Design Genius Jony Ive Leaves Apple, Leaving Behind Crapified Products That Cannot Be Repaired

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Last week’s announcement of the departure of Apple chief design officer Jony Ive marks the end of an era: the last connection to the Apple of Steve Jobs.

Now, no one would deny that Ive created beautiful objects.

As iFixit notes:

The iPod, the iPhone, the MacBook Air, the physical Apple Store, even the iconic packaging of Apple products—these products changed how we view and use their categories, or created new categories, and will be with us a long time.

But the title of that iFixit post, Jony Ive’s Fragmented Legacy: Unreliable, Unrepairable, Beautiful Gadgets, makes clear that those beautiful products carried with them considerable costs- above and beyond their high prices. They’re unreliable, and difficult to repair.

Ironically. both Jobs and Ive were inspired by Dieter Rams – whom iFixit calls  “the legendary industrial designer renowned for functional and simple consumer products.” And unlike Apple. Rams believed that good design didn’t have to come at the expense of either durability or the environment:

Rams loves durable products that are environmentally friendly. That’s one of his 10 principles for good design: “Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment.” But Ive has never publicly discussed the dissonance between his inspiration and Apple’s disposable, glued-together products. For years, Apple has openly combated green standards that would make products easier to repair and recycle, stating that they need “complete design flexibility” no matter the impact on the environment.

Complete Design Flexibility Spells Environmental Disaster

In fact, that complete design flexibility – at least as practiced by Ive – has resulted in crapified products that are an environmental disaster. Their lack of durability means they must be repaired to be functional, and the lack of repairability means many of these products end up being tossed prematurely – no doubt not a bug, but a feature.  As Vice recounts:

But history will not be kind to Ive, to Apple, or to their design choices. While the company popularized the smartphone and minimalistic, sleek, gadget design, it also did things like create brand new screws designed to keep consumers from repairing their iPhones.

Under Ive, Apple began gluing down batteries inside laptops and smartphones (rather than screwing them down) to shave off a fraction of a millimeter at the expense of repairability and sustainability.

It redesigned MacBook Pro keyboards with mechanisms that are, again, a fraction of a millimeter thinner, but that are easily defeated by dust and crumbs (the computer I am typing on right now—which is six months old—has a busted spacebar and ‘r’ key). These keyboards are not easily repairable, even by Apple, and many MacBook Pros have to be completely replaced due to a single key breaking. The iPhone 6 Plus had a design flaw that led to its touch screen spontaneously breaking—it then told consumers there was no problem for months before ultimately creating a repair program. Meanwhile, Apple’s own internal tests showed those flaws. He designed AirPods, which feature an unreplaceable battery that must be physically destroyed in order to open.

Vice also notes that in addition to Apple’s products becoming “less modular, less consumer friendly, less upgradable, less repairable, and, at times, less functional than earlier models”, Apple’s design decisions have not been confined to Apple. Instead, “Ive’s influence is obvious in products released by Samsung, HTC, Huawei, and others, which have similarly traded modularity for sleekness.”

Right to Repair

As I’ve written before, Apple is a leading opponent of giving consumers a right to repair. Nonetheless, there’s been some global progress on this issue (see Global Gains on Right to Repair). And we’ve also seen a widening of support in the US for such a right. The issue has arisen in the current presidential campaign, with Elizabeth Warren throwing down the gauntlet by endorsing a right to repair for farm tractors. The New York Times has also taken up the cause more generally (see  Right to Repair Initiatives Gain Support in US). More than twenty states are considering enacting right to repair statutes.

This stirring of support has led Apple to increase its lobbying efforts, deploying increasingly specious arguments –  such as these recently offered to California legislators: consumers will hurt themselves if provided a right to repair, and such a change would empower hackers  (see Apple to California Legislators: Consumers Will Hurt Themselves if Provided a Right to Repair). Rather than seeing these arguments derided and rejected, the lobbying succeeded, leading in April to cancellation of a hearing on then-pending California legislation, which now cannot move forward until 2020 at the earliest. Other state initiatives remain pending.

Apple Shift on Serviceability? Too Little, Too Late – At Least for This Jaded MacBook User

Now, iFixit suggests  that Apple has improved the serviceability of its iPhones, and that the company could build on this record and improve serviceability on other products as well, if it chose to focus on this priority:

Part of what is so frustrating when taking apart the current MacBook and accessories like the AirPods is that we know how good Apple can be when they focus on serviceability. The iPhone is the highest scoring flagship phone on our chart right now, and it’s well deserved. The fundamental repairability challenge with smartphones is making the display and the battery, the parts most likely to break and wear out, easily removable. It took Apple many generations, but they nailed it with the iPhone 6 and haven’t looked back since. No Android phone design has managed to replicate the iPhone’s ease of service for these critical components.

I don’t own an iPhone (or a smartphone, for that matter), so I don’t know whether iFixit’s assessment of this issue for the iPhone is accurate.

But I do own a MacBook, and its becoming increasingly cantankerous. I’m loath to replace this machine, as it uses the MagSafe connector – and I once destroyed the motherboard on a Sony Vaio that, not being an Apple, lacked a MagSafe connector. I’m a bit of a klutz, and many, many times, the MagSafe has prevented a computer crash. When I trip over the power cord, the MagSafe functions as designed, and simply disconnects.

In addition to abandoning the MagSafe, the newer generations of MacBooks have been well and truly crapified. I won’t here even begin to try and count the ways, but will only mention the notorious butterfly keyboard. I point out that keyboard/touchpad issues are not new: I’ve had problems with MacBook keyboards on earlier machines I’ve owned, well before the butterfly keyboard was introduced.

I’m currently writing this on my circa 2015 MacBook Pro with a pre-butterfly keyboard. It plays its own particular party trick – the keyboard and touchpad occasionally stop working. No rhyme or reason to when this occurs. Except the machine seems to know when I’m travelling – as I am now – and in particular, when I’m in a place where I cannot get my computer serviced – or even secure easy access to a keyboard and mouse. So I typically travel with an external keyboard, and a mouse, unless I know my itinerary only includes places where I can easily buy a keyboard if my keyboard/touchpad stop responding. Having to schlep these items is a considerable pain.

