Government // Mobile & Wireless
Commentary
6/22/2012
02:56 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews

Short term, Apple will make more money. Long term, it will annoy, and lose, even ardent device fans.

This just in from Apple: "MobileMe ends June 30. Although there are good standards-based ways to make your contacts and calendars available, we will arbitrarily disable those features in OS/X until you upgrade your operating system and, we hope, purchase new hardware from us."

OK, maybe that's not the way Apple put it, but that's the message I hear. In my personal life, Apple is starting to drive me crazy with planned obsolescence. And now that the iPhone is a part of many of our enterprise deployments, Apple's planned obsolescence will start to drive us crazy at work, too.

As the headline writers pithily put it on a recent David Thier blog on Forbes.com: "Every iPhone Accessory You Own Just Became Obsolete." They were referring to Apple's plans to change the dock connector on the next iPhone. "Apple is great at getting us to buy new products, and this may be one its biggest coups yet," Their writes. That's fantastic if you're an Apple shareholder, but it's annoying and expensive if you have to replace a fleet of iPhone accessories every time you replace your organization's iPhones.

The typical knowledge worker who relies on a smartphone has a charger in the car, at home, and at work. During the transition from iPhone 3 to 4, most accessories were plug and play. That's not going to be the case now.

And don't think you'll be able to get inexpensive equivalents of accessories such as car chargers. From all reports, Apple will include a proprietary chip at the port that will disallow unlicensed accessories.

And let's not forget that if you want to keep the phone you've got and not upgrade, Apple's history is to force customers to use newer firmware releases to fix security problems. The "unfortunate" side effect of these software updates is that they make the phones slower, so that your end users will want the organization to buy them new devices. Eventually, of course, Apple stops supporting the old phone altogether, so that your organization must buy new ones.

Global CIO
Global CIOs: A Site Just For You
Visit InformationWeek's Global CIO -- our online community and information resource for CIOs operating in the global economy.

Is innovation really supposed to work like this? I don't think so. Here's how it's supposed to work: Supplier comes up with compelling value proposition for buyer. Buyer gladly parts with cash so that buyer can benefit from innovation. This planned obsolescence thing is simply a message that not only will you buy the BMW of smartphones, but you will replace it on Apple's schedule, not yours.

When you're the only game in town, you can act like this. But in a market where there are now many compelling alternatives, not so much.

I continue to be a fan of iPhone-the-platform, versus iPhone-the-upgrade-treadmill. And I maintain that those who selected iPhones rather than Android phones years ago probably face a lower support burden and fewer defects. But I welcome competition to discourage Apple's treadmill tactics, and I'm heartened by a couple of recent developments:

>> Software provider Magnifis has released Robin, which, from what I have seen, can take on Siri, the iPhone 4S' voice assistant, head-to-head. (As I've written before, Siri has such nagging problems that it's not hard to imagine just about any competitor taking it on.)

>> Android phones are getting better all the time. My colleague Fritz Nelson reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S III a few days ago, and he's impressed: "You're going to want this phone." Android will soon have "even more momentum ahead of whatever Apple has up its sleeves," Nelson predicts. Specs aside, if it's a reliable phone with few defects and a standards-based micro-USB dock, it'll be hard for buyers, even Apple fanboys, to dismiss.

You feel that, Apple? Those are the winds of change. It may be temporarily profitable for you to force your customers into spending on upgrades, but a little thing that we call customer lifetime value means that it's stupid to annoy your customers in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Jonathan Feldman is a contributing editor for InformationWeek and director of IT services for a rapidly growing city in North Carolina. Write to him at jf@feldman.org or at @_jfeldman.

At this year's InformationWeek 500 Conference C-level execs will gather to discuss how they're rewriting the old IT rulebook and accelerating business execution. At the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, Calif., Sept. 9-11.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 2 / 4   >   >>
rcreager840
50%
50%
rcreager840,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/26/2012 | 1:31:49 AM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
A quick look at other industries (e.g., automobile) can remind us that few people or companies have remained at the top over the long haul, and those that have remained are quite aware of customer needs, instead of telling customers what they need. Apple's reign will continue for a season but I suspect it will be troubled in the near future by Android-based equipment, and lower cost equipment.
jmineo144
50%
50%
jmineo144,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 10:25:52 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
I have no problem with moving forward. If you change the format of something it is usually to bring new features and functionality. But changing things for the sake of obsolescing past technology is ruthless and in the case of Apple's devices unnecessary. I mean really, who has had an Apple portable device last more the 2 years anyway? Their devices already have obsolescence built in, there's no need to change the cable to force the very small minority of Apple device users to buy new.
jmineo144
50%
50%
jmineo144,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 10:20:54 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
Actually, Apple already did make the old iPod interface obsolete. Anyone who had a device back when firewire was popular knows how expensive Apple's fickle attitude can be. I have at least one car interface that won't charge newer iphones and ipods and that car is only a 2008. I have friends who invested $300 (US) on Bose Sound Docks that were originally wired to charge devices that were based on the firewire pinout. Now that very expensive accessory is very useless.
Bizlaw
50%
50%
Bizlaw,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 10:00:10 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
The problem Paul is that Feldman is reporting the canceling of MobileMe like it's a sudden, new event. In fact MobileMe subscribers have known since June 11, 2011, that MobileMe was going to be shut down by June 30, 2012. Apple has been sending MobileMe users many, many emails for several weeks now reminding MobileMe users to move their contacts, calendars, etc. to iCloud (which is free) and to move their web sites, photos, etc. somewhere else so that nothing is lost.

