Shiny gadget maker Apple has revealed its plans for the future: a transition to completely bespoke, non-user-serviceable devices - the silver aluminium equivalent of 'black box' computing.
The company's headlining device at its recent World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) was the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, a device that combines the innards of a Core i7-powered