If iFixit is right and Apple has indeed made it easier to replace the display and battery on an iPhone- that is, of course, if you let Apple do it, as the company hasn’t ceded anything on allowing a more general right to repair –  that is itself a welcome, albeit limited, development.

But MacBooks remain in their current crapified state, despite their premium price. If- as I fear – it’ll soon necessary to replace my workhorse machine, I can’t see myself ponying up for another Apple product.

Shipping Last Production Offshore

The other Apple news I’d like to mention is that the company has announced the shift of manufacturing its last product still made in the US, its Mac Pro, to China, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The major prod for this shift? Trade tensions. As Ars Technica reports:

Apple made the previous Mac Pro in Austin, Texas, beginning in 2013. But with the new Mac Pro unveiled this month being made in China, Apple is “shifting abroad production of what had been its only major device assembled in the US as trade tensions escalate between the Trump administration and Beijing,” The Wall Street Journal reported today.

“The tech giant has tapped contractor Quanta Computer Inc. to manufacture the $6,000 desktop computer and is ramping up production at a factory near Shanghai,” according to the Journal’s sources. “Quanta’s facility is close to other Apple suppliers across Asia, making it possible for Apple to achieve lower shipping costs than if it shipped components to the US.”

But trade concerns are only one driver of the decision. Apple’s efforts to manufacture these machines in the US ran into obstacles.  Ars Technica reports:

In May 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed plans to make a new Mac computer in Texas and said the company would spend $100 million to bring manufacturing stateside. But Apple ran into problems with the US-based Mac production.

Apple “struggled to find enough screws” when it began making the 2013 Mac Pro, a New York Times article explained. “Tests of new versions of the computer were hamstrung because a 20-employee machine shop that Apple’s manufacturing contractor was relying on could produce at most 1,000 screws a day.” The screw shortage and other problems caused a months-long delay in Mac Pro sales.

According to a December 2017 Inc article:

Addressing the designed-in-California, made-in-low-cost-China impression that many people have–an impression reinforced by the tagline that is printed on every box containing a new iPhone– [Apple CEO Tim Cook] had this to say:

“There’s a confusion about China. The popular conception is that companies come to China because of low labor cost. I’m not sure what part of China they go to but the truth is China stopped being the low labor cost country many years ago. And that is not the reason to come to China from a supply point of view. The reason is because of the skill, and the quantity of skill in one location and the type of skill it is.”

And China has an abundance of skilled labor unseen elsewhere, says Cook:

“The products we do require really advanced tooling, and the precision that you have to have, the tooling and working with the materials that we do are state of the art. And the tooling skill is very deep here. In the US you could have a meeting of tooling engineers and I’m not sure we could fill the room. In China you could fill multiple football fields.”

Cook credits China’s vast supply of highly skilled vocational talent:

“The vocational expertise is very very deep here, and I give the education system a lot of credit for continuing to push on that even when others were de-emphasizing vocational. Now I think many countries in the world have woke up and said this is a key thing and we’ve got to correct that. China called that right from the beginning.”

Seems China did indeed. Whereas US political and business elites allowed US manufacturing to get to its current parlous state.

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79 comments

  1. richard

    Great article! I write on an Ipad with recurring battery issues. Also the “upgrades” that disappear functions that you’re never sure how to get back. I notice on my thankfully not too frequent visits to the apple store how often supply issues with their own products crop up.
    Thanks for this information.

    Reply
  2. notabanktoadie

    Whereas US political and business elites allowed US manufacturing to get to its current parlous state. Jerri-Lynn Scofield

    No doubt the workers themselves would not have voted to off-shore their jobs or crapify the work of their hands.

    However, government privileges for the banks have precluded the need for business and industry to share profits and power with workers.

    So who is really at fault if not those who support those privileges?

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      These elites didn’t just “allow” US manufacturing to get into its current parlous state. They ACTIVELY conspired to MAKE it happen ON PURPOSE.

      I would never suggest that these elites be rounded up, mass machine-gunned and mass-buried in mass graves. Since I would never suggest that, I am at a loss to know what to suggest.

      Reply
      1. polecat

        By, to put it kindly, ‘encouraging’ them to be the very first guinea pigs to try out the new, the wonderous, the completely ‘safe’ 5g tech …permenantly strapped to their elite pin heads (as well as that of their immediate family members, for a duration of, say a decade … and report the physiological ‘results’ of such a duration by an independent science board BEFORE concluding that a full public roll-out be warrented !! …

        Would that suffice ??

        Reply
        1. JBird4049

          Would that suffice ??

          Maaayybeee?

          Honestly, it feels like that they would be getting off easy, although I am not sure what an appropriate sentence would. It would not be a just sentence as no punishment could be for the tens of millions of Americans lives destroyed and the many, many more who have had to severely lower their expectations for life. Not that I’m bitter or anything like that.

          Perhaps we do to them what was done to Bernie Madoff. Strip them of all their assets, imprison them, and put their names and faces on literal, as opposed to Madoff’s figurative, Wall of Shame.

          Perhaps a large cube somewhere about the National Mall seems good. Have the names glow in the dark as well. They have hid in the shadows for long enough.

          Reply
        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          That sounds like a good idea, actually. Since it would take 50 years of total marination in the 5G electro-hypersmog steambath to give all the bad health effects time to manifest ( or not), that means this class of people would have to be sent to a country all gung-ho about rolling out wall-to-wall 5G to the max.

          China would be that country. Round them up and send them to China. Let them take co-part in the Great 5G Soakdown Experiment which the Chinese Elite will run on the Chinese Masses.

          Ideally, America would be the “control” country. We would ban 5G of any kind from American territory and see how our population does withOUT any 5G electro-hypersmog exposure. And given what I have begun reading about how 5G waves and fields will jam all the weather-radars used to read water-vapor manifestations and actions in the atmosphere, we will also retain our ability to study and predict the weather if 5G is banned in this country.

