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Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys

The Apple-can-do-nothing-wrong crowd cranked up the hate machine when I questioned the vendor's upgrade treadmill. Some responses and clarifications are in order.

"MobileMe is ending soon." Those four words, combined with the revelation that for iCloud, MobileMe's successor product, Apple is dropping support for the version of MacOS on my one-year-old laptop, prompted me to write a column on June 25 questioning whether Apple's upgrade treadmill would be palatable to CIOs.

That column led to some serious debate and discussion on, but it also brought out the mindless haters. Some responses and clarifications are in order.

1. MobileMe vs. iCloud. I totally agree that Apple has done a fantastic job with change management for this product upgrade, issuing periodic reminders of the transition and setting a long transition period. But I didn't criticize Apple for their change management. I criticized Apple for arbitrarily deciding to make iCloud break if you don't upgrade your desktop OS. I am NOT making that up, as some of the haters have accused.

Apple itself says Snow Leopard won't work with iCloud. An Apple support article spells this point out nicely. Hacks are available (aren't they always?), but the point is this: Apple is telling us that calendar and contact sync will break on iCloud with older versions of OS/X, and that the only service available will be email. Corporate help desks don't do hacks; they want support from the manufacturer.

2. Dock. Yes, it's just a rumor that Apple plans to change the dock connector on the next iPhone, a move that would force customers to replace their iPhone accessories. But enough industry insiders have been talking about it to make me believe it.

[ We don't just criticize Apple. Sometimes we take its products apart. Read Teardown: Inside Apple MacBook Pro. ]

I agree with the comments that the current dock port has been around a long time. I just hope that if/when Apple changes the dock, it delivers the promised value. And if it's all about saving space, why is there enough space for an extra chip on that valuable real estate to prevent knockoff accessories?

Apple has every right to recoup its investment in innovation by protecting its intellectual property. But Apple had better deliver some value, not just obsolescence. A new connector isn't an innovation. But if the new connector is on par with MagSafe, the power cord on my MacBook Air, I'm sold. I don't know how many times I murdered my previous Macs because I tripped over a power cord while doing a presentation and knocked the Mac off the podium.

3. Conflict Of Interest. I don't own stock in Apple or its competitors, despite what the haters surmise. I like Apple's technology enough to have become an enterprise customer a few years ago, but I made that decision for business, not personal, reasons. Some of the haters don't seem to understand this point, because they're responsible only for their own technology.

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It's more disturbing when a website whose business model and existence depend on Apple starts flaming InformationWeek and me for daring to have an opinion about Apple in an opinion column. Who has the conflict of interest?

4. Lifecycle. To clarify, one of the reasons I've been drawn to Apple over the years is because of its decent product lifecycles and strong ROI. Arbitrarily forcing customers to update because they've adopted Apple products across the board is causing me to rethink that lifecycle recommendation. When I see a sign that Apple proudly wants its customers to keep using their products as long as they want, I'll gladly recant.

5. Our "Inflammatory" Headline. Some of the haters called the headline on my recent column inflammatory. As you may or may not know, the author of a column or story usually doesn't write the headline. I had suggested "Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Enough Already," which my editors changed to "Apple's Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews?" Well, considering my own experience with Apple, and those of some of my peers, a revolt could be brewing.

Finally, as for the haters in general, it's startling to me how blind loyalty to a vendor and product can make folks lose their sense of civility. The Apple-focused website (the one with the real conflict of interest) wrote an insulting headline about our beloved InformationWeek and me, and it encouraged readers, based on pieces of my column it threw to them, to send hate mail. (All 10 of its readers sent me pretty nasty emails.) Whereupon I tried to initiate a conversation with some of those folks based on the facts, and their response was to shout me down.

Some of that vitriol made it to the comments thread underneath my column on It's as if calling me names and questioning my motives make them right. I do want to thank those people who have kept the discourse civil, whether they agree with my point of view or not. You have swayed my opinion on some of the issues, and persuaded me to clarify others, which is the real benefit of an analytical discourse.

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 [email protected] or at @_jfeldman.

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Andrew Hornback
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2012 | 2:21:37 AM
re: Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys
Last time I looked, Apple was a public company. As such, they have a capitalistic duty to their shareholders to keep revenue coming in. One way to do that is to gently nudge (push, force at gunpoint) their installed base of users to upgrade every so often (although, I hear there are a good many that upgrade as soon as the next model comes out).

To be quite honest, it's not really a matter of using the right tool for the job anymore - it's a matter of using the latest and greatest for no other really good reason than it's the latest and greatest. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a fanboy... of SGI. I'm still waiting for the next update to IRIX for my Indigo2 and my Octane workstations (I'm even writing this on an ancient SGI keyboard), so I understand the want to keep current - but is there really enough difference between the iPad (or iPhone, or even iPod - remember those?) x and the iPad x+1 to make the average consumer plonk down the cubic dollar difference between them?

So, you basically have an organization that's created a juggernaut of a marketing campaign and created technology addicts that are willing to overlook the fact that obsolesence is being forced upon them for no reason other than that the mothership needs to raise a few greenbacks by changing how it interfaces with a CLOUD solution.

