (PC or Macintosh) should be running an older OS. And yes, you need to scrub the Windows registry regularly (perhaps once a year for older machines).

Note also that the equation is very different when you are paying an IT guy $30/hour to maintain your software than when you have a teacher volunteering the work in his spare time.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

Microsoft’s gotten a reputation for bloat and as TFF points out, it’s important to perform maintenance (which happens for OS X in the background with the various system scripts that they run). But as the years of dragged on and as we get into these iterations of OS X, it has gotten quite bloated as well. These days, default OS X is about as bloated as default Windows 7.

Now, I’ve never been in a production environment of hundreds of thousands of machines but I have been in environments that run close to that many. But the mix was much more extreme (something to the order of 90% PC/10% mac) so that may skew things.

And TFF’s post is precisely right, by pulling parts for repair or purchasing new (better) parts to upgrade is the whole point. Apple is moving away fro that.

My current MBP has had 2 HDD upgrades and doubling of RAM. Part of it is for new parts but the other part was because when I bought the machine, I knew I didn’t need all that it was capable of but that if/when I did, the option was there for me. With this new paradigm, if I want a retina display MBP, I would need to max it out on day 1, whether I need to or not. It’s very rare for people to buy for the future rather than to the need. At this point, I may very well veery back to Thinkpads or possibly Dells simply because Apple is forcing me to make a choice I don’t necessarily want to make yet.

Posted by GregHao | Report as abusive

@TFF I love the way you know my experience better than I do. Perhaps you could also tell me whether I’m thirsty or not? lol!

Look, nobody ‘wins’ these discussions, because most people generalise from their own experiences onto the wider marketplace – you certainly are. I’m also not saying your experience is wrong. I have quoted info from a really large user of both brands and gave his experiences, but you keep on insisting that only your experience can be the one that everyone else has.

As for maintenance, a small business usually doesn’t have an IT guy who works for $30 an hour (IME they cost more), but as is typical for many small businesses one of the existing people – the owner perhaps – takes time out to do the necessary jobs and this takes time that is billable usually at far higher rates than $30.

It’s laudable that you give your time for free, but that’s irrelevant to the overall discussion IMO because few businesses are so lucky; in the real world, they have to pay, one way or the other, and my point was that Macs cost less in that area than PCs, whether or not Felix’s point about built in obsolescence is right.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

@GregHao I don’t agree with Apple’s policy here either, we have upgraded the HDD of one of our MacBooks which only had 160Gb (now 320Gb) but laptops are renowned for having smaller drives than desktops – which is why I don’t use a laptop, but everyone’s different here. I for one would not go back to the world of PCs, although I might delay buying a new Mac for a while if I don’t like what’s on offer. I’ve already not renewed my 5 year old iMac or 4 year old iPhone because I don’t like the designs of the newer models. But Apple think they make more money this way; my personal view is that it’s a retrograde step in the long term.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

Everyone seems to think this is part of an Apple plan to push for premature product obsolescence. I would suggest that it’s simply a natural extension of the customer strategy that Apple has been developing since the launch of the iPod.

Apple products have moved from niche products targeted at hobbyists, IT professionals, and graphic designers to mass-market devices that need to cater to the lowest common denominator of technical knowledge. The average consumer is attracted to Apple’s design and the fact that it is minimally adjustable is a feature to them, not a bug. To ensure that the devices are “idiot-proof” – or at least that they function as best as possible in as many circumstances as possible – Apple needs to minimize the control that users have over the product itself.

This is as true of hardware customization as much as it is of operating systems or anything else. Apple is just giving the public what it wants.

Posted by worm600 | Report as abusive

@FifthDecade, pot calling kettle black? You’ve been declaring from your own experience that my 80 PCs can’t possibly operate for more than three years without breaking down left and right. I’m telling you that isn’t the case — the hardware is good for a longer period of time.

And I’ve been doing my best to acknowledge YOUR experience. As I brought up (you neglected to mention it, though you do seem to agree), IT time costs more than the hardware for the typical business. Not a question of whether or not the machines can continue to operate, but a question of whether it takes less time to clean the old systems or image 100 new ones. The more different generations of software you operate, the higher your costs.