          Reply
      2. Hopelb

        Everything boils down to the ability to do precision manufacturing. Imagine when we are at war with China and not only will we not be able to make a zipper, but we will have a hard time getting medicine or vitamin c . I agree this was all coldly calculated. The greatest and most shop worn, pr explanation is “who could have known?” Think 911, the crash of 08, the effects of deindustrialization on the now rusted belt. Well, Ross Perot and Brooksley Born saw it all coming. But what do you think the Clintons, who started the Thirdway/ the no way for people to have an electoral voice, End game is? How on earth could the banksters who were the Clintons primary finders profit from a worldwide takeover by China, who freezes out our mendacious banksters?

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          The Clintons have been paid very well for their crucial assistance to the International Forcey-Free-Trade Conspiracy.

          Reply
  3. Fred

    No matter how nice an I-phone is, it doesn’t matter if you put it in a fat rubber case. Actually then my old Moto E is nicer to the touch.

    Reply
  4. Rob Dunford

    Could Jony’s departure be simply that Tim Cook, a true blue money man, just got fed up with Jony’s designs costing Apple so much in wasted time, energy and money?

    Reply
    1. NJ

      It could be.

      But this does bring up another good question- exactly how much of Ive’s design briefs were planned by management?

      Was it an coincidence he stopped using screws on batteries, or intentional requirements for the products? (Like the planned obsolescence GM designed into its cars in the 1980s)

      Reply
  5. Skip Intro

    I wonder how much those tooling engineers in the US make compared to their Chinese competitors? It seems like a neoliberal virtuous circle: loot/guts education, then find skilled labor from places that still support education, by moving abroad or importing workers, reducing wages and further undermining the local skill base.

    Reply
  6. Jah

    Lets not also forget that the iPhone is so locked down there no way to run any diagnostic software to find out if its been compromised.

    Reply
  7. Krystyn Walentka

    Ha! The title alone was enough!

    I broke into the tech industry working on Macs and they were a pleasure in 1997.

    And talk about crapified. I changed phone numbers and forgot my password to my icloud account. I have to wait 24 days to reset my password after I changed my phone number they tell me, ya know, for my own safety you know. But meanwhile I am also locked out of my iPhone SE. That is one way to get people to buy more crap that you cannot repair. Dark pattern for sure.

    Reply
  8. EMtz

    They lost me when they made the iMac so thin it couldn’t play a CD – and had the nerve to charge $85 for an Apple player. Bought another brand for $25. I don’t care that it’s not as pretty. I do care that I had to buy it at all.

    I need a new cellphone. You can bet it won’t be an iPhone.

    Reply
    1. Svante

      I’d often wondered about the “creative” classes & Apple. I’d bought a used i5 8GB/ SSD convertible HP tablet (quite literally open architecture, basically a magnesium alloy chassis with a Wacom pen screen), used for $302, it’s running Win7 but, you could swap out hardware. 3lbs less, was a svelte, paper thin Asus ZenBook we got for my partner to carry. Same everything, same as Apple sold for $1,300 (but again, running Win7: $700). I imagine you can guess the rest? Seven years later, the 5lb, probably 9yr old EBay junker’s operable. I’ve carried it into mills all over the country; dust, rain, schmutz… My only problem is with Microsoft. Asus, whom we all used to love, has followed Apple from a GREAT product, into crapification. And I’m quickly replacing my laptop with a Huawei Android tablet. Curious to see how this goes?

      https://wolfstreet.com/2019/06/30/felony-contempt-of-business-model-lexmarks-anti-competitive-legacy/

      https://theintercept.com/2019/06/30/superdelegates-2020-democratic-nominee/

      Reply
  9. John Zelnicker

    Jerri-Lynn – Indeed, a great article.

    Although I have never used an Apple product, I sympathize with y’all. It’s not uncommon for good products to become less useful and more trouble as the original designers, etc., get arrogant from their success and start to believe that every idea they have is a useful improvement. Not even close. Too much of fixing things that aren’t broken and gilding lilies.

    Reply
    1. notabanktoadie

      Or is it that non-engineer cost-cutters see there is profit to be made temporarily (IBGYBG) by using up the Company’s good name?

      Reply
  10. Charles Leseau

    Worst computer I’ve ever owned: Apple Macbook Pro, c. 2011 or so.

    Died within 2 years, and also more expensive than the desktops I’ve built since that absolutely crush it in every possible performance metric (and last longer).

    Meanwhile, I also still use a $300 Best Buy Toshiba craptop that has now lasted for 8 straight years.

    Never again.

    Reply
    1. Svante

      My typical computer has been some clunky OLD abused polycarbonate Toshiba, USUALLY one that’s been tossed onto rental car floors & trunks with groceries, six packs… to me, a battle scarred old laptop was connection to the world, a refuge, a library, and a really good reason to avoid skype, early in the morning? Until Vista, I never threw one hard enough to break it.

      It begins:

      https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-07-01/the-real-climate-debate/

      Reply
  11. Alfred

    “Beautiful objects” – aye, there’s the rub. In point of fact, the goal of industrial design is not to create beautiful objects. It is the goal of the fine arts to create beautiful objects. The goal of design is to create useful things that are easy to use and are effective at their tasks. Some — including me — would add to those most basic goals, the additional goals of being safe to use, durable, and easy to repair; perhaps even easy to adapt or suitable for recycling, or conservative of precious materials. The principles of good product design are laid out admirably in the classic book by Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things (1988). So this book was available to Jony Ive (born 1967) during his entire career (which overlapped almost exactly the wonder years of Postmodernism – and therein lies a clue). It would indeed be astonishing to learn that Ive took no notice of it. Yet Norman’s book can be used to show that Ive’s Apple violated so many of the principles of good design, so habitually, as to raise the suspicion that the company was not engaged in “product design” at all. The output Apple in the Ive era, I’d say, belongs instead to the realm of so-called “commodity aesthetics,” which aims to give manufactured items a sufficiently seductive appearance to induce their purchase – nothing more. Aethetics appears as Dieter Rams’s principle 3, as just one (and the only purely commercial) function in his 10; so in a theoretical context that remains ensconced within a genuine, Modernist functionalism. But in the Apple dispensation that single (aesthetic) principle seems to have subsumed the entire design enterprise – precisely as one would expect from “the cultural logic of late capitalism” (hat tip to Mr Jameson). Ive and his staff of formalists were not designing industrial products, or what Norman calls “everyday things,” let alone devices; they were aestheticizing products in ways that first, foremost, and almost only enhanced their performance as expressions of a brand. Their eyes turned away from the prosaic prize of functionality to focus instead on the more profitable prize of sales — to repeat customers, aka the devotees of ‘iconic’ fetishism. Thus did they serve not the masses but Mammon, and they did so as minions of minimalism. Nor was theirs the minimalism of the Frankfurt kitchen, with its deep roots in ethics and ergonomics. It was only superficially Miesian. Bauhaus-inspired? Oh, please. Only the more careless readers of Tom Wolfe and Wikipedia could believe anything so preposterous. Surely Steve Jobs, he of the featureless black turtleneck by Issey Miyake, knew better. Anyone who has so much as walked by an Apple Store, ever, should know better. And I guess I should know how to write shorter…

