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Desktops (Apple) IOS Operating Systems Upgrades Apple Hardware

Sealed-Box Macs: Should Computers Be Disposable? 673

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-to-upgrade dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Apple's new Retina MacBook Pro is essentially completely non-upgradable, a sealed-box, following a trend started with the MacBook Air in 2008. It's a given that hardware companies are in the business of selling hardware, and would love for computers to have iPhone-like replacement cycles of 1-3 years. But does this mean we're moving irresistibly into an era of 'sealed-unit computing,' even for power users?"
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Sealed-Box Macs: Should Computers Be Disposable?

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  • by crafty.munchkin (1220528) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:23PM (#41059903)
    Only if you want to spend money with Apple. I'll stick with building my own, or using a laptop from a brand where I can upgrade it if I want.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:26PM (#41059933)

    It very much is the way things are going to be done and it turns out, people like it. The experiment was first tried with the MacBook Air and people bought it without hesitation. Had the Air been a flop this wouldn't be happening.

    Or put another way, I've never met someone that "upgraded" their laptop after 2 years anyway. They hand it down or put it to work in the corner of the room, but they aren't upgraded. Whether it is a Dell, Mac, or Thinkpad. I put more ram in mine after 3, but I think I"m by far the exception. The most upgrades laptops probably ever received was in that period of time when you could replace the old hdd with ssd and get a huge bump. Now we're falling out of that even as laptops come stock with ssd.

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <<gterich> <at> <aol.com>> on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:29PM (#41059973) Journal

    Honestly, they're not "sealed" to sell more hardware. Nobody in their right mind is buying a new $3000 laptop every three years.

    The reasons are twofold:

    1) It is easier to make the laptop thinner and smaller if it does not have to have the mechanics necessary to facilitate taking it apart (screws, bulkheads, etc), or to make it modular (why not just mount a bunch of SMT flash to the motherboard for a disk drive rather than have a 9mm thick 2.5" wide 3" long metal box with yet another circuit board in it? It's more profitable to just integrate everything on one board.

    2) We're in a state of development where hardware is a decade or more ahead of software. There is too much computer and not enough problem. My Athlon X2 from 2005 does everything I need it to do, and will do so for years to come. So, why bother with upgrades anymore? They are unnecessary unless you're a hardcore gamer, in which case you're not buying a laptop.

  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:29PM (#41059975)

    does this mean we're moving irresistibly into an era of 'sealed-unit computing,' even for power users?

    No. Next question, please.

  • In a word no... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Genda (560240) <(mariet) (at) (got.net)> on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:33PM (#41060033) Journal

    I'm sorry if someone came out with a $25,000 disposable car, that needed no service, was virtually indestructible for 5 years and then had to be turned in for the next $25,000 disposable car, I'm guessing most folks would tell Detroit to stick it where the sun don't shine. Certainly there would be a few who had the money and if it was a great driving experience, with super tires that last the life of the car, a super electric motor, and sealed systems so there was simply no need for maintenance, those few who wanted to drive without concern might enjoy it. The rest of us want to sell it when we're done, many want the value of a used car. A disposable car is great for the dealer and the wealthy guy who can afford a $25,000 expense every 5 years.

    A computer is not a phone. Trying to make it into one, because you like the phone model (and it pays better, and you lock your customer into your sandbox better) isn't just creepy, its a dis-service to your customer. Of course you can rationalize that we'll better care of you than anybody else, but that just smacks of a clingy lover whose jealousy and possessiveness is bound to kill the relationship. Stop trying to lock down your customer and just take good care of them instead. Sure, offer a closed solution as a premium product for those who want no concerns whatsoever. But leave the open box for the rest of us who will do with computers what we please, and certainly not what you had planned for.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:33PM (#41060045) Homepage

    > Good luck with finding a laptop with the MBPwRD's dimensions or display that you can upgrade.

    You labor under the false assumption that the rest of us accept the set of tradeoffs that Apple has ordained for you. Whereas you are forced to frame your response in terms of those things that you (wrongly) think we can't have, we are quite happy to take advantage of the diversity that the rest of the PC marketplace allows.

