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Old Dec 29, 2002, 02:45 PM   #1
will
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Post The way Apple releases hardware

Hve you noticed how while PC mnufacturers refresh their main hardware lines frequently, Apple tend to do it every 6-7 months? This is not a good thing for Apple or it's users.

For users it means that making a buying decision is more risky. For example I could buy an iMac now and find that on 6th Jan a much more powerful machine is available for much less money (witness the recent improvements and price cuts to powerbooks). So what? You might ask, PCs also get new features, things will always be more powerful in future. The difference with PCs is that because there are frequent updates to machines and it's usually clear when a new piece of hardware (such as a graphics card) is going to be available I can buy safe in the knowledge my machine won't be replaced in a week by a much better model.

For Apple this is bad too. It leads to shortages of new products followed by a slump in sales as new products are anticipated. Ever seen a new product at MacWorld only to find it has a 6+ week lead time? This cannot be good for Apple's profitability or its dealers. It generates bad feeling towards Apple from loyal users who buy a new machine only to find a significantly better machine is now available for the same or less money. In short it isn't good for anyone.

So why do Apple do it? From a marketing point of view big splash launches generate more publicity and media interest than minor product updates. This is obviously important to Apple. So is there not a middle way? I believe there is and think Apple have been moving in the right direction. For totally new products such as the launch of the new iMac early in 2002 or the iPod it makes sense to do it infrequently at a big show and with a big splash. However updates to existing products should take place more often to ensure users get the best machines they can and that Apple's sales are more even. I think we should and will eventually see updates to the main hardware lines such as the PowerMac and iBook at least every 3 months with occassional big launches for things like a new processor line. In the long run this is better for us and better for Apple.
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Old Dec 29, 2002, 03:39 PM   #2
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don't you think updating the lines more often would just make more people angry. I mean, that would mean that every few months, people could have waited and then gotten something better. If you pay attention to what is going on in the mac world, you should pretty much never be surprised by a product upgrade. We all more or less know when one is due. I'll grant you that perhaps the average consumer may not, but thats life with computers. There will always be something more powerful and cheaper right after you make a purchase.

I think apple may also not refresh particularly often (though every 6 months seems fine to me) because unlike a lot of PC manufacturers, they ahve to design and test everything themselves. PC manufacturers can throw things together a lot quicker because they don't design the motherboards, etc.
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Old Dec 29, 2002, 03:41 PM   #3
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Aplle new hardware is always a secret kept until the SHOW. Of course, people in the PC world (and people in the Mac world also) know in advance what chip is coming next etc. But this can be boring. If Apple acted like this, there would be no threads here under the topics "Should I buy, or should I wait?" and there won't be much of a celebration every time you hear: "They released X-thing!!!"

Still, speed bumps every 3 months would be good... but are they feasible with such partners?
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Old Dec 29, 2002, 04:07 PM   #4
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When I talk about updates every three months or so I don't mean radical design changes, more tweaks, faster processors, better graphics cards or lower prices. I think you've overlooked one of my major points, you say that we all know roughly when Apple are going to update machines, I agree but that hurts Apple as I outlined because it creates massive demand just after launch then plunges before a new product announcement. Apple should be able to at least update the processor speed quarterly, I know they have issues with the G4 at the moment, but in the longer term we should definitly get processor speed bumps more often. Not only that but a graphics card that's cutting edge on release can be behind the times six or seven months later, Apple need to keep up with component developments (on the graphics front they have been doing better of late).
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Old Dec 29, 2002, 05:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by will
When I talk about updates every three months or so I don't mean radical design changes, more tweaks, faster processors, better graphics cards or lower prices. I think you've overlooked one of my major points, you say that we all know roughly when Apple are going to update machines, I agree but that hurts Apple as I outlined because it creates massive demand just after launch then plunges before a new product announcement. Apple should be able to at least update the processor speed quarterly, I know they have issues with the G4 at the moment, but in the longer term we should definitly get processor speed bumps more often. Not only that but a graphics card that's cutting edge on release can be behind the times six or seven months later, Apple need to keep up with component developments (on the graphics front they have been doing better of late).
I'm all in favor of more frequent speed bumps, but I don't see how it would in any way alleviate buyers remorse as you suggested. Seems to me it would just exascerbate that problem.