    Reply
    1. Peter

      Aethetics appears as Dieter Rams’s principle 3, as just one (and the only purely commercial) function in his 10

      I have used a few Braun manufactured items designed by Rams over the years, especially stereo equipment like amps, record players and tape recorders. Beautiful to look at and easy to operate. I actually once replaced a Revox machine with a Braun tape recorder because it was simply less prone to operational problems.

      A designer who wants to achieve good design must not regard himself as an artist who, according to taste and aesthetics, is merely dressing-up products with a last-minute garment.

      The designer must be the gestaltingenieur or creative engineer. They synthesize the completed product from the various elements that make up its design. Their work is largely rational, meaning that aesthetic decisions are justified by an understanding of the product’s purpose.”

      https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/dieter-rams-10-timeless-commandments-for-good-design

      Reply
  12. samhill

    I’ve been using Apple since 1990, I concur with the article about h/w and add that from Snow Leopard to Sierra the OSX was buggy as anything from the Windows world if not more so. Got better with High Sierra but still not up to the hype. I haven’t lived with Mojave. I use Apple out of habit, haven’t felt the love from them since Snow Leopard, exactly when they became a cell phone company. People think Apple is Mercedes and PCs are Fords, but for a long time now in practical use, leaving aside the snazzy aesthetics, under the hood it’s GM vs Ford. I’m not rich enough to buy a $1500 non-upgradable, non-repairable product so the new T2 protected computers can’t be for me. The new Dell XPS’s are tempting, they got the right idea, if you go to their service page you can dl complete service instructions, diagrams, and blow ups. They don’t seem at all worried about my hurting myself. In the last few years PCs offer what before I could only get from Apple; good screen, back lit keyboard, long battery life, trim size.

    Honestly, since 2015 feels like Apple wants to abandon it’s PC business but just doesn’t know how so it’s trying to drive off all the old legacy power users, the creative people that actually work hard for their money, exchanging them for rich dilettantes, hedge fund managers, and status seekers – an easier crowd to finally close up shop on. The new line seems like a valid refresh, but the prices are higher than ever, and remember young people are earning less than ever, so I still think they are looking for a way out of the PC trade, maybe this refresh is to just buy time for an other five years before they close up. When you start thinking like this about a company you’ve been loyal to for 30 years something is definetly wrong.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      When you say “close up” . . . do you mean stop making physical things? Do you mean that the Lords of Apple have a secret desire to turn their money into the fuel for starting a hedge fund or a private equity fund?

      Apple Private Equity?

      Reply
      1. samhill

        I mean saying goodbye to iMacs, MBPs, the Cheesegraters, and being a pure mobile phone, tablet, services, company. I can’t see into the future as well as the mega minds at Apple who have to, but the computer industry we’ve know and loved for the last 40 years probably isn’t long for this world, it’s feeling really stale to me. If anyone doesn’t know OSX has been a sub division of IOS for several years now. The prestige jobs at Apple are not in the computer OS, explains why they’ve been pretty much just moving the furniture around the room (and throwing a lot of it out, hiding a good part of it!) for the last 10 years and calling each upgrade a new house.

        Reply
    2. flora

      I know. Snow Leopard, OS 10.6, was the last fully featured OS. After it, Apple started de-contenting the OSs.

      Reply
    3. moss

      It’s a business model known as “last one out turn off the lights”.

      Usually, but not always, occurs when a well established brand is bought out by a competitor who intends giving the brand or product the needle. The method is through margin expansion aka crappification, so although sales revenues wilt profits go up

      Reply
    4. Geo

      “exactly when they became a cell phone company”

      Well said. Been an Apple user since the Apple IIGS and my current systems are refurbished/upgraded 2012 systems (laptop and desktop). With enough mods they both handle 4K RAW video editing and effects work with no problem.

      As long as these old systems can keep working I’ll stick with them but even the current crop of “pro” systems have done nothing to entice my interest. It will take a lot for Apple to regain my trust after all ththe crap they’ve pulled the past 7 years on us pro users. Don’t even get me started on what they did to FCP and Logic Pro!

      Reply
    5. Altandmain

      Yes I get the feeling they no longer care about the professionals that rely on Apple products for work as well.

      From their point of view, they are a rounding error as far as sales go.

      They also seem to go out of their way to make their parts non-upgradeable.

      https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook+Pro+15-Inch+Touch+Bar+2018+Teardown/111478

      Everything is soldered. So you cannot for example, upgrade to a bigger capacity M.2 SSD or higher capacity DIMMs. What’s infuriating about this is that Apple uses the same technology as everyone else. Same CPUs, NAND, RAM, etc.

      Now the new Mac Pro seems to address these criticisms:

      https://www.macrumors.com/roundup/mac-pro/

      However, as you’ve noted, one problem is pricing. The pricing is not likely to be competitive with a comparable PC (it never really was) and Apple hasn’t really supported pro systems with the priority of say, the iPhone (which itself seems to have peaked).

      Reply
  13. TG

    The reason that Apple moved the last of its production to China is, quite simply, that China now has basically the entire industrial infrastructure that we used to have. We have been hollowed out, and are now essentially third-world when it comes to industry. The entire integrated supply chain that defines an industrial power, is now gone.

    The part about China no longer being a low-wage country is correct. China’s wages have been higher than Mexico’s for some time. But the part about the skilled workers is a slap in the face. How can US workers be skilled at manufacturing, when there are no longer any jobs here where they can learn or use those skills?

    Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        What the CarterReagan-Clintobusha Free Trade Presidents rolled out was a De-Industrial Policy. An Anti-Industrial Policy.

        Reply
    1. John Wright

      I recently bought a tool from a small metalworking company here in Northern California.

      The company makes an aluminum and stainless steel product for the local (and international) wine making industry.

      I was told that originally they investigated sourcing from China, but Mexico was as inexpensive.

      So China may not be a low wage supplier anymore, but having infrastructure and lower level parts suppliers in Asia gives China the complete package.

      I worked for years in the Northern California electronics industry and the standard practice was to design in the USA, prototype in the USA, and then shift production overseas (in general, Asia, not always China).

      I remember when the highest technology operation of a printed circuit board company, which was in Germany, shut down and handed the advanced technology mantle to its Chinese operation.

      Some of the USA emphasis on “focus on Core competency” drives this as management focuses on what it decides is the highest value pursuit.

      Unfortunately, I believe this results in hollowed out corporations as more corporate activities are outsourced as not fitting in “our core competency”.

      But I’m probably of the “Luddite” class in believing that manufacturing with its supporting infrastructure and institutional knowledge is important to maintaining an advanced economy with a good lifestyle.

      But the political class views the bloated USA financial industry, not manufacturing, as the critical industry to preserve in the USA.

      Reply
    1. polecat

      I’d settle for a bid black monolith over a thin wafer of obsolecence any day !

      At least IT would give millions of years of returns commesurate to the brains affected by it … unlike an ersatz digital Jobes Mandala …

      Reply
      1. polecat

        ‘big’ black monolith ..

        guess I should’ve touched it before writing the above comment .. humm, I’ve seemed to have misplaced my favorite tapir femur bone .. need to fling it at an Apple ..

        Reply
    2. Joe Well

      The bizarre thing is you then have to put the thin rectangle in a thick case so it doesn’t break.

      Reply
    3. Geo

      Agreed. I still haul around a beastly old 17” MacBook Pro from 2012 (refurbished) and it works like a dream. Best part, when something goes bad I can get it repaired! No interest in a slim, elegant wafer that dies due to a light breeze.

      I get crap from people when they see it’s size or feel it’s weight but then I just look at their massive mobile phones and ask why they carry a mini tablet around for text and calls? Why people want tiny laptops and giant phones is a mystery to me.

      Reply
      1. flora

        ha! agreed. (If they’re using digital tech thinness as a status marker, ask them how thick are their watches. If they give you a blank look…. heh.)

        Reply
    4. Alfred

      The thinness is not desired for its intrinsic beauty, of which — your are so right, fdr-fan — it has none. It is desired for its associations. I believe that Apple design aimed for thinness because it was so saliently associated with design in the (long) 1950s (between about 1950 and 1965) when everything ‘good’ was thin and light. Imitating the thinness typical of the 1950s allowed Postmodern designers since about 1980 to co-opt all the positive associations that the highly regarded designs of the so-called mid-century still exude.Perhaps chief among those association was the positive role that the design of consumer goods played in advancing the western struggle against the Soviet system circa 1960. After The Wall came down, allowing capitalism to claim triumph, thinness suggested itself as the ideal metaphor for the pioneering struggles of the first postwar decades, many of which unfolded in the cultural sphere, at places like Expo 58. (Apple Park, surely not by coincidence, is a take-off on the US Pavilion at Expo 58.) One way of looking at Apple’s ‘iconicity’ — the most obvious way, actually, because it is simply chronological — sees it as epitomizing post-Communist culture. Apple design ‘must be’ literally thin because post-Communist neoliberalism thinned out all social relations to just short of the breaking point, turning every safety net or firewall into the most diaphanous of membranes, thus making itself metaphorically thin. Without celebrating thinness, Apple products could not so efficaciously embody, as they doubtless do, neoliberalism’s values. It is worth remembering in this connection that crapification (which, as Jerri-Lynn point out, is the skeleton key to the whole history of Apple) is itself a kind of thinness, because thinness is the hallmark of flimsiness; it is the opposite of robustness. Meanwhile, as the malnourished but overfed American population grew increasingly obese as the late 20th century dissolved into the 21st, thinness faded away as an image of what we were to become purely the image of what we wanted to be. Now we want to be thin (again, like we were in the Kennedy years). We aspire to being ‘Apple’. But we have to settle for putting the thinnest Apple item our credit cards can buy in our pockets (where our money used to be, before Mr Moneybags removed it to his own).

      Reply
  14. samhill

    I mean saying goodbye to iMacs, MBPs, the Cheesegraters, and being a pure mobile phone, tablet, services, company. I can’t see into the future as well as the mega minds at Apple who have to, but the computer industry we’ve know and loved for the last 40 years probably isn’t long for this world, it’s feeling really stale to me. If anyone doesn’t know OSX has been a sub division of IOS for several years now. The prestige jobs at Apple are not in the computer OS, explains why they’ve been pretty much just moving the furniture around the room (and throwing a lot of it out, hiding a good part of it!) for the last 10 years and calling each upgrade a new house.

    Reply
  15. ewmayer

    See my post in today’s Links re. the 1000-screws-a-day bottleneck BS. As with the “lack of stateside manufacturing skills”, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Viz. Tim Cook:

    The products we do require really advanced tooling, and the precision that you have to have, the tooling and working with the materials that we do are state of the art. And the tooling skill is very deep here. In the US you could have a meeting of tooling engineers and I’m not sure we could fill the room. In China you could fill multiple football fields.

    Well, yes, folks like you having gutted domestic manufacturing over the past decades will do that, won’t it, Timmah? Let’s break down Timmah’s logical flowchart for why-he-has-no-choice-but-to-go-to-China, shall we?

    1. Neloliberal globalization/financialization dogma, coupled with huge windfalls for C-suiters and Wall Streeters at expense of Deplorables, lead to offshoring of nearly entire domestic manufacturing base.

    2. No job prospects in now-vanished manufacturing industries lead to supporting vocational-ed feeder systems withering.

    3. As result of increasing anti-globalization backlash by Left Behinders around the world, industry CEOs make virtue-signaling show of wanting to bring back some domestic manufacturing, only to throw up hands with “we just don’t have the needed domestic manufacturing toolchains and expertise! (The very things we shipped abroad over the past sveral decades in order to fatten our profits and compensation packages.)”

