I’d long suspected it to be true, but I didn’t want to believe it.
There had been rumours of course, whispers in the canteen, strange pitiful looks from friends as I passed them in corridors. The feeling that those around me knew something I didn’t. Something important.
Then I saw it…and my heart was finally broken. It all made sense in that moment. How could I have been so blind?
Perhaps the thing that hurt the most was the way in which this revelation took place.
There I was sitting on my sofa enjoying the new app I’d recently installed on my Apple TV which allowed me to watch their latest product release. Phil Schiller was talking about Macs, something dear to my heart since switching to the platform nearly a decade ago, and hinted that finally the iMac would be updated. Now, I turned forty this year and as a way of staving off the onslaught of a mid-life crisis my family had surprised me with the offer of a new iMac – because they are wonderful people. We knew that the latest model was a year old and didn’t support USB 3, so we elected to wait for the refresh we expected in June. Well, the laptops got the bump then but the iMac news remained silent. My birthday came and went with nary a word on the machine’s arrival. The summer faded, autumnal leaves began to fall, but still the Cupertino fellowship kept quiet their counsel. As the year threatened to pass away un-iMaced suddenly there was hope, an October event with the promise of rebirth.
So that’s were I was, agitated on my sofa in anticipation for the delayed deliverance. Phil said he’d built a new iMac, it was finally happening, they ran a video, could it really be that thin? Wow! That’s amazing! Fusion drive? Part SSD Part HD, cool! It seemed a dream come true. After all these years of laptops I would now, at last, return to the opulence of a huge screen and envious power. Like a giddy child I awaited the Apple online store’s reappearance and within the hour there it was. Beautiful, elegant, expensive, but worth the wait.
Until I delved a little deeper.
You couldn’t actually order the new model yet, not until November, but under the technical specifications section I found the things that would cause the pain. Those dark grey words might as well have been lipstick on a collar.
The base model (the only one I could possibly, at a large stretch, afford) retailed for £1099, but featured not a Fusion drive, instead the more standard and quickly becoming outmoded 1TB hard drive. So I’d have to upgrade if I wanted the machine to remain quick and potent for the five to seven years that I hoped it would serve. Replacing a drive in iMacs is a difficult task, even for someone like myself who holds little fear of tinkering around the innards of computers. You need to remove the large glass screen, then disassemble half the machine to access the drive bays – not exactly a straightforward job – and, of course, there’s the issue of having a dust free room to stop any buildup on the inside of the screen itself.
Ok, it was a pain but I’d have to order the drive with the machine. But wait…what’s this? The base machine doesn’t come with the option to upgrade the HD? That can’t be right…It was right. In fact the only upgrade the base model was capable of was to 16GB of RAM. Unlike the previous model though the RAM couldn’t be changed by the user. Instead it had to ordered at the time of purchase. In fact to upgrade to a better, faster HD I’d have to step up to the £1249 model, then pay an additional £200 for a Fusion drive. I know the calculations and processing that Fusion involves might make it too much for the processor in the base model, but why not an option for an SSD? I recently replaced the HD in my 2007 MacBook with an SSD and it now works great. Why couldn’t Apple let the user decide to buy a smaller internal drive and supplement storage with a cheaper, external drive? The answer seemed blindingly simple. They don’t want the machines to last. You’re no longer paying for top quality and durability…just looks and decent specs that will last long enough for the Applecare period to expire.
This non-serviceable trend, of which I am not an advocate, at least makes more sense to me with the MacBook Air. To achieve those tiny bodies and faster operating speeds I can just about see why you’d need to make it closed and prebuilt. But on a desktop? I don’t need wafer thin bodies and light weight machines at home, my desk is made of wood not bubbles.
Then I thought back to the announcement. How Schiller had strategically positioned the iMac at a two thirds profile to the camera so they just caught the edge of the screen rather than the bulb at the back where the hardware lives. How Jony Ive and the other senior Apple team sat on the front row grinning to themselves. That’s when it hit me. Such was their position now, their cultural currency, that hubris had finally overcome them. The user was no longer even in the equation any more. Design awards, positions in the museum of modern art, and self congratulating back slapping was the goal and reward that Apple valued and pursued.
I guess I’m not the customer that decadence wants. Someone who can buy the high price item only rarely, and who expects it to last and be maintained while I save for the next one. I can’t keep up with this crazy pace of changing phones, tablets, and now desktops every two to three years, so I’m being fazed out.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m not the first older model with an expanding waistline to be dumped for a slimmer, younger alternative.