Caveat Emptor Is Not Obsolete

Monday, April 04, 2016

Recently, Phil Schiller, an Apple marketing executive, said, "There are over 600 million PCs in use today that are over five years old. This is really sad, it really is." Samantha Lionheart of iFixit calls him out for appealing to conformity, rather than quality, and attacks the company for a planned obsolescence policy. I have long found such marketing to be condescending, but find that I have to take issue with an aspect Lionheart's response:

If you want to talk sad, let's talk about blatant planned obsolescence. Apple pushes new devices out on an annual, even semiannual, basis now. Everything is shiny and new -- and if you want to be the cool kid, you have to have the shiny new toy. That's a form of planned obsolescence, sure -- though it's more psychological than it is physical. But I'm talking about an actual plan. The "vintage and obsolete" products plan.

Apple products all celebrate their 5th birthday by gaining "obsolete" status (Or "vintage," in California, where some hardworking lawmakers extended your coverage an extra two years). Of course, laptops aren't yogurt. They don't have expiration dates. In five years, your device could still be working fine. And maybe you want it to keep working for as long as possible. But once Apple labels your product obsolete, they drop service and hardware support. Meaning, you're responsible for your own repairs. [links dropped]
Until recently -- when both broke beyond repair -- I was among those millions who got good use out of a couple of "old" computers. That said, and although I am not a customer, I fully support protecting the right of Apple (or any other company) offering whatever terms to its customers it wishes, particularly ending support for products it no longer manufactures. For one thing, a company that does this doesn't have to waste money stocking parts for older models or maintaining expertise that may not be in much demand, meaning I save money when I buy. In addition, repair shops can use such terms as times at which to anticipate whatever such demand there might be and plan accordingly. Fundamentally, such freedom is part of the right consenting adults have to form contracts with one another. Unfortunately, "hard working" politicians of all persuasions today are undermining protection of that right piecemeal -- such as by pandering to people who either don't know or don't care enough to understand the terms under which they buy their computers or contract for service. This harms more than just new customers of Apple and those who want repairs for old devices.

Rather than encourage laziness and cheer on the further trampling of the individual's right to contract (and plan), the proper response to Schiller's ill-advised remarks would be to remind everyone of the saying, "Caveat emptor" ("Let the buyer beware."). All consumers should make sure the expected life of their computers and any service agreement will suit their needs before they make a purchase.

-- CAV

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