    And hey, Apple’s profit margins are so razor-thin that there’s simply no way they could, you know, actually *invest* some money in rebuilding the toolchains and skilled-worker bases they need domestically. I mean, the tooling needed to automate the tiny-screw production they have some contractor subbing out to a tiny little machine shop in truly clowncar we-build-each-screw-by-hand fashion – that might cost (breathless pause, wait for it) – several *million* dollars to procure. And it might take (second bated-breath dramatic moment) – months or even a few years to really get things up and running efficiently. Clearly demonstrating the sheer impossibility of the task. But Tim Cook would like everyone to know that he tried really, really hard.

    Reply
    1. flora

      Yep. Wall St may see China as a vassal state but China no longer sees itself that way.

      When major US companies are run by their CEOs and boards as if they were a PE acquisition then the end is near for those companies, imo.

      Apple’s claim to value was always its super robust hardware* and a reliable and a backward compatible OS. That’s changed.

      *Apple’s have always been difficult to work on. But, Apples have very rarely needed to be worked on because of the robustness of their hardware. That robustness on newer models is now questionable…

      Reply
    2. J7915

      Reads like the bio of Boeing, or any other company/society that is infected with the american finanziation bug. Germany is starting down the same path, or is well past the juncture of the paths.

      Len Deighton in his book Blood, Tears and Folly in a chapter title page described the hollowing out of english industrial power in the same way. Sad, that Mitt Romney is never mentioned. Bain was handling the buyout outsourcing of a switch and sensor company to China just as their most famous alumnuous and partner was campaigning in south Illinois were the plant was located. The events were not linked in the national media.

      Reply
    3. cnchal

      Practice makes perfect. The whole argument by Tim Cook about there not being enough toolmakers in the US to fill a room can also be applied to sewers working in a garment factory in a third world hell hole. There would not be enough skilled clothing factory workers in America to fill a room.

      Take for example the typical Wal Mart or Amazon shopper ( female – 5’2″ – 250 lbs and eats sugar for breakfast, lunch and dinner with sugar snacks in between. The typical Amazon shopper is even bigger since sitting on the couch is all the exercise they get. At least the Walmart shopper is somewhat active riding an electric cart up and down the aisles ) and plunk them down at a sewing machine in Bangalore to churn out garments. It would take months and months before anything they made left the factory floor with minimum acceptable quality, if then even. The child working beside them can out produce them by several orders of magnitude for a quarter per day. The clothes on our backs are made under such cruel and horrific conditions we should hang our collective heads in shame, but that is beside the point.

      When Cook talks about Chinese labor now being expensive, it’s nonsense. What is the hourly pay rate of a Chinese toolmaker in China? Do we actually know what it is because Cook never tells us and leaves the impression that they make much more than any toolmaker remaining here. All we are left with is educated guesses and mine is they make a buck an hour or less, so dirt cheap labor is still the primary reason for moving production to China.

      How can any worker doing anything in America compete with someone earning a minute fraction of their pay, when the structural costs of living here are so high? It’s a rhetorical question, the answer is ‘it is impossible to compete’.

      Globalization is a disaster, no matter where one cares to look.

      Reply
  16. DHG

    Never owned anything from Apple, but this doesn’t surprise me at all. Money is their bottom line they couldn’t care less about the customer having to constantly replace a dying item. As an aside if screws cannot be manufactured in the US to meet the demand of another manufacturer then we have a real problem.

    Reply
    1. Geo

      “Money is their bottom line“

      I don’t disagree that this is Apple’s big issue but is there an alternative that doesn’t have profit as a bottom line?

      For phones I’d love to use a FairPhone but they’re not available in the US. Tried getting my provider (Credo Mobile) to get them but they haven’t yet. For computers I don’t know of any ethical brands.

      https://www.fairphone.com/en/

      Reply
      1. flora

        I don’t disagree that this is Apple’s big issue but is there an alternative that doesn’t have profit as a bottom line?

        Yes, there is. Profit + national interest. However, it requires a national industrial policy, which the US has apparently abandoned.

        Reply
  17. Joe Well

    One word: Thinkpad. I’m typing this comment on a Thinkpad I bought in 2013 after I destroyed my three-year-old Thinkpad by getting it wet. I very nearly switched to Macbook then, succumbing to fanboy pressure, but the touchscreen won me over.

    Since then, I’ve had the keyboard and fan cleaned about once a year, replaced the adapter several times, and replaced the battery once. There was a scary moment in October 2018 when a Windows update made my speakers inoperable and I had to reinstall the OS. All in, it cost two days of work to diagnose and resolve. Note that the problem was caused by Microsoft, not the hardware.

    I’m just worried that Thinkpads may finally have been crapified, too. I would like to get a Thinkpad with a stylus to replace mouse/trackpad completely. But this machine shows no sign of dying, and it feels wasteful to give it up.

    Might used Thinkpads be the least environmentally harmful laptop purchase?

    Reply
    1. flora

      The Lenovo ThinkPad was originally designed and created by IBM.

      https://www.notebookcheck.net/THINK-A-brief-history-of-ThinkPads-from-IBM-to-Lenovo.418728.0.html

      Each year saw iterative improvements in each line with nothing standing out. ThinkPads were starting to stagnate, so IBM attempted to market new ideas that ultimately fell short. Perhaps the most notorious of these is the ThinkPad TransNote, a notebook computer embedded into a literal notebook. Comprised of a padfolio with a full computer in one side and a paper notepad on the other, the TransNote was too much of a niche product and ultimately failed. (think modern “Tablets” or “iPads” )

      IBM sadly couldn’t keep the train on the tracks. 2004 marked a billion-dollar loss for the company’s computer sales division, and IBM decided to sell its PC and laptop lines to Lenovo. The deal was finalized in May of 2005, and Lenovo took to the ground running.

      The ThinkPad T60 exploded onto the market in January of 2006 and breathed new life into the ThinkPad lineup. The transition to Lenovo was almost unnoticeable: The T60 retained many of the tried-and-true ThinkPad design choices. However, the T60 introduced something that was revolutionizing the computer world – multi-core processors.

