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6/22/2012
02:56 PM
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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.

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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.

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PJS880
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PJS880,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 7:58:49 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
I donG«÷t understand how reporting on a change to a mobile device that will affect all users of that device is fashion. My opinion is that it is not for the sake of criticism, but informative purposes. There are very valid points in the article if you let your 'AppleGuard' downG«™
I might spread that word, for all Apple users who get offended when Apple products and services are G«£criticizedG«• and feel they must defend the Apple!
I am an Apple user, but at the end of the day if I have the choice to buy a product that one company sells for a high price and one company sell for a low price, I am going with the product that does the same thing and costs less.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
mpsmart
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mpsmart,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 7:29:04 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
Before I bought my iPhone 4, I was using the first gen iPhone for a few months as a replacement for my broken 3GS. It worked just fine. The fact is, Apple upgrades are always significant and necessary. The announcement for iCloud was huge for people without MobileMe and most MobileMe people were happy to not have to pay for such a clunky service. Also, BMW upgrades annually so I don't understand the reference... Apple's innovations continue to be worth the price. I agree that other companies can and will beat Apple at their own game, but it has yet to happen. Until then, buying new docks and chargers for a much more convenient smartphone experience is worth it.
Aden11
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Aden11,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 7:24:57 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
Now a days, it is a fashion to criticize Apple. The whole article is about criticism for the sake of criticism. The quality of the articles on this site is sliding down day by day.
lhassan606
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lhassan606,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 7:08:53 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
interesting all the "pithy" fanboy comments seem to be anonymous. the only thing my android phone doesn't run through the micro USB is the HDMI, which in the end I don't use. but syncing and recharge, which I do use work just fine, through my phone, my wife's company issued blackberry and daughter's phone. maybe they need a new cable for the new mapping software, that's sure to be a hit...maybe less time spent training Siri to be just another snippy fangirl or less time in court trying to stifle innovation and they could actually come up with something intelligent and meaningful.
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2012 | 6:34:47 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
I agree with the buy generic USB adapters and use the cable but if USB doesn't carry everything necessary for every accessary then how is that going to help you? BTW what is it that USB doesn't carry since it is serial, the S in USB, and can carry any message you wish.
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2012 | 6:30:54 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
TO me it doesn't look like innovation even if it has been 10 years. Other than the chip that prevents third party knockoffs what innovation is in this new connector? Please explain, oh and if it is smaller they are after then why not go with an industry standard micro-USB like everyone else?
redwards077
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redwards077,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 6:30:28 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
I agree with the people who say that we should cut Apple some slack, it's bee ten years since they've changed the dock connector and Apple is doing it for design reasons. On the other hand, they've managed to slip a chip in so you can't use less expensive after market products. How does that benefit the consumer? It doesn't, pure and simple.

Apple always has a weak answer and the hard core Apple fanboys (and girls) wear those answers like a shield. Apple doesn't make their batteries removable so the case can be smooth and feel better in your hand. Well, there are plenty of Android phones with removable batteries that feel just as nice to the touch, for the few people who don't put their phones in a protective case.

Apple's MobileMe was a failure of epic proportion. Just ask Steve Jobs, well, don't have a seance of anything, just look back at comments he made about that product. Still, the hardcore Apple fans spent $99 a year while everyone else signed up for free products that did mostly the same thing.

As for the person who asked about planned obsolescence just compare the list of products that MobileMe supported to the list that iCloud supports and you'll have your answer.

There is no doubt that Apple with sell hardware, but there's also no doubt that Android has already taken business away. The iPhone came into a "smartphone" landscape that included Symbian and Blackberry, and offered options that no other smartphone could. Today, well the numbers tell the story, and according to Comscore for the quarter ending in February 2012, Android powered over 50% of the smartphones in the US, Apple 30.2%. Not shabby on Apples part, but alarming for a company who essentially was the first to market.

The landscape is rapidly changing with Microsoft looking for a slice of the pie. Whether they are successful or not this is not the time for Apple to be looking for a quick buck at the customers expense.
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2012 | 6:28:04 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
For me also, I don't own anything Apple except the galas in my fridge.
rmichaels85701
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rmichaels85701,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 6:18:40 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
My businesses and I have been Microsoft users for many years. I have seen obsolescence (I can't use the word, "planned" because that just hasn't seemed to be important to Microsoft) on a regular basis that Apple users can't even imagine. Chaos! Costly! Ridiculous! Unnecessary! Always requiring new software updates that would immediately required a SERVICE PACK to try to fix all of the shortcomings of the latest software releases! I got as far as Service Pack 14! Can you imaging that level of cost when all of your computers have to be upgraded? The time your staff and support teams must be involved to make the changes and upgrades? And the fact that the upgrades then don't even work? How would you like doing that for years?

As developers, my team of programmers would work with XML programming new software to our already bloated product line. The development tools were constantly being upgraded. When the upgrades were loaded by my programming team, all of the work done to that date would immediately freeze and no longer work. .dlls would overwrite .dlls that had been used up to the new update. Microsoft never told us which .dlls were going to overwrite which .dlls. We would come to a dead halt. To get moving again, we needed to use the new XML Parser that also was upgraded. It wouldn't work with our software. We would have to go back a couple of generations to an "old" (about two weeks old) Parser and begin again. This went on for months. And people here are worried about a couple of little changes by Apple that probably will be better for every single user out there?

I'm switching to all-Apple. Why? Because I don't have to replace my entire system to keep my platform stable. And when it IS replaced, it is far from stable. Constant problems, costs, upgrades, etc. And to top it all off, the Microsoft browser becomes obsolete and support is unavailable. If you don't have the proper processor in EACH of your computers, you will be unable to download any browser that is usable. You must buy new hardware. Businesses with hundreds of computers are screwed. That's why Microsoft has the huge share of market that impresses the bankers. The users' are nailed to the floor and there is no choice but to upgrade, buy new hardware to run the new software that won't run on your old hardware. How ludicrous is that?

I will be willing to go totally Apple from here on in. I have thousands of customers and I'll be the proponent that will attempt to illustrate the difference between what they've been doing for years and what they can get from Apple.

Be grateful you discovered Apple when you did. Before you made the same mistake many of us Microsoft/IBM compatible users stumbled over and still see as a disaster years later.

That brief excursion of writing software using Microsoft's development tools cost me well over $200,000 and I finally canned the project and took the loss rather than to screw my customers by putting stuff out there that I would have to support forever because it couldn't be written properly. That's why there's so much junk out there.
ANON1242835692625
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ANON1242835692625,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 5:55:48 PM
re: Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews
"This just in from Apple: "MobileMe ends June 30", you're kidding right? Jonathan, where have you been, Apple has announced and reminded users of this adinfinitum for the past nine months at least. I had moved all the users I support to iCloud by the end of last year. While I hear you, if we followed your logic, we'd all still be using 5.25 disk drives, so we don't have to purchase the "new" 3.5 disks, or later USB flash drives. This is technology and it changes. Quite frankly what other manufacturer has used the same connector for its mobile devices (tablet and phone) for the past five years. Seems to me, every time I got a new phone before iPhone, I always had to buy a case and new charging cables. My .02. John
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