In the week since the announcement of the new retina-display MacBook Pro there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the difficulty of repair and the near-impossibility of user upgrades. The row was started by iFixit who gave the new Pro a 1 out of 10 score for user serviceability.
Consumers continue to demand lighter and more compact devices and seem happy to accept thAt this results in their computers being more difficult to get at and virtually out of bounds to the average user. I don’t think the average computer even thinks about this. It is the tech-savvy owner who feels he wants to delve into the insides. He represents a tiny minority of Apple’s user base.
Christina Warren, Entertainment Editor of Mashable, takes the strong view that non-serviceable laptops are here to stay. She makes a clear analogy with cars and it’s one I appreciate. To be a car owner 50 years ago you had to have some basic knowledge of running a maintenance schedule and doing simple jobs yourself. You could probably even replace a spark plug or four if push came to shove.
Now, most car drivers’ knowledge goes no further than filling up with fuel. Anything more complicated needs an expert. In many ways we are better off because of this. Cars have become a commodity, despite the frequent moans of the would-be tinkerers.
So it is with computers. They are becoming sealed boxes and have liefspan of three or four years before they become too slow or unable to run the latest software. The vast majority of owners have absolutely no interest in swapping memory and drives, still less in attempting to repair a fault.
As Christina points out, iFixit Has a vested interest in user-serviceable devices:
Already the gang at iFixit are making hay out of the issue. Now, I want to be clear, I really, really respect and like iFixit. Their rundowns and how-to guides are fantastic resources. I am in awe of their photo abilities and repair skills.
Still, when I read an editorial like this one, I have to call bullshit. Wiens makes some great points, but MANY of his underlying problems are directly tied into the fact that the lack of user-serviceable parts has a direct impact on his business.
His entire business is predicated on offering how-to guides for free, alongside tool kits and after-market parts. A big part of the reason he gets so incensed about the lack of upgradability and serviceability of the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and new iPad is that the service market for those devices is very much attached to authorized Apple repair centers. The more appliance-like and non-user fixable these devices become, the more it affects his business.