    We are simply not limited to those narrow few choices that Apple will allow you to have.

  • by Fwipp (1473271) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:35PM (#41060079)

    To be fair, some people do buy a new $3000 laptop every year or two. They usually resell their old one for a large portion of the original purchase price, though (MacBooks in particular retain their resale value reasonably well).

    To the rest of your post, you've got it exactly right - it's not motivated by a nefarious lock-in plot to take away consumer choice. It simply reflects a prioritization of user-customizability below other factors, like product aesthetics and cost reduction.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:37PM (#41060103) Homepage

    $20/hr will get you new memory and new storage. That can take a machine that's otherwise a doorstop and breathe new life into it.

    This used to be the sort of thing that Apple Fanboys used to like to brag about: getting more useful life out of a machine.

    When you are talking about expensive machines, it's still cheaper to maintain and repair them. What Apple charges for it's hardware makes them not quite disposable by most people's standards.

  • Re:Should .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by neokushan (932374) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:38PM (#41060111)

    Pocket calculators are designed to do one specific task. Yes, there are some more advanced models that can do other tasks, but they fall under the same category.
    What is a Mac or PC designed to do? Everything you can imagine. If it can be written in software, it should be usable on a machine like that. However, some software needs more RAM or a better graphics unit, or some users need more HDD space. That's why they're "upgradable", they're meant to be modular.

    However that being said, this doesn't surprise me and should come as no surprise to any die-hard Mac users. Vote with your money.

  • by tverbeek (457094) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:41PM (#41060149) Homepage

    Actually the MacBook Air sold rather... let's say "slowly"... for the first year or so, to the point that a less... "committed" company would have discontinued it. It was unpopular, because it was so much more expensive than the rest of the MacBook line, for a machine with the least horsepower, no CD drive, etc.. When the price came down into the territory of the white MacBooks then costumers went for it.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:41PM (#41060151) Homepage Journal
    "What the hell do you mean this Italian restaurant doesn't serve curry? I want curry damnit and anyone that doesn't want it is a complete idiot for not wanting curry. You idiots who eat what you like and not what I tell you to like are such sheep!"
    That's basically what you just said. Get over yourself, your needs are not the only valid ones.
  • by Tangential (266113) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:42PM (#41060185) Homepage
    This is horrible. Who would buy anything that they can't easily repaired and/or upgrade themselves? Next thing you know, we won't be able to pull the tubes from our radios and TVs and take them down to the drug store to test them.
  • Re:Should .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:43PM (#41060191) Homepage

    Also, chances are that if you still have a pocket calculator from the 70s or 90s that those devices are still useful for their original intended purpose. They are not made obsolete by new software that chokes on a smaller hard drive or inadequate core memory.

  • Re:In a word no... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:53PM (#41060331)

    I'm sorry if someone came out with a $25,000 disposable car, that needed no service, was virtually indestructible for 5 years and then had to be turned in for the next $25,000 disposable car, I'm guessing most folks would tell Detroit to stick it where the sun don't shine. Certainly there would be a few who had the money and if it was a great driving experience, with super tires that last the life of the car, a super electric motor, and sealed systems so there was simply no need for maintenance, those few who wanted to drive without concern might enjoy it. The rest of us want to sell it when we're done, many want the value of a used car. A disposable car is great for the dealer and the wealthy guy who can afford a $25,000 expense every 5 years.

    Isn't this exactly what anybody with a $420 a month car lease does (or anybody that trades in their car for the down payment on the next $420 a month car?)

  • by Archfeld (6757) * <treboreel@live.com> on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:55PM (#41060365) Journal

    Consumers love those things, but consumers eat whatever crap is put before them. Customers on the other hand require a bit of respect and insist the manufacturers design to their specs not the other way around.

    Which are you....Mindless consumer or paying customer ??

  • Starts with apple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Monday August 20, 2012 @04:55PM (#41060369) Homepage Journal

    It doesn't end there. Eventually you wont be able to build your own devices or find any that support minimal upgrading/repair. When the masses want toasters, eventually that is all that will be manufactured.

    I don't like it either, but I'm not going to delude myself that we will *always* have 'open' systems. With a bit of luck ill be retired by then and i wont have to care.