This article makes it sound like Apple just decided last week to kill MobileMe when Apple has in fact gone to great lengths to make moving your data to iCloud a one-button click and has given users enough warnings to make them sick of receiving the emails.
Bizlaw
50%
50%
Bizlaw,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 9:56:04 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
I think Apple will take its 75% of smartphone market profits anyway over pure market share. You forget that in that 50% market share for Android are versions of Android that you wouldn't even recognize as an Android phone, including Chinese knock-offs and other incredibly cheap phones.

The argument between removable vs. non-removable batteries is just silly. It's a design choice. If you have a removable battery, you need more space for the connectors, battery compartment, etc. You also restrict your battery shape. A non-removable battery can be more creatively shaped to fit inside the device, but takes away the possibility of swapping batteries if one runs out of juice.

Personally the idea of needing to carry extra batteries is silly. I would virtually never need to swap a battery in my iPhone: Just plug in somewhere (like my car or at my desk). Worst case scenario is to buy a Mophie Juice Pack or quick-charge battery pack for those rare occasions I would need it. How is that so different from a removable battery?

Your claim of list of items not supported by iCloud which were included in MobileMe is also specious. Apple realized it didn't need to offer web hosting because so many other third party vendors were doing the same, and it doesn't really fit into Apple's product lineup. So it dropped it. At least Apple didn't tout a product like Microsoft's Kin phones, only to cancel the entire thing within 6 months of releasing it.
Bizlaw
50%
50%
Bizlaw,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 9:47:47 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
Please stop taking rumors as fact. Apple has announced nothing regarding the dock connector or any chip which prevents third party hardware which is not approved. For all you know it's not true, or the chip is to ensure accurate power supply is presented and no overload occurs.
Bizlaw
50%
50%
Bizlaw,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 9:45:25 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
This article is ridiculous. Apple told MobileMe users over a year ago that MobileMe would be ending. Plus, all of your contacts, calendar, etc. is ported to iCloud if you want, or you can sync by plugging your iPhone into your Mac/PC.

This "planned obsolescence" is also a myth. Apple just announced that even the iPhone 3GS will run iOS 6 when it comes out. Fewer than 10% of Android phones can run Ice Cream Sandwich, and most can't even upgrade whatever version of Android they are running because Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc. won't make an update available. Planned obsolescence is MUCH more prevalent in the Android universe, where you can't upgrade even if you wanted to because an upgrade you find online may not work on your particular handset hardware. Yes, that includes the Samsung phones Feldman praises so highly.

Plus, there's no reason you need to upgrade your iPhone. It will keep working just fine. No, you won't have the most recent features which are part of the new OS, but that's your choice. There is no company which lets you add features to an older version of an OS, whether mobile device or PC. You have to upgrade to get the new features.
stahmasebi9211
50%
50%
stahmasebi9211,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 9:10:01 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
I don't understand this constant Apple bashing by Mr. Feldman. It's almost as if he's a paid stooge of Microsoft's (or maybe Google's?). Apple does a lot to make sure their customers are happy and taken care of. The last FOUR iPhone releases have had the same charging mechanism. It's ok if they want to go ahead and change something for the newest release due in September. Also, Mobile Me never got the kind of adoption they had hoped so with iCloud came a much improved implementation which naturally warrants cutting ties with the previous way of doing things.
mpsmart
50%
50%
mpsmart,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 8:24:57 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
Well not all users... Just users who upgrade to the next iPhone. Its not Iike the previous gen's of iPhones are getting different docs (same with new users who aren't offered MobileMe). As I said in my comment, this update makes the overall mobile experience better. And as for the end of MobileMe, sure there were features that subscribers enjoyed that are not yet included in iCloud, but that doesn't mean that the overall experience was better on mobile me. I think complaining about apple is necessary to make apple and others strive for excellence. However, the complaints in this article aren't worth making and are not sound. Give me some reasons to believe you rather than just saying "ugh, I hate paying for upgraded devices." Also, don't moch quote (as I just did) in the beginning of an article. Its bad form considering many readers only read the first paragraph
AppleWatcher
50%
50%
AppleWatcher,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 8:11:40 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
Changing the dock connector is only an issue if it doesn't appear to serve some larger, long-term strategic purpose. A mini-Thunderbolt connector would be awesome, because ultimately I want my iPhone to drive my 27" display when I dock it. Apple has historically done these transitions pretty well. Any of you pined for a clickwheel lately?
<<   <   Page 2 / 4   >   >>
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014
InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and trends on InformationWeek.com
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.