By now most of you already know that Apple has been having a pretty big week. They recently unveiled their newest revolutionary product, the highly anticipated MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Although clearly a triumph of technological evolution, it has sparked a bit of debate amongst consumers and technology enthusiasts. Apple in its attempt to push the limits of consumer technology is being criticized for its latest laptop design. Recently, in a well written article on Wired.com, Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit (a team responsible for tear-downs of new products and DIY repair guides) brought to light some of the key issues that consumers may have with the MacBook Pro’s new form factor. In the article Kyle states “This is, to date, the least-repairable laptop we’ve taken apart,”. iFixit‘s complicated tear-down resulted in the MacBook Pro only managing to merit a 1 on a 10-point repair scale and has since been deemed impossible to fix or upgrade. As you can imagine this news has left the geek community with a bad taste in their mouth and given the Apple haters one more thing to squawk about. Geeks are notorious tinkers. The idea of not being able to open up a machine and make necessary upgrades or modifications doesn’t sit well with the majority of them. I must say that as a person who used to repair and sell used laptops and PC’s this is somewhat of a concern for me as well. Although I consider myself more of a technology enthusiast than a hard-core geek, I still can’t help but feel a little uneasy about the direction in which personal computing is headed.
At the moment we are witnessing what looks to be the “iPhoneification” of all Apple devices, which of course means proprietary screws, non-removable parts and expensive repair bills. While on the surface it looks as though Apple is out to screw its customers by not giving them a choice, I would argue that Apple has already offered consumers choice and what we are seeing is the direct result of that decision. Apple gave consumers the choice of a MacBook and a MacBook Air at the same price point and the consumer chose the MacBook Air by a wide enough margin that the MacBook was dropped. The consumer spoke and Apple listened. So now the pro user is being offered that same choice. Speaking not as an Apple fanboy but rather as a person who just appreciates cutting edge technology, I have to say the newest Macbook Pro along with the MacBook Air are easily two of the most incredible laptops on the market and I can understand why consumers are infatuated with them.
Apple didn’t become the number one PC maker in the world by simply screwing over their customers. They have a done a lot of things right, now that’s not to say there aren’t conversations to be had about the way they do their business. Like for instance the fact that these newest devices seem to be getting more disposable by the second. Non-upgradable devices tend to have shorter life cycles and are quicker to end up in landfills. Costly full screen repairs on the new Retina MacBook are most likely going to be more difficult and the parts harder to recycle, this will no doubt have an effect on Apple’s carbon footprint. To be fair, environmental impact is an issue that all PC manufacturers struggle with and is also something that they ALL need to improve on. I think it would be unfair to single out Apple on this one, although I’m sure the argument could be made that Apple, as the industry leader, has more of a responsibilty to do more to reduce their carbon footprint, but that’s whole other discussion…
Perhaps the area in which Apple receives the most criticism is their pricing structure. Apple haters love to point out the fact that their latest offerings always come with an outrageous price tag attached, this is often referred to as an “Apple Tax”. Well, the newest MacBook certainly delivers on that one. It comes in two flavours: $2,229.00 for the 15-inch 2.3 GHz and $2,829.00 for the 15-inch 2.6 GHz. These prices don’t even account for the optional memory upgrades or the Apple Care Warranty service. Which, as the Wired.com article points out, becomes pretty much a necessity when you’re dealing with devices that difficult to repair. At upwards of $3000.00 it’s clear that this laptop is not aimed at the average consumer. With a screen resolution of 2880-by-1800 the MacBook Pro now has 3 million more pixels than an HDTV and is already an incredible piece of hardware. Combine that with it’s ample horse power and ultra slim form factor and you have, in my opinion, the most impressive laptop this world has ever seen. That doesn’t mean however that everyone should be rushing out to get one. I think that this particular purchase will require users to seriously examine their computer usage and consider for a moment what kind of future do they want to live in. Are they content living with customizable, slightly thicker and heavier machines? Or do they share Apple’s utopian dream of a world filled with elegant, paper-thin devices that just work. Consumers need to be reminded of the fact that we vote with our dollars. Apple is after all, in the business of making money. If nobody buys these things they will be forced to make some changes. Unfortunately this might be a bit of moot point, Apple seems to have seen the future, and the future is Retina. Apple is ushering in a new era of personal computing and the evolution happening incredibly fast. Gone are the good old days of Apple when tinkerers like Steve Wozniak put their heart and soul into making computers for the hard core geeks. Apple has essentially become the BMW of the PC world. They make high quality premium products that are packed with technology, beautiful to look at and expensive to repair. And they seem quite content maintaining that image. Luckily for the geeks that don’t share Apple’s vision there is still plenty of good competition in the PC market. Manufactures are tripping all over themselves trying to compete with Apple and the competition is really heating up.
To sum it all up I have to say it’s quite clear that new MacBook Pro isn’t for everyone, but it is definitely where the future of personal computing is headed. The only leverage you have against companies like Apple is your wallet, so spend wisely! That being said, those users who are willing to spend the money on the new MacBook Pro will be getting an exceptional machine. I think it’s safe to say that despite the hefty price tag and the fact that this machine is clearly aimed at the professional that tech enthusiasts, journalists and geeks everywhere will be selling their kidneys, family members and whatever else they can to get their hands on one.