Apple Giveth & Taketh Away

This week Apple had a tremendously successful WWDC despite the fact there was no new iPhone, iPad or the mysterious ‘AppleTVBrainAbsorber’ that surely will be revealed sometime this year.

What in part made the presentation successful was the release of a new laptop so extreme in its design and specifications that even the most skeptical looked at it and at least raised an eyebrow of admiration.  Although it didn’t take more than 48 hours for someone to tear one apart and find out that Apple had basically welded the thing together so that not only can you not upgrade the new “Super” MBP, even self repairing the thing is about impossible.  This led to cries of conspiracy and finger pointing of evidence that Apple simply makes products that will only continue to make them more money – even after you’ve bought it.

Then there was the preview of iOS6, and what iPhones and iPads will be capable of in the coming Fall.  But not all.  iPhone4 and below won’t get it, and neither will the original iPad.  While the knee-jerk reaction is to call out Apple for device fragmentation and falling into the trap of what Android is so very guilty of, the reality is that what Apple really is doing is planned obsolescence – the phasing out of products as their capabilities fail to meet modern day demands. For better or worse, right or wrong it has powered Apple as a company for years.  Even from the start, desktop computing has dealt with for a very long time, it was just the variations of the x86 occurred over long periods of time, not the year or two we see in today’s handheld devices.

Today not only is the first two generations of iPhones not supported by the current iOS5, the 3rd gen – the 3Gs – will now find a similar fate.  The 5th anniversary of the original iPhone comes on the 29th of this month.  Yes, the oldest version of the iPhone is only five years old – and you will struggle to find anyone still using one.

If you look at Apple track of products, this is a repetitive thing, only accelerating with each new type of product.  It began with the single bodied desktops from the 512k to the SE, SE30 over the course of about five years.  The iMac has seen drastic iterations since its introduction in 1998 and even the more traditional tower, the Power Mac, has rolled out newer and newer models thru the years.  But even those changes never really felt like you were having to decide quickly to upgrade like you do with today’s handheld devices.  Buy an iPhone4s today, and it will likely be 18 months away from being two generations old – think about it.

This is something long time fans of Apple have known.  They joke about it, but as the products have become the mainstream less people find it funny, and more find it annoying.  iOS6 really kicks that into gear with outdating the original iPad, a device people still are using in mass quantities and consider ‘new, cool things’.  But the fact that its processing power and memory are mere fractions of its two newer siblings, meaning the two year old wonder-device is wandering into its “golden years”.  Even hard core Apple fans gulped when they heard that news.

Everyone’s heard of dog-years, one dog year is seven human years.  So maybe iPad-years are one for every 30 human?  ouch.

This isn’t exclusive to Apple.  Today there’s a better, bigger TV each year.  A new king of the Android hill every few months.  Good grief, is Nike ever not going to make a “new-best-ever” running shoe that’s lighter and faster than the one you just bought?

Apple’s devices are premium priced.  There probably should be an expectation that when you pay $x for it, it should last for a very long time.  But that isn’t the reality of today’s gizmo world.  Every iPhone has far outsold its predecessor and that will continue  to happen as long as what Apple turns out each time lives up to its promises (something in certain areas has slipped of late).

But with all of that on the table, Apple still had a really fantastic show and tell of new stuff this week.  They continue to find ways to improve their products, sometimes off the backs of other existing products, and generate excitement.  There are tons of hints of what is to come with the iPhone5 in what was previewed with iOS6.  And the introduction of Retina Display into the laptop is really a big deal, especially as we now should expect that to find its way into iMacs, and probably whatever this Apple-display-TV thing we heard rumored about for so long.

Whatever it is just expect that something better will replace it in short order.




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