And like I said, apple cna have a harder time of it because they have to make sure the motherboard and all that is going to work right, since they don't use off the shelve parts made by other ocmpanies for a lot of their stuff. Sure, it should all work fine, but they can't take the risk and have to test it and possibly reengineer some things.
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Old Dec 29, 2002, 05:52 PM   #6
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I think that the reason why Apple last so long releasing a product is because they take care of the image, PC manofacturer doesn't care.
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Old Dec 29, 2002, 07:08 PM   #7
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Apple needs to make the G4 last as long as possible. Right now, it'd be impossible to release a faster processor machine every 3 months, there just isn't a regular stream of faster processors coming out of Motorola. Maybe when the 970 gets here we'll see more frequent releases depending on how often IBM updates the chip.

Anyway, as another poster said, if you keep up with the rumors it's pretty easy to figure out the ETA of new products. (Like, for example, now would NOT be a good time to purchase a new iMac or eMac
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Old Dec 29, 2002, 07:16 PM   #8
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On top of which, PC's don't actually change very much...

... sure they may speed-bump from time to time, but how much difference is there between an 800 MHz P4 and a 1.2GHz P4? Very little, actually; maybe only a CPU swap.

The real problem in the PC world is all of the little upgrades -- for example, you get ten machines from Dell or Gateway, and what happens? The manual doesn't match the machines you receive, the machines may not even have the same network or video cards in the same batch. Every PC, it seems, is a custom build; that is, it is a hodgepodge of components. They may have hard drives or CD drives from different manufacturers, again, in the same batch. As a result, they can't be configured exactly the same, they need different drivers.

Dell has model numbers in their catalogs, but if you try to order a specific model by number, you'll notice they start asking you about all kinds of options. Oh, and the particular combination described in the printed catalog isn't available anymore, it's been superseded by a slightly different combination.

And monitors! You have a Dell 17" monitor? Which one? There must be at least ten different Dell 17" monitors. If you buy ten machines at once you may get as many as four different types in the same shipment, all with different controls.

Pity the support people. If you combine all the different types of video cards, monitors, motherboards and CPUs, you'd probably come up with Dell effectively releasing a new model every four or five minutes.
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Old Dec 29, 2002, 09:01 PM   #9
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A short upgrade cycle would make Apple systems no different in the obsolescence scale than the junk from Dell, Gateway, and the like. I believe that Apple needs to better communicate with its audience - let us know what is coming in the future so that we can help to shape it. For example, I'm tired of waiting for a PowerMac update. Will the new PowerMacs be announced in January at the show, or will it be a surprise release many months later? This uncertainty, combined with a lack of professional graphics and standard SCSI hard disks (or at least IDE disks with 8 MB of cache) has made me look elsewhere for a desktop PC/server. If Apple does not announce new PowerMacs by January 11th, I'm going to continue upgrading my AMD Athlon-based computer, saving about $1,000 over the low-end PowerMac offering. If I had some kind of idea about Apple's plans for the next three months, I would be more willing to wait. I'm willing to spend twice as much for a PowerMac, but I need to know the approximations of when the update will be released and what it will contain.
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Old Dec 29, 2002, 10:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by dricci
Apple needs to make the G4 last as long as possible. Right now, it'd be impossible to release a faster processor machine every 3 months, there just isn't a regular stream of faster processors coming out of Motorola. Maybe when the 970 gets here we'll see more frequent releases depending on how often IBM updates the chip.
Since IBM's 970 roadmap currently goes from 1.8 GHz to 6 GHz, hopefully we'll see LOTS of speed bumps
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Old Dec 29, 2002, 10:43 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by arogge
A short upgrade cycle would make Apple systems no different in the obsolescence scale than the junk from Dell, Gateway, and the like. I believe that Apple needs to better communicate with its audience - let us know what is coming in the future so that we can help to shape it. For example, I'm tired of waiting for a PowerMac update. Will the new PowerMacs be announced in January at the show, or will it be a surprise release many months later? This uncertainty, combined with a lack of professional graphics and standard SCSI hard disks (or at least IDE disks with 8 MB of cache) has made me look elsewhere for a desktop PC/server. If Apple does not announce new PowerMacs by January 11th, I'm going to continue upgrading my AMD Athlon-based computer, saving about $1,000 over the low-end PowerMac offering. If I had some kind of idea about Apple's plans for the next three months, I would be more willing to wait. I'm willing to spend twice as much for a PowerMac, but I need to know the approximations of when the update will be released and what it will contain.
Keep in mind that Powermacs were supposed to have 3GHz G5's or something by now. The fact is, Apple is totally playing PowerMac users and stringing them along because they've been left little choice because they got so royally, almost unbelievably shafted by those lying, untrustworthy, dishonorable rat bastards at Motorola.