Now, wait a minute - Cloud services... aren't they supposed to be platform independent, open to all, rainbows, ponies and so on? And yet your hardware vendor is FORCING you to change? That sounds like a Good Thing(tm) to me,

I wonder how many of these Apple technology addicts were old enough AND actually remember seeing the 1984 commercial? I'm guessing not too many. Especially since Apple has become the establishment that they sought to rebel aginst... once upon a time.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2012 | 12:50:09 AM
re: Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys
I just wish Apple had done with Macs the more subtle and surreptitious technique for forcing upgrades and causing obsolescence that they used on the iPhones and iPads. The batteries on those devices have a clearly defined and set life and then they go bad and can't be re-charged, repaired or replaced with a warranty. The devices, once their batteries go bad, no longer are mobile.

Now this is real surreptitious, well planned, forced obsolescence that the Apple fan boys just routinely accept even though that raises the TCO to stratospheric levels. Unfortunately, the rest of us like to get lower prices on Orbitz when we want to book travel and lodging and want our hard earned money that we put into technology investments to last a little longer than just a few years!
User Rank: Strategist
7/2/2012 | 9:22:41 PM
re: Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys
Welcome to Gen Y, the world of MMA, and vigilante justice (you can read Anonymous, LulzSec and others here). As for Feldman, with 8 comments already, clearly not even this will quiet the storm. With honor to the recently departed "Mr. Pyle" for shame, for shame, for shame.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/2/2012 | 4:39:02 PM
re: Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys
I got similar barrage of insane comments from haters on an industry blog making comments about the SCOTUS decision. Can't we have civil discourse on ANY level?

Regarding iPad frenzy, I'm a heatlhcare market analyst and consultant. Perhaps no one has embraced their iPads as devotedly as MDs, traditional IT contrarians. Unfortunately the clinical systems in hospitals (Electronic Health Records) are not iPad native and with pseudo solutions like Citrix beloved UI features don't work. And touch screen isn't productive with large amouonts of data entry MDs are being asked to do with EHRs (now financially incented via the Stimulus bill). IT/ CIOs WANT to be surpportive and are establishing BYOD policies so docs can bring iPads and use for personal use and reviewingEHR images and data, but they can't today well support full EHR use. So MDs are unhappy and many act like fan boy and blame CIOs. What's amazing to me is when I even REPORT these data (backed up by 3rd partyresearch) they get mad at ME.

Clearly Steve Jobs cracked the secret code on creating "raving fans".
User Rank: Apprentice
7/2/2012 | 4:28:16 PM
re: Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys
I agree with Mr. Fieldman, you can comment and be civil about it. Apple is a great company with great products but that does not mean they are perfect :)

I have switched from PC to Mac after the iPhone experience, I love the comparability with all of the products and free software updates (iOS) and buy once and use on every iOS device. We have many devices at home and at work and we share with each other, making a change should be smooth transition. The cable should work on old devices and new but new devices should need NEW cable. I think Apple is trying to control the user experience just like the software (in a positive way). They want the user to have a confidence in the product experience which means addon devices must be built to apple quality to ensure great experience with the overall product not just the apple part.

I am a manufacturer (CD and DVD) and I receive material from my clients to include in the final product. If the material is not up to our standards, I reject it and give the customer two options:

Assemble the product yourself and take off my name from it or
Replace the rejected assemble with one that matches our quality standards.

It is simple.
The user experience must be consistent to gain an overall level of greatness. Some people may call that control or limiting our choices.

You do have a choice of selecting another vender if you don't like Apple.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/2/2012 | 4:28:12 PM
re: Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys
You have not done enough penance! You must go to Apple's HQ and kneel before the main entrance and receive a flogging from Tim Cook. Only then can we say that you are forgiven.
User Rank: Ninja
7/2/2012 | 2:51:01 PM
re: Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys
One other thing. The fanboys just don't understand that there are very few actual 'haters' of Apple out there (there's far more Apple fanboys who hate MS then the other way around). What they hate is the Apple fanboy, the mac defenders who can't read a single criticism of their favorite company without taking it personally and taking it upon themselves to rebut. (I often wonder if they act the same way if someone said something bad about their sister or mother.)

They're still living in the 90s, when Apple was near-death (oh, when a company is bleeding cash and is valued at less than it's total assets, you're near death) and fearing they might go under and feeling they needed to be defended.

Apple is the big guy now (at least in small electronics, still an also ran in the computer business). But part of that is the 'apple' cachet. People buy Apple gear because it's the thing to own. Just like people used to need a walkman. Or had to have a blackberry. That part of the sales isn't based on anything but the cool-factor. If that disappears, the stock price will tumble.

But I'm sure it will be all blamed on the 'haters' like Mr. Feldman.
User Rank: Ninja
7/2/2012 | 2:44:12 PM
re: Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys

"I wonder who has more vested interests to make things work, you or Apple."

Apple has a vested interest in making money. Making things 'work' helps them along the way, but if Apple can make more money NOT making things work, you can be sure that is the direction they will go.

Thus, the reason iCloud won't work at all (except Mail) in Snow Leopard. It is in Apple's interest to get people to upgrade to Lion.

