Rotten Apples: The Demise Of A Computer Company
On Monday, June 22, 2020, Apple's renowned (infamous?) World-Wide Developer Conference took place. As usual, the announcement of new devices took place- along with a shocker that has the potential to kill off software ecosystems and shut down development efforts.
Okay, Okay. What The Heck Happened?
According to MacWorld and video of the actual conference, Apple plans to swap their CPUs with a new, custom in-house one... The same processor line found on the iPhones and iPads! These Processors are based on ARM CPU technology, but due to Apple's walled-garden stance they modified the design.
ARM and a Leg
In order to avoid this turning into a complaining rant, let's balance this out by first mentioning the benefits ARM provides:
- ARM is based on a RISC architecture, allowing for lower power usage and improved performance (provided the software is properly written)
- ARM is less expensive than Intel or AMD CPUs, theoretically reducing the cost of production.
- ARM is found in tons of Internet-Of-Things and mobile devices, especially smartphones.
Although these are amazing benefits and worth considering the switch in laptops and mobile devices, Apple isn't following the standard design. For all users may know, the machine language may differ from the original CPU. If so, it's impossible to write C/C++ or compile ANY third-party code without an Apple-supplied compiler. On top of this, hackers and developers have been struggling for YEARS to get Linux working on the iPhone and iPad and have always had hangups on the CPU and the hardware in the device that locks them out.
Since the new Macs will be using this same line of chips, running anything other than software condoned by Apple will be impossible. To further compound the issue, Apple has agreements with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to ban the import of components for their devices. On top of this, Apple intentionally opted to solder the hard drive to the motherboard and removed the data recovery pins- now the only way to protect your info on Mac is to buy their services or get a backup drive.
This activity poses several ethical and financial dilemmas for a potential buyer, seeking a new laptop or computer.
“We're Sorry It's Broken. Feel Free to Buy A New Mac!”
How many times have you heard this at the Apple store or a computer shop? Did you know that the majority of times a computer breaks, the repair normally will not cost more than $50-100 USD? By making devices impossible to repair, there's actual justification in making this claim. But then if it's impossible to fix or even recover your data, why buy it?
No Schematics For You!
Most people can agree that we all disagree on many things. However, most can all agree that major companies are not worthy of our trust in light of recent scandals. When a major laptop manufacturer like Apple switches to a custom in-house CPU, it becomes impossible to audit it's security without attempting to hack it and play the role of the “bad guy”.
Lockdown and Lock out
Apple has always been a “Walled-Garden” ecosystem in their systems, but allowed third party apps to run. Due to this new CPU, all third party software is entirely dependent on whether or not Apple chooses to release compilers for their architecture. Even so, will they apply licenses to the compilers? Will they be compliant with current Operating Systems standards? Nobody knows, and there's potential for the death of third-party apps on the new platform. At the very least, all third party software would have to be recompiled (or rebuilt) to be compatible with the new architecture. For some maintainers, they may never even bother and third party support will dwindle.
As we all know, companies are driven by profit and go back on their decisions if it means a lack of sales. This means that if users don't support their actions, then DON'T BUY THE PRODUCT!
On top of this, hacking and research communities should pick up the new Macs as they arrive, and deduce how everything works, inventing ways to enable compatibility with other software and (maybe?) hardware on these new devices.
Lastly, if this bothers you, spread the word and explain it to others so they understand the importance of having the ability to fix your own belongings.