Over the past several years, and as recently reported by Computerworld, the adoption of Apple’s Mac has blown way past the expectations of even the most favorable industry pundits.  But Apple might be writing the ticket to its own demise.

Several years ago, Apple made the notorious, and ultimately well received switchover to Intel processors.  Undoubtedly they were driven in part by the realization they couldn’t continue to march along with relatively unique processor platforms while keeping up with market demands for innovation and just raw production. 

But from the signs in the market today, that switch to x86 hardware may be taking a bite out of Apple right where it counts.  The problem is, x86 brings with it components built for a huge mass market, and often at such scale that some mis-steps are hard to avoid.  While the market likely bent to Apple’s demands for high degrees of customization and quality in the initial generations, many users are discovering the same doesn’t hold true for the latest gen equipment.  A quick examination of a few reported MacBook Pro issues makes the case.

  • MBP 17″ display issues, perhaps blamed on Nvidia’s controller used with a dual-link display.
  • Unibody MBP 15″ and 13.3″ SATA controller issues, that limited SATA support to the 1.5Gbps first generation standard, in a market where 3.0Gbps SATA II is quickly becoming ubiquitous.  
  • A botched firmware update — EFI 1.7 — that attempted to switch on SATA II capabilities, but in fact caused worse incompatibilities with a number of drives, set the stage for numerous logicboard replacements, and instigated the eventual release of an unprecedented firmware “downgrade” hack.

Based on Apple’s responsiveness to the reported issues (which pretty much consists of lack thereof) all of these issues seem to be unresolvable.  The latter two issues are extensively documented in this ever growing forum thread over at MacRumors – a thread that has rapidly grown to over 1,580 posts, with no apparent end in site.  Numerous blog and news posts around the web reference same issue and thread.

Speaking from experience, the SATA controller issues are personally bothersome for this author, and have in fact altered my plans to update my own MBP systems to the latest unibody models.  Perhaps I need to be shopping for a trusty old PowerPC model.

The question for current users: has Apple permanently altered the long term residual value of their computing investment?  With resale values holding high, Mac users often expect some residual value that justify the high prices of the platform.  If the new unibodies ultimately prove unable to host SATA II devices effectively, and if SATA I devices become unavailable as replacement drives, does the latest generation MBP become a paperweight?

In my own field of expertise, an observation lingers.  For those convinced that the ease of access to impressive spindles, SSDs, and storage software like ZFS are changing the game, don’t go too far.  Apple is demonstrating that even on the consumer side, storage takes some attention to details.