So IT typically runs on a 3-5 year replacement cycle, discarding perfectly useable machines because they are ready for the next. A very different truth than your initial assertion.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

Does anyone really update their laptop computer anymore? I did once or twice in the 90s, but it’s been a while. Then again, I’ve never upgraded the engine on my car either or popped a new CRT into my television set. Is this sort of a hobby thing like burning a custom PROM for your car? Anyone following computers would buy what they need and leave some room for expansion.

Since I’m a power user, I buy a new computer every 3 to 5 years, and demote the old one to server or backup status. I then have two choices. Either my machine stays top of the line, or the industry continues to advance, and my machine becomes sorely out of date by the time I replace it. Maybe if I were an IT manager I’d choose the former, but as a tech sort I’ve been enjoying the latter.

P.S. A good way of estimating the useful life of a Mac is by looking at used Mac prices. They tend to be pretty high. I have no idea of who is buying those used machines, but some of the resale sites have been around for ages and always seem to have new stock. I usually find it more economical to buy a new machine.

Posted by Kaleberg | Report as abusive

GregHao, the decision to solder components in instead of having sockets is often dependent on packaging considerations, and can absolutely impact performance. Sockets and connectors affect the integrity of the signals, and some devices (especially DRAM running at over 1 GHz) do not like to be placed far from the CPU. If the industrial design of a computer dictates that a memory socket be placed too far away from the CPU to meet the specifications of the memory device, it would have to be run at a lower speed. The industrial design of Apple products, as you may have noticed, is very important to Apple and many of its customers. I just don’t see them sacrificing design or performance for upgradability, especially when such a small percentage of users would actually upgrade the product.

And if a small percentage os users do want to upgrade the product, you would be burdening the majority of customers with the cost of adding that capability (it is absolutely not free).

But my guess is that the upgradability was sacrificed for packaging reasons – it would have impacted how the product looked.

Posted by KenG_CA | Report as abusive

@Kaleberg – just in this thread we have at least two users who upgrade their machines. And it wouldn’t be an issue that resonates with so many if they didn’t.

@Ken – I don’t dispute that packaging components on the same PCB impacts performance positively. However, in this instance, it’s been proved that the daughter card (which incidentally _isn’t_ soldered on) for the SSD is not faster than third party solutions. I don’t recall anywhere reading specs that the RAM for the system being soldered onto the mainboard improves performance. The CPU itself already has cache (since there’s obviously no shorter path between the CPU and cache than being on the same die). Obviously I don’t work at Apple so I can’t provide proof positive of why they made the decisions that they made but for me, it seems pretty clear that the decision to have everything soldered on and using proprietary designed daughter cards for the SSD is made with design first, closed ecosystem second, and performance third.

Posted by GregHao | Report as abusive

@GregHao, what you say makes sense.

Will note that I don’t bother to update laptops, though. Much trickier than desktop boxes, with less space to maneuver in the case.

Posted by TFF | Report as abusive

Greg, it’s not that soldering improves performance, but the use of a memory socket may dictate that it is placed farther away from the CPU than is desirable for the memory to work at rated speed. In other words, if in order for the memory module to be accessible to the user it has to be placed on the other side of the circuit board, it may not run at full speed. This may not be the reason, I was just saying upgradability can impact performance.

As for the SSD, my guess is they don’t want to mess with the design, and don’t want to support users migrating their OS to a new drive.

Posted by KenG_CA | Report as abusive

I’ve lusted after Macs for years, but coudn’t justfy the cost. But after reading this, the only way I’ll ever own one is if the price to me is relative chump change (in other words, I’d have to have won at least several million dollars in a lottery).

Posted by ScottBeamer | Report as abusive

I’ve lusted after Macs for years, but coudn’t justfy the cost. But after reading this, the only way I’ll ever own one is if the price to me is relative chump change (in other words, I’d have to have won at least several million dollars in a lottery).

Posted by ScottBeamer | Report as abusive