Hey there Sean. You mentioned in an earlier blog post as to why you have no idea Apple keeps forcing people to use the most modern versions of their hardware, and I know the exact reason why: it cuts down on support costs. As mentioned in one of your other previous blog posts, you linked to another blog of one of the main programmers for Starcraft 1 and he mentions how he already had voice chat functionality working in the game, but like the 3D graphics, they had to scrap them in order to cut down on product support costs after the game was released so they can devote more of their time to create more awesome games.
One of the constant themes that Steve Jobs would mention a lot during his return at Apple was that in order to make progress, you need to let go of the past. The other theme he also mentioned a lot is that users have the power of choice: if people didn’t like what Apple was doing, they don’t need to buy their products or purchase the newest upgrade. Even though I was really burned that it was going to take some voodoo magic in order to install an older version of OSX on the Macbook Pro because Apple secretly pre-installed the latest version of the operating system at the time I bought mine, I can see the benefits of going this route because it allows them to focus a lot of their resources on the next step forward in user experience which their competitors will be forced to follow suit in the race to the bottom, with the latest example of this being how OSX makes retina display resolutions feel like magic when the programs running on OSX support this functionality (seriously, it took a laptop with a 15-inch screen in order to be the first consumer monitor to reach resolutions beyond the best of the desktop space as well as being the first big step forward towards resolution independence on an LCD?). If Apple was forced to stick with supporting their legacy stuff like Rosetta (basically emulates the functions of the PowerPC processors found in Macs before they moved to Intel CPUs, which Snow Leopard was the last version to have), then they would also have to make sure that all of these old programs on Rosetta won’t break under retina display resolutions like how a lot of the modern videogames running natively on OSX currently are. That’s probably why Rosetta support was scrapped in OSX Lion because Apple already knew that retina display macs were going to be available before Mountain Lion was.
And if you don’t want to get a Mac from two years ago because they’re all using Lion now, there’s always the option to spend thirty bucks for a full installer of Snow Leopard (you have to call Apple directly now because it’s not available in their online store anymore, probably because by this point they should’ve gotten all of the orders online from the people who wanted the upgrade path to Mountain Lion anyway) and use all of your old PC parts to make a Hackintosh (heck, I was able to do it without doing a single thing to my current desktop because I was fortunate enough to have all of the necessary parts that Apple would’ve used in their official Macs) or buy an old one (which isn’t recommended because you could quite literally buy a refurb or new Macbook Air for for the prices that Macbook Pros built in 2010 and before are selling for on Ebay).
So that’s why Apple forces people modern hardware down people’s throats on the Mac side, because if they don’t do that, they’re easily going to have an impossible trying to maintain a consistent user experience between all of the different Mac configurations from the first Intel Macs to the last PowerPC ones all on their most modern iteration of their operating system and instead be forced into mediocrity and bloated operating systems like Windows XP currently is in.
There’s also another reason why Macs are expensive. I know that Apple doesn’t target the gamer market, they’ve given up on the server side, and they’re not really trying to compete in the office productivity side, especially since Microsoft keeps releasing Office for OSX. However, if you’re creative professional, or aspiring to be one, then the price of a Mac is mostly trivial because a lot of the little touches Apple included in a brand new Mac has a ton of value. To begin with, if you want to get into professional digital photography, you’d probably be shooting pictures in the camera’s RAW file format, and Apple makes sure that it updates its RAW file catalog so it can read photos taken in this format on the newest cameras released. RAW photo files can’t be read in Windows unless you install a third-party program like Photoshop, and the Windows versions of Photoshop will pull an Apple on you by forcing you to buy the latest versions of Photoshop because Adobe will deliberately stop RAW file support for the current version of Photoshop the moment they release a newer version on the market. Apple has already much better PDF support out of the box since you can create them without having to install any third party software like you do in Windows and edit it like it was a regular Word document. If you want to get your feet wet with music production and video editing, iMovie and GarageBand easy trump whatever Microsoft offers.
I could go on and on about this stuff, but the point is clear: the problem is that what Apple focuses on is not what appeals to video gamers, which in turn why it’s common for people on the internet to not understand why their products are really expensive because a lot of PC enthusiasts people who built their own gaming PCs. And it’s quite sad too because Apple can easily make their iOS devices into formidable gaming systems by creating official gaming peripherals, especially since the GPU inside them are what powered the Dreamcast, except it’s now on steroids and inside a really thin enclosure. Could you imagine if they made an official wireless/wired controller for the iPad? That would make it one of the best gaming devices ever since if you need more screen real estate, all you need to do is connect the iPad to the TV and get HD resolution-type gaming.
You make a brilliant point about support costs. About the ‘got to keep doing progress’, I’ll tell you a perspective from the content side.
The novelist conjures up tons of ideas where many are used later on. Imagine if these ideas are in the refrigerator. It is better to use the ideas and throw them out or else they are going to rot and stink everything up. I know that sounds strange, but it is very easy to come up with new content. You can’t keep focused on the current stuff. It needs to get out there. I know this probably isn’t related to your Apple point, but let us apply it to myself. I started this site talking about Blue Ocean Strategy and disruption. If I wasn’t able to move beyond that, this site would have ended when all the content and applications of those business books were mined out. By expanding to other subjects and not dwelling on what was, things remain a little spontaneous. Where is Malstrom going?
Where is Apple going? Everyone asks that for every Apple product release. They want to see now if Apple releases a big new thing. Apple can surprise because it doesn’t dwell on the old.
Although, I don’t see why that means their computers remain so expensive. They certainly don’t seem worried about being in the ‘low end’ on the handheld computer size, so why the traditional computer range?
I don’t think a controller would work with the iPad. The iPad’s identity is it being ‘sleek’ and can’t imagine people carrying controllers with them. What I can imagine iPads or smartphones being in the future is the Wii U IN REVERSE. Instead of the TV beaming into the controller screen, it is the controller screen beaming into the TV. People would be using any tablet or smartphone to control video games on the TV. The remote control of, say, the Apple TV might turn into a traditional controller. The tablet is the console that talks to the Apple TV where the Apple TV remote turns into the controller.
In a way, the Wii controller being a remote has paved the way for the traditional console’s destruction.