      Lenovo, of course, is a Chinese technology company.

      China has an industrial policy that looks to the future, not just a financial stock market policy concerned only with immediate quarterly profits.

      Reply
    2. Mark Alexander

      I second that recommendation (as I’ve written here before). Lenovo has taken over the manufacturing, but I understand that much of the original design team is still there.

      I love the older machines from the 2008-2009 era: easy to repair, great service manuals, lovely keyboards, reliable, and Linux-compatible.

      I do worry about crapification, though. I understand that RAM is extremely difficult to replace now in some of the X-series, and they’ve eliminated the top row of the keyboard, and the keyboards themselves look like the flat-top chiclet keyboards used in so many other laptops, including Macbooks.

      Reply
    3. Ook

      I third the Lenovo recommendation. I’ve been on Apple and Windows products since 1990, and the Lenovo has been far and away the best laptop.

      “I once destroyed the motherboard on a Sony Vaio that, not being an Apple, lacked a MagSafe connector.”

      Sony is Japan’s version of Apple. So no surprise there.

      Reply
      1. Joe Well

        I don’t know if all Lenovo laptops are as good as the Thinkpads, never tried a non-Thinkpad Lenovo. They cost less so I assumed they were made differently.

        Reply
  18. Chris Smith

    I have a Dell XPS 13. I got it a year and a half ago when my MacBook Pro hit 6 years old. The butterfly keyboard and other hardware crapification knocked out any hardware justification for staying with a Mac. OSX has slowly crapified from Snow Leopard on, but Windows 10 is a decent OS. To the extent that OSX is marginally better than Windows 10 (if it even is anymore), it does not justify the price of a MacBook. My XPS is way more powerful than the current Macs (particularly in the amount of memory they have) and for a third of the cost.

    I would have gone Linux, but I need MS Office. And MS Office on windows is better than the Mac version.

    Reply
  19. flora

    Ahem:

    Cook credits China’s vast supply of highly skilled vocational talent:

    “The vocational expertise is very very deep here, and I give the education system a lot of credit for continuing to push on that even when others were de-emphasizing vocational. Now I think many countries in the world have woke up and said this is a key thing and we’ve got to correct that. China called that right from the beginning.”

    ah. well.
    I believe in the US the people with the same high level vocational skills are referred to as ‘deplorables’ by our politicians.

    As for de-emphasizing vocational, doesn’t eveyone need a 4 year degree to compete in our financialize meritocracy? /s

    Reply
    1. Lynne

      This was entirely predictable, given Cook’s smug announcement that he was giving millions of Apple’s profits to SPLC so they could tell us how horrible US residents are. He and they are far more interested in trashing US workers than *gasp* investing in training.

      Reply
  20. samhill

    Apple is secretive about it’s earnings, wonder what percentage the PC division is of total profits, maybe someone here knows. It’s not impossible PCs are a loss leader for Apple at this point, the real value coming from the free advertising of high status professionals in power cities and sexy actors on TV and in movies seen parading silvery Apple snazz. This corporate shallowness would well explain the crapification and negligence. What really makes me think this way is the high prices, low value, short life span, of the new stuff are going to drive creative young people, and young people who don’t yet know they are creative, away. That is a seriously bad strategy for a digital company. I honestly hope Apple has a killer game changer product in the wings, for me it’s been a nice ride these last 30 years. Remember all those suckers trying to connect a printer to Win 3.1 and 98 and taking an entire 40hr week to do it and still insisting Windows was better? Those were the glory days!

    Reply
  21. Ook

    “Remember all those suckers trying to connect a printer to Win 3.1 and 98 and taking an entire 40hr week to do it and still insisting Windows was better?”

    No. I remember Win3.1 drivers could be difficult, and might require spending a few hours reading the documentation for company sysadmins, the first time. At this time, Apple was often, but not consistently, easier, especially for non-trivial network situations. By the time win98 came around, Apple was no longer a market force in the corporate world, and if anything Windows PnP was much better organized than anything Apple had.
    There was a period in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Apple had a better user experience from a UI viewpoint. But let’s not exaggerate.

    Reply
    1. Plenue

      Well, they had a GUI. But under the hood things like networking and memory management on Mac was abysmal.

      Reply
  22. Mike Mc

    Jerri-Lynn, your 13″ 2015 MacBook Pro likely needs an IPD cable. It controls the keyboard and trackpad; I’m an ACMT (Apple Certified Macintosh Technician) at an AASP (Apple Authorized Service Provider) at a large Midwestern university. During the school year we replace two or three a week – it’s the most common repair on this model.

    Longer view – Apple HAS crapified itself thoroughly since I started repairing their products 20 years ago. So has EVERY OTHER TECH COMPANY here and abroad and most companies (including the Federal government). PC hardware ebbs and flows at the laptop level, but generally speaking the less you spend on either laptop or desktop, the less you get.

    BIL runs his own motorcycle repair shop and we frequently bemoan the quality of replacement parts, whether from major manufacturer or alternate sources.

    We uncrapify our society and our products – and people – will likely uncrapify themselves too. Retiring in a year so will do what I can to keep fixing Macs as best I can.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Thanks for the tip – I’ll investigate this once I’m next near an Apple repair facility. My MacBook is a 15 inch – I assume the issue is the same for my model.

      Reply
  23. polecat

    Consider that in 50 to 100 years from now, computers and the Internet might no longer exist .. do to lack of adequate resourses and consistant electrical generation. Pencil, paper, and the slide rule may become popular once more.
    ‘;]

    Reply
  24. Procopius

    I read an article that their attempt to return some manufacturing to America was a failure because of the special screw that prevents people from repairing the computer that they “bought.” It seems they did not secure a supply chain before, did not check out the crapification of American manufacturing, and there was NO company in America which could produce the special screws, or at least not in the quantity they thought they needed at a price they were willing to pay. Apparently shipping the screws from China added too much cost to the commodity. They shut down the American plant again and returned it to China.

    Reply
  25. Peter

    As a user of computers – the first ones were Wangs in the Lab in the 1970’s – I always find the Apple adherents more akin to religious fanatics than actually reasonable users of a well designed product.

