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Putting Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

Since I’m taking unpopular positions on controversial topics today, I figured it would be a good time talk about some of the design choices in the new Retina Macbook Pro. A more descriptive name would probably be the Macbook Air Pro, but never let descriptions get in the way of good ad copy. 

A lot of people are attacking Apple for not placing a very high priority on upgradability. The RAM is soldered to the logic board. The SSD, like the one in the Air, is proprietary (although I don’t think they’re compatible with each other). The screen is fused to the glass, so if there’s a problem you have to replace the whole top part of the machine. The battery is not user changeable (although that has been true for Apple’s mobile line up for years). 

Some say Apple is being greedy. They’re trying to nickel and dime their customers for upgrades up front. After all, you don’t get to be the biggest company in the world by leaving money on the table. Others say that these were trade offs based on the company’s priorities. Modularity reduces efficiency. Best, Apple would say, to fit everything in as snuggly as they could. This helps them minimize the size while maximizing battery life. 

I’m sure the answer is somewhere in between. Apple believes that customers will appreciate the benefits of the trade offs. Of course, they’re hedging this by keeping the old style MBP’s in the line up. This is how Apple does market testing. There are no focus groups or polling. They make what they feel is the best product they can. They ship it. It either sinks or swims. 

Still, there’s one aspect I haven’t seen anyone mention. Yes, these new design choices make laptops that much more expensive to repair. If the RAM or screen go bad, a huge part of the computer will have to be replaced. But Apple is not asking customers to shoulder this burden entirely on their own. The cost of Applecare has not increased. Assuming that Apple will keep their level of customer service the same on this new device, I’d say they’re placing a pretty big bet themselves that these new processes will stand up. 

Imagine you have a previous gen Macbook Pro covered under Applecare, and you find an issue with the stock hard drive or ram, or your screen starts to go. Apple will likely replace the parts that is defective and send you on your way. If you come in with a Retina Macbook Pro, they may have to replace an entire logic board. The price to you would be the same. $0. 

Apple is betting on it’s ability to make these machines reliable. It can’t afford to give every Retina Macbook Pro customer 2 or 3 replacements over the lifetime of the warranty. I think this machine shows Apple’s confidence in their supply chain. They have to stand behind every one of these expensive little boxes. It’s a refinement of what they learned building the Airs. 

Meanwhile, if the issue is the GPU, it doesn’t matter what model of laptop you have. You’re screwed. Those things have been soldered to the logic board for years for reasons of efficiency, and no one seems to mind. This is just the next step in a trend. Maybe you think this is a step too far, but it’s certainly not unprecedented. 

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