  • by poetmatt (793785) on Monday August 20, 2012 @05:03PM (#41060481) Journal

    Wha? Why do they need it in a chip? It's built into the OS: it's called upgrades (and the software that requires them).

  • by oakgrove (845019) on Monday August 20, 2012 @05:14PM (#41060639)
    But is that what the masses really want? I think many new people buy Macs because of the reputation of them being less trouble and the aesthetic attraction of OSX. And the hardware. The fact that they are becoming more and more non upgradeable is more an incidental that people just tolerate as part of the experience. I doubt that if a poll was taken that most people would say they don't want upgradeable computers. Compare sales of Macs to ultra book Windows laptops and note the fact that on the Wintel side people are by and large staying away from the super thin hard to upgrade stuff. I think people are reading too much into the popularity of iPads and recent Macs and drawing erroneous conclusions.
  • by mastermind7373 (1932626) on Monday August 20, 2012 @05:17PM (#41060675)
    If they matched a competent GPU with that 2880x1800 resolution, then I might agree with you despite the fanboi troll speak you are spewing, BUT a GT 650M is a despicably under-powered GPU for such a large framebuffer. At least have some pride and use a 680M. Good luck driving even a mediocre level of shader computation against that resolution. But hey, it makes Facebook and Word look pretty!
  • by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Monday August 20, 2012 @05:18PM (#41060693)

    But the market has changed. Kids nowadays, and Joe Public who isn't a computer expert at all - well they really don't give a damn about keeping their options open. They want a neat little package that works with as little hassle as possible. The things I value in a computer are not the things they value in a computer. And unfortunately as I age, I am slowly but surely moving into a very niche market.

    That's because you're using a computer for the sake of using a computer. You grew up when computers were neat novel things that often required "computer users" to own and operate.

    These days, computers are also tools. People are forced to use computers in their every day lives. Your mechanic needs a computer to diagnose a modern car. Your dentist needs a computer to manage their patient records. And so on. These people don't care about computers - they care about getting work done. If it's a sealed box that magically does what they need, as far as they care, that's all they need.

    Same with all the kids and smartphones - they don't care about processors or what not, they care about communication, communicating and socializing with other people, and they don't care about how it really works underneath. They don't care about that - just what it enables.

    It's just like cars - some people spend hours on the driveway fixing their cars or doing othe rmaintenance, while others on the road barely get an oil change every year or two. A car is a tool for many people - get from point A to point B. Some people get fancy cars to get there in style, others get boring econoboxes to get there cheaply and efficiently. And others spend their whole time restoring ancient classic cars.

    Computing has changed from the niche geeks-and-nerds thing to something the whole population has to use. As such, the geeks-and-nerds will see the masses not care about what they care about, which is fine.

    Take a look at where computers are used and realize that not everyone cares because they use computers to get work done. As long as it's getting work done, they're happy. If it's broken, they're more than happy to call in someone to fix it, just like they'd call a plumber to fix their plumbing, an electrician to fix the electricals, a mechanic to fix their engines and vehicles, etc.

    You might not like it, which is completely fine. However, think of it this way - the next time you visit the dentist, wonder how much you're willing ot pay for them to learn how to upgrade the OS, install more RAM, change the CPU on their patient record system. And be billed for it. Ditto your mechanic - would you pay your mechanic to recompile the kernel while fixing your car?

    Then realize that if every computer required someone skilled inside and out to operate, we'd still be with mainframes and time sharing systems. Instead, we have wonderful new technology and new innovation spawned by the ubiquitousness of computing poewr. Most of it is crap, but others make the world a more connected place and much less isolated.

  • by Above (100351) on Monday August 20, 2012 @05:21PM (#41060725)

    If Apple were a monopoly I would get all the geek hand wringing over how serviceable their computers are, but they aren't by a long shot. As such this speculation makes no sense to me. Perhaps it's because I remember a time when a "PC" meant it came from IBM, or one of a few people who licensed bits of the technology from them. There was no choice.