"I also wonder who is more interested to make people keeps on buying Apple products and who is more concerned with the user experience. Will it bode well for Apple if the computers the users are using do not work with a feature as advertised."

All Apple has to do is say "for you snow leopard users, here's how you can get ical and address book to work". Yeah, that's sooooo hard.

As for 'not working as advertised', you mean like Siri?

Apple is concerned about user experience and such, but they also are concerned about selling product. And services. And licensing revenues. That's why they talk a good game about 'open standards' unless it's they who have the 'standard', and then it's all about the licensing, or keeping it closed altogether (see iPod dock, MagSafe, FairPlay).

"Yes an adapter will solve all the problems of the new but smaller dock."

That makes the assumption there will be an adapter. And if it works.

"Words are cheap but the cheapest are the hitwhores who write to get hits with very little regards to the logic they should used to write a more balance article.."

No, the cheapest are the trolling fanboys who get irritated anyone dares say anything negative against apple (and I've got 3 working macs at the moment, plus 5 more in the closet, iPods, iPhone, iPad). Oh, and I also own stock in the company. Doesn't mean I have to agree with everything they do!
User Rank: Ninja
7/2/2012 | 2:30:37 PM
re: Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys
You don't seem to really understand the conversation, so stop just defending and listen.

To answer your points:
"Yes, Apple is "arbitrarily deciding to make iCloud break if you don't upgrade your desktop OS" (although it is not really "arbitrarily")."

It is arbitrary, depending on how you look at it. I also know if Microsoft announced any type of change like this for, say, Hotmail, that would only work with Windows 7, they'd get killed.

"OS X Lion, and the Apple applications that come with Lion, are built with iCloud integration. It is unfeasible to develop and re-issue installers for each of the older versions of OS X with this same integration, and it would be prohibitively expensive for Apple to do this."

And here's where you are completely missing the point. There's 5 parts of iCloud. You seem to think that, if all five parts is unwieldy to integrate, then just blow off all the old people. This is what irritates many mac users (esp. those who HATE Lion and have not upgraded - I know, even die-hard Mac users actually hate something from Apple).

The only part I'll grant you on 'unfeasible' is iCloud documents. But, let's be honest, that is the by far the smallest and least important parts of iCloud. I've yet to hear one person talking about this whole icloud incompatibility and even mention documents. Or even photostream.

The three parts that people want are the three they HAD with MobileMe. Mail, contacts, and calendar. Apple talks up open-standards, and apparently uses them for contacts and calendars. Yet they can't even make a simple change to iCal or Address Book in Snow Leopard to add in the support. Nor can they make server-side changes to make it easy to set up manually. Heck, the only reason I think mail works is that it would be way too hard to figure out how to make it incompatible on earlier macs without breaking Windows support!

That's all I want from iCloud. I want my calendar and Address Book syncing. I know, I ask too much. Poor apple. The money and effort and resources they'd have to spend on such a task would drive them into bankruptcy!

"That is why Apple offers a free upgrade to Lion for MobileMe users. This solves the problem of not being able to switch to the (better) iCloud service."

This is the obsolesence part. But I see you miss the point. I don't want to switch to Lion. But in order to use this so-called 'better' service (um, how is it better, by the way? Because it doesn't offer iDisk, keychain syncing, and web hosting?) I HAVE to upgrade. This is like how my mother had to upgrade to Leopard in order to get an iPad on her iMac, OR just use the 10 year-old XP machine in the other room.

It is hard to come up with any reason Apple has decided to leave out Snow Leopard users from iCloud except for one: Lion adoption has stunk up the joint, and the OS has received plenty of flame from many long-time users (including this "using a Mac since 1984" person - but I stopped drinking the kool aid about 10 years ago). Apple doesn't like it when people don't follow their lead, so they try to force their users into that hole.

But, I know, I'm just a windows apologist and mac troller. I must be. I wrote criticism of Apple.
User Rank: Strategist
6/29/2012 | 5:35:39 PM
re: Apple Obsolescence Debate: More Analysis Please, Fanboys
Jonathan, the only point that holds any validity is the first one. Yes, Apple is "arbitrarily deciding to make iCloud break if you don't upgrade your desktop OS" (although it is not really "arbitrarily").

OS X Lion, and the Apple applications that come with Lion, are built with iCloud integration. It is unfeasible to develop and re-issue installers for each of the older versions of OS X with this same integration, and it would be prohibitively expensive for Apple to do this.

That is why Apple offers a free upgrade to Lion for MobileMe users. This solves the problem of not being able to switch to the (better) iCloud service. If you have a 5 or 6 year old Mac (depending on the model) you might not be able to upgrade to Lion because it simply will not work on ancient Macs. This is just the way of the world, and not supporting 5 or 6 year Macs is really not unreasonable.

As for the changing of the old iPod dock, you may know that the EU has mandated Micro USB compatibility for all mobile devices. This change is a good thing, and it has also not been initiated by Apple.

When Apple's mobile devices (and those from other companies) start changing to the Micro USB standard, you can bet that there will be lots of cheap iPod connector to Micro USB adapters for sale, and some may even be included for free with accessories.
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