Friday, July 13, 2012

Apple chooses design over the environment

Apple recently announced that it wasn't going to submit any more products to be certifies by EPEAT, a ratings agency that certifies electronic devices meet an environmentally-friendly standard. This means that Apple products aren't going to be certified as following a set of environmentally friendly rules. So why did Apple pull out it's products from EPEAT? Some of Apple's recent products do not comply to EPEAT's rules.

Apple has not only not stopped submitting products for certification, it is pulling out from EPEAT by pulling out it's products from EPEAT's ratings list. Some have pointed out that this is probably because they would rather not be seen at all than have some products certified and others not. While EPEAT does not certify smartphone and tablets, it seems odd that Apple decided to pull out after having the popular iPhone and iPad on the market for so long. So why make an announcement now ? Did they want to get in front of the message before someone else "leaked" it out and make it look like Apple was trying to hide something?

Apple didn't really have to hide anything until recently. EPEAT's standard is used with PCs and Laptops and is related to government purchasing. Agencies have policies preferring PCs that are EPEAT compliant. Apple's most recent products are glued together, have non-replaceable batteries and generally not serviceable. These fall foul of the regulations. Rather than failing the standards or raise questions as to why some their laptops are not compliant while others are, Apple decides to exit the process entirely.

Apples most recent laptops have these changes because of their ultra slim design. In that respect, Apple is highly respected. In an extensive documentary on design, a European design expert admitted through gritted teeth that no company is as dedicated to design as Apple. The fact that Apple's lead designer, Jonathan Ives, is British is not lost upon them. But few European companies would be willing to give Jonathan Ives the latitude that he has.

Most analyst and users are giving Apple a pass on this issue. They and Apple have pointed out other ways that Apple has been green. And they have done so through their design. Some Macbooks are the size of the hole cut out from the casing of iMacs and Apple displays. This is because the material cut out to make the hole is used to make the Macbook. This and other ways in the past have made Apple a darling of the hip and green set. But it is hard to see that their attitude towards Apple as a way of wanting to keep justifying using their products. Did Apple expect this from their users, especially their fanboys? Of course. What the users don't realize is that their attitude is feeding Apple's arrogance towards every body else. While users feel Apple could be relied on to act responsibly in the past (take the Foxconn incidents, for example), what would the users do when Apples decides to do otherwise? Has Apple done so with this move?

Analysts see this announcement as pre-cursor to Apple announcing their own green standard. This cannot but smack of hypocrisy since the standard will be designed to give leeway for Apple's design considerations. Today is the non-replaceable, glued-in battery. Will this standard be changed once it no longer fits with their design consideration? Who knows what it will be tomorrow. Apple should not consider doing this alone but work with others, like Intel, to update the existing EPEAT rules. To add insult to injury, Samsung have made products that are similarly thin but still have replaceable batteries.

At stake from their EPEAT exit are government and corporate sales. As Apple product are starting to make in-roads again into the workplace, the real question is whether Apple wants to be part of the IT Enterprise. Personally, I don't think so. Their current product cycle and release strategy is consumer-focused. Their products are designed to be obsolete after 3 years. That window is getting even smaller.  Apple is not above cutting off products that they do not want to support anymore. They do so with the knowledge that their users will just buy another of their products. Moreover, Apple does not want large corporate customers because they don't want to be beholden to the corporate sector in their freedom to release products and updates. In other words, the user is easier to ignore than large corporations. Die hard apple fan-atics will shell cash for the latest and greatest more willingly than the enterprise.
Update: Apple rejoins EPEAT. Public outcry does work.

I can't help but think of my old Palm LifeDrive which was banned in Europe because it didn't meet the lead-free requirements. It a was great device that couldn't be sold anymore. Palm was so weak by then, it couldn't even come out with a replacement device that could meet the requirement. It was a strange coincidence the I found it recently and this story comes up.

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