Luckily, the good folks at IBM have made it pretty clear when you can expect a real upgrade to the PowerMac: sometime in the 2nd half of 2003. If Motorola manages to do anything significant with the G4 that makes its way to the PowerMac before that time, I will be pleasantly shocked.
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 06:54 AM   #12
will
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Quote:
Originally posted by arogge
A short upgrade cycle would make Apple systems no different in the obsolescence scale than the junk from Dell, Gateway, and the like. .... If Apple does not announce new PowerMacs by January 11th, I'm going to continue upgrading my AMD Athlon-based computer, saving about $1,000 over the low-end PowerMac offering.
Doesn't that back up my argument. You say that Dell etc. release junk, but then go on to say that you're sticking with your PC because Apple are taking ages to release an upgrade and you're not clear what's happening. Surely my idea of regular incremental upgrades would allow you to buy now with confidence?

Apple users know Apple revise the PM every 6-7 months and this clearly influences buying behavoir. The only good time to buy is a few weeks after an announcement, or else you risk being stuck with lower powered kit.
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 09:21 AM   #13
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Re: On top of which, PC's don't actually change very much...

Quote:
Originally posted by cubist
Pity the support people. If you combine all the different types of video cards, monitors, motherboards and CPUs, you'd probably come up with Dell effectively releasing a new model every four or five minutes.
You're actually pretty close, my brother-in-law just bought a Dell and because of the expiration date of a group of rebates, we were watching a particular model's price and options. Almost every day the available "trimmings" would change. One day a particular video card would be available, the next it was gone, but there was a different monitor added, etc.
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 09:26 AM   #14
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You may not want to buy the newest thing a few weeks after announcement. That's when the firmware is fresh and hasn't been thoroughly tested by users. Buy within a week of an announcement, because then prices on the last model will have dropped about as far as they go and still be sold new as opposed to refurbished or rebuilt. Sometimes of course this means getting a slightly slower machine, but overall most of these machines are going to be a higher quality by the time the next model is released. I've noticed that throughout a model's life Apple changes the firmware almost once a month as they solve more and more bugs.
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 09:32 AM   #15
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I thought 6 months was/is pretty regular......
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 09:34 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by will


Doesn't that back up my argument. You say that Dell etc. release junk, but then go on to say that you're sticking with your PC because Apple are taking ages to release an upgrade and you're not clear what's happening. Surely my idea of regular incremental upgrades would allow you to buy now with confidence?

Apple users know Apple revise the PM every 6-7 months and this clearly influences buying behavoir. The only good time to buy is a few weeks after an announcement, or else you risk being stuck with lower powered kit.
Incremental upgrades might help, but they would destroy the idea that Macs do not depreciate as quickly as those in the WinTel world, as well as increasing confusion over differing hardware support. I believe that a lack of information is a more serious problem. I want to make a purchase decision before January 12th, and I am not willing to wait indefinitely for a PowerMac that might or might not be released with the hardware I need. Even if new PowerMacs were announced by surprise several weeks after MacWorld, I have no way of knowing what to expect. If Apple did not release a new PowerMac line at MacWorld, but said that units would be coming by a certain date, I would find new ways of holding out until the units became available. As it is now, I have no information, so I must assume that a PowerMac upgrade is not going to be available until after 2nd quarter 2003. Secrecy combined with major surprise upgrades is going to cost Apple another sale. I'm willing to spend twice as much, but I need future product information in order to make a good purchase decision.
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 09:44 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by arogge