    I used the Apple 2E in a school setting in the mid to late 1980’s but personally I always have used units based on microsoft simply because I can separate hardware from software and have wide choice of machinery.
    If I don’t like MS systems – then there is always Linux.

    Reply
  26. Steve

    Apple is not what it was. I started using Apple with the 1986 Mac +. Even with it’s memory limits programs like Aldus Pagemaker, Microsoft Word and Excel made it remarkable at the time. There was nothing in the PC world that even came close. I got one of the first Mac II FX’s that were delivered and it was amazing. For graphics, publishing, video and sound recording it was years ahead of anything else. When I got out of consulting in about 1993 I had been unimpressed with anything new from Apple and that stayed the same until the iPod. I got the Second generation iPod the week it came out (the first generation was very short lived). I still have it and occasionally I use it. It will still play for over 6 hours on a charge. I still have an iBook g4 which I think was one of the best laptops Apple made for what it did at the time. The battery has long since failed but it works great as music server with 5000+ songs loaded on it. My iPhone 4 was great and my iPhone 6 was very not great. I have had a iPhone 5se for the past 2 years and it works very well. My MacBook Pro (2014) is a constant problem and one of my least favorite Apple products and has never really recovered from the High Sierra update. My iPad mini 2 is still working great and definitely one of my favorites. I use it more than my newer iPad Air II. Since the iPad mini 2 is trapped in IOS 9 it still does everything I want it to very well. I even got it to work with the Paper 53 pencil again this past weekend. When my current Apple products wear out I don’t know what I will choose to do. I worked as a consultant for some very fun years but at this point (I’m almost 60) I am becoming very bored of tech in general and have a lot of tech apathy. I think there are a lot of people who look at nice computer equipment, recording equipment, home video and audio equipment that is piling up in their closets and just get a little sad. There was nothing wrong with the stuff and it works great until the manufacturers made it not work.

    Reply
    1. Gale

      A person after my own heart, after I sold my Mac II and SE in the early to mid nineties, I’ve kept every Mac I acquired after that. There is quite a pile. The earliest I have which is still useful (aside from a Pismo) is a 2002 Power Mac Dual 1 Ghz running 10.4 with a 128 Gb SSD (partitioned for several different machines and System 9 if I ever needed it again) which I use with my ssci (I have a PCI scsi card) Microtek large format scanner. It works fine. Microtek still makes the same scanner with a modern interface for $1500. I use a ten dollar ATA to serial bridge to make the SSD internal. Running 10.4, the last one with SCSI drivers it starts faster than my later machines. ———– But, this isn’t what got me to reply. My girlfriend gave me her 2004 iBook G4 in 2012 and I immediately bought a battery for it. I rarely used it. The iBook video board failed. I can access the hard drive in target disk mode. The battery recharges. I should send it to you. NC has my permission to give you my email address.

      ps – I bought a 128k Mac in late 1984 for $800 from a student in an affluent district who probably didn’t pay for it himself. Everyone at the time thought it was quite a bargain. I immediately sent it off for a vendor to strap on 512k o memory. Even that today would not power a sundial.

      Reply
  27. Ep3

    “Cook credits China’s vast supply of highly skilled vocational talent“

    I never believe this corporate speak. Go to Detroit, where there are thousands of acres of empty abandoned factories, thousands of workers willing to work, all from former automotive manufacturing. Can’t get the screws right? HA! Guarantee the costs to manufacture are just far lower.
    Oh, Mr. Cook, does any of that highly skilled talent work at FoxConn? Have any of them committed suicide lately? Wasn’t there issues where Chinese manufacturing didn’t adhere to standards of environmental care that are required here in the US?
    So with that said, what are we doing wrong over here? Is it to do with all those lazy millennials taking on massive student loan debt to get degrees in librul arts? Or was I being lied to when i was told going into taxes and accounting was the smart thing to do because manufacturing jobs were dying out? Was it a lie that accounting paid more than vocational tech jobs? (Well so far it is. My friends working in factories, some are skilled trades, all make more money than me. But again, I was told not to rely on those jobs, because they were going away.)

    Reply
  28. Steve Ruis

    Re “I don’t own an iPhone (or a smartphone, for that matter), so I don’t know whether iFixit’s assessment of this issue for the iPhone is accurate.” I have found iFixit to be a very high quality source of information and I consider them to be close to unimpeachable. (I have no connection with them other than as a customer.)

    Reply
  29. Off The Street

    Apple and pharma, as two big targets, have something in common on the malign crapification front, weaponized through implicit nastiness in their business models. They aren’t alone, just two exemplars of late stage neo-liberal gaming.

    The former keeps orphaning older systems while de-featuring and de-contenting. Just keep buying the new toys, they say, and those will keep you up with the cool kids. Resistance is futile, or at least is implied to be more expensive in time and money if you dare to switch.

    The latter was notified by the Goldman folks that curing things wasn’t a sustainable business model. Just keep buying the new drugs, they say, and those will address your symptoms. Resistance might kill you and would kill their annuities.

    I’d recommend going organic.
    For those e-toys, try some Linux platform even if you sacrifice some latest and greatest features. That is a kind of IT organic. Or just unplug.
    For pills, try not buying into the hype or ads, and do research on meds and on food. Many of your symptoms just might disappear through less chemistry and more organic food. /end rant

    Reply
  30. Synoia

    Apple’s complaint that the could not produce their MacBook in the US because they could not get enough screws strike me as BS.

    1. The could have imported screws from China
    2. They could have funded their vendor to increase production in TX

    Unless this was just an example of an item not made in the US, and there was a long list of similar items.

    Reply
  31. RMO

    My MacBook just died at the ripe old age of about two years. It was the basic 13″ with optical drive model. It was my fourth MacBook (and my fourth laptop) and is also my last Apple computer. The general crapification combined with the exorbitant price you have to pay to get a decent size hard drive (by which I mean 500gb or more) on an Apple now have turned me off Apple. All the laptops, two desktop computers and all but one media player I’ve owned over the years have been Apple but they’ve lost me. When my last Macbook turned belly up a little while ago I just bought an Asus laptop and for the moment have simply done what I can to make Windows 10 less of an intrusive spy. I may finally get around to working with Linux using this computer too.

    Reply

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