    Today I can build my own from Newegg. I can buy a generic pre-made box from Dell or HP, Acer or PacBell, or hundreds of others. I can buy sexy form-factor machines from Apple, Alienware (a dell company), Sony, Asus, and Shuttle. Tablets and phones that didn't exist even 5 years ago are now widely and cheaply available and have more power than a 10 year old "PC". Pogoplug and Raspberry PI are putting computers where people never thought they would exist.

    The notion that an Apple Laptop's "sealed" nature is limiting consumer choice is laughable. Consumers have a lot of choice, and they are choosing a product that they like. Perhaps it's not the right laptop for much of Slashdot, but a lot of consumers are voting with their dollars.

    It reminds me a lot about cars in the 80's when the new smog standards and computers came out. "I can't work on this in my driveway" all the old guys said. I need expensive computer gear to fix it that only a shop can own. Some of the new parts require specialized tools that are very expensive! Turns out most consumers didn't change their own oil or adjust their own timing, so the fact that the new computers and tech made a tune up every 50,000 or 100,000 miles rather than 3,000 with points and a carburetor more than offset the fact they couldn't work on it themselves. The benefits to consumers greatly outweighed any of the drawbacks.

    I think the computer world is making the same transition. I remember a Toshiba laptop circa 1997 that had a NiCad battery that wouldn't even last an hour, and in less than a year of use wouldn't hold a charge at all. I kept two spares when traveling, and swapped them out. The battery better have been user replaceable in that thing. Now, with modern tech, folks are getting 10 hours out of Apple laptops and tablets, and seeing 5-7 year battery life with minimal degradation. People don't buy spare batteries anymore, even when they are modular. Tech has advanced, so now people want the thinner, lighter more than the replaceable battery.

    As long as you can go to any of a hundred other vendors and get modular laptops and desktops complaining about one vendor who makes them non-serviceable is stupid. People have choice, and are voting with their dollars.

  • by oakgrove (845019) on Monday August 20, 2012 @05:21PM (#41060727)
    The Retina display MacBook Pro is practically a non-entity in the conversation as very few people are paying 2 grand for a laptop anyway. Yes, the retina display is really nice but all it's really going to do OS move new MacBooks to previous owners and move MacBooks to new owners that would have bought anyway. The mainstream purchaser is in the 3-6 hundred dollar range and it'll be a long time before 2880x1800 resolution is a factor there.
  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday August 20, 2012 @05:38PM (#41060961) Homepage

    OS X 10.6 Server added a lot onto 10.6. Starting with 10.7 they removed a lot of this and replaced it with a heavily dumbed down replacement. Up until that point, from at least 10.2, each release of OS X Server was a nice improvement over the previous. 10.7 and 10.8 have seen it regress heavily.

    Because Apple looked at who bought OS X Server and has attempted to reconcile that demographic with the software. Let's face it, even 10.6 server was pretty 'light'. Nobody in their right mind would use it for much except SOHO type stuff - and that's where Apple is trying to hit. Put it on a mini and you have a painless, brainless email / web / print / file service for dummies.

    I think most Slashdotters would agree that they could roll up a better solution given almost any flavor of Linux and some remaindered desktop, but 'we' aren't their potential customer base - the rest of the planet is.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday August 20, 2012 @05:40PM (#41060997)

    Oh no, a whole pound... Are your arms really so weak that a pound is even noticeable to you?

    There's more to the trade-off than that: 1) Thinkpads have the best laptop keyboards in the industry, bar none. 2) Thinkpads are more ruggedized than just about any other laptop out there. 3) Being able to swap components out is pretty valuable if you're a business with an IT department and the data on that laptop is far more valuable than its purchase price, or you'd like to be able to reuse good components from bad laptops to get a better return on your hardware investment than simply throwing it away when one thing breaks.

  • by magarity (164372) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:01PM (#41061301)

    Does it warn you that since the battery can't be removed then in 3 years the laptop will be tied to a power outlet in the future? I don't mind (much) that laptop parts can't be upgraded but is it really too much to expect parts that are definitely going to fail after a few years (battery, fan) to be replaceable?

  • Re:lo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:10PM (#41061415) Journal

    The answer is simple enough....don't buy Apple. One of the reasons I bought my current portable, an Asus EEE E350 netbook, is because it has plenty of upgrade options. i was able to upgrade from the default 2Gb to 8Gb of faster RAM for less than $30, there are plenty of tutorials showing how to replace the screen with a touch if you like, or replace the HDD with an SSD, there are even tools to OC or UC the APU if I want more speed or battery life, as well as third party batteries that will let me have all day usage if I need it, although i find the 5-6 hours i get plenty.

    Just because Apple is the hipster brand doesn't mean you have to buy it, its not like we don't have plenty of choices. This is why I've built my own desktops for over 15 years, because not only do I get a better quality system at a cheaper price, but I can have it the way I want it, not the way some OEM thinks is best.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:10PM (#41061419) Journal

    Does it warn you that since the battery can't be removed then in 3 years the laptop will be tied to a power outlet in the future?

    I think according to the business model you're not supposed to keep it that long.

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:12PM (#41061447)

    If the battery fails it may actually ruin the computer as well, very often they don't just passively stop working. Ie, they swells up and crack boards instead of just popping out, or they leak and shorts stuff out.

  • by ThePeices (635180) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:14PM (#41061469)

    Does it warn you that since the battery can't be removed then in 3 years the laptop will be tied to a power outlet in the future? I don't mind (much) that laptop parts can't be upgraded but is it really too much to expect parts that are definitely going to fail after a few years (battery, fan) to be replaceable?

    If you can afford to buy a MBP with retina display, then you can afford to pay Apple to replace the battery, or just buy a new MBP.

    The high end Apple products are not designed/marketed for the average person, they are designed/marketed for the average rich person. This is seen by the lengths Apple goes through to make sure that Apple products are NEVER seen as cheap ( banning the use of the word 'free' for iDevice giveaways etc etc )

  • by FyRE666 (263011) * on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:36PM (#41061751) Homepage

    "my laptops are always near an outlet. i don't travel for work so i don't care." - so *you* use your laptop at home, so you can't imagine that anyone actually wants to use one for their primary purpose - portable working.

    And no, and iPad is not a replacement for a laptop for anyone doing serious work.

    Selling sealed machines, primarily to shake the most money out of your customers by charging double or tripple the price for RAM/HD/SSD upgrades, and also creating more environmental waste is inexcusable...

    Unless of course you're the typical irrational fanboi...

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday August 20, 2012 @06:39PM (#41061789) Homepage

    Only for the uneducated. It's not sealed box to me. but then the old codgers whined how all electronics were becoming dosposable when we stopped using tubes and started with the new flangled Integrated circuits.

    And then I heard the same thing when surface mount stuff became popular....

    Only the old codgers or uneducated will see it as a sealed box. The rest of us hackers will still find our way inside and modify or extend the life of these items.

    Last TWO ipads I have owned were 100% free. as the previous owner dropped them and broke the screen.. I buy new screen off of ebay and replace the broken one. now I have a $900.00 64gig 3G ipad 2 for the $58.00 the screen cost me and 1 hour of my time.

    I love what apple is doing, it means I will get a lot more free stuff as the uneducated throw it away or believe it has no value.

  • Re:lo (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cloricus (691063) on Monday August 20, 2012 @07:48PM (#41062619)

    So of your list of important laptop upgrade features the only one you can't do with a Retina Mac is upgrade the RAM. Sure it is restrictive to force forethought of the appropriate amount of RAM to select for the tasks the laptop will be used for however it is clearly a tradeoff to get a fancy new type of fast RAM. Once it comes in a small form factor stick I imagine it will become upgradable again.

    If not being able to upgrade the RAM is all the Apple-haters can drum up against this laptop all I can say is this is a storm in a teacup.

  • by the_B0fh (208483) on Monday August 20, 2012 @09:07PM (#41063367) Homepage

    I've had my first gen macbook pro's battery replaced twice. Once right before applecare ran out, and once about 4-5 months afterwards. No hassle at all to get it replaced, free both times. Not sure why anyone's bitching. It's not like Apple's replacement battery price is way out of line compared to others, and on top of that, they do the work for you, so, errr, where's the problem...?

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