Incremental upgrades might help, but they would destroy the idea that Macs do not depreciate as quickly as those in the WinTel world, as well as increasing confusion over differing hardware support.
I don't see how having small incremental upgrades every three months would make people think Macs depreciate more quickly. ATM we the value of a Mac depreciates sharply every six months rather than gradually coming down in value. I still think more frequent incremenets is a good idea. As I've already said I'm not talking major changes, just tweaks that needn't make support more complex. Is moving from 700 to 800Mhz really that much of an issue for Apple or users? As these forums illustrait so well many people are holding on for the next major upgrade. They won't buy until it arrives, annoying them and hurting Apple sales.
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 09:44 AM   #18
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Upgrade or die

I believe Apple is doing what is prudent with regard to updates. It sounds like you want a commodity product so go buy a Dell, Gateway, Alienware, etc. Apple does not through a bunch of 3rd party products together and call it innovative. They actually design their product from the ground up. The downside of this approach is that to change processors can require a significant redesign. Just look at the latest Power Macs compared to the model just before it. The motherboard isn't even the same color!

Their approach is actually better, because you know basically when to expect a new machine. I will be buying a new iMac since my Rev A bondi blue iMac is looong overdue for an upgrade, but yes I will be waiting till after MWSF to take the leap. Will I be insulted that they come out with a better cheaper model in 6 months? No, because I will have had the opportunity to use the latest at the time for 6 months and that is just the way this world works. If you want the ultimate, you'll never buy.
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 09:48 AM   #19
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Re: Upgrade or die

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Originally posted by sedarby
I believe Apple is doing what is prudent with regard to updates. It sounds like you want a commodity product so go buy a Dell, Gateway, Alienware, etc.
I don't think Apple should produce commodity products, I was just trying to illustrate the issues for Apple and users with the current approach. I don't believe it should require a major new motherboard/case design for all minor processor/RAM/HD updates etc. I am not looking for rapidly shifting configurations changing all the time, just more regular updates to key components.

Last edited by will; Dec 30, 2002 at 09:51 AM.
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 10:30 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by arogge
...
If Apple does not announce new PowerMacs by January 11th, I'm going to continue upgrading my AMD Athlon-based computer, saving about $1,000 over the low-end PowerMac offering. If I had some kind of idea about Apple's plans for the next three months, I would be more willing to wait. I'm willing to spend twice as much for a PowerMac, but I need to know the approximations of when the update will be released and what it will contain.
The next PowerMac upgrade is due February based on the 6 month update cycle apple seems to be using. If the release date on the next update is all you care about, does that mean you care about regular updates as opposed to the content and quality of the update?
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 03:50 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bear


The next PowerMac upgrade is due February based on the 6 month update cycle apple seems to be using. If the release date on the next update is all you care about, does that mean you care about regular updates as opposed to the content and quality of the update?
No, it simply means that I want an upgrade in the third week of January, and I can't justify the minimum $1,700 expense to get started on a new PowerMac, not when I can have an upgrade to my entry-level workstation with better hardware and a multi-year warranty for under $1,000. I believe that the release date at MacWorld is very important. MacWorld is Apple's big chance for publicity - a chance to show the best Apple has to offer to its audience and to the press. Why avoid the topic and release products by surprise?
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 04:13 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally posted by will


I don't think Apple should produce commodity products, I was just trying to illustrate the issues for Apple and users with the current approach. I don't believe it should require a major new motherboard/case design for all minor processor/RAM/HD updates etc. I am not looking for rapidly shifting configurations changing all the time, just more regular updates to key components.
This could work, but this is what I would choose to push for right now:
There is still no sign of graphics cards that were not designed for games and that are common in the PC market, not to mention being "Made in Elbonia." An upgrade to Western Digital Caviar Special Edition hard disks would be nice, as would standard 10,000 RPM Seagate SCSI disks. More RAM is probably the easiest regular update to implement, followed by hard disk upgrades.
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Old Dec 30, 2002, 08:25 PM   #23
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I think an important point, regarding speed bumps and timelines, is the longevity of modern Macs. When I replaced my old G4 I kept it as a server. My buddy gave his girlfriend his old B&W G3 and she's running everything she needs under X. And this is my favorite: even my old 9500 with 266mhz G3 upgrade is alive and kicking at my friends house. He uses it for basic Flash work.

Of course, these machines aren't anyone's first choice when there is an option for a dual 1.2. However, considering that when you replace your machine you can still do something useful with it...

Well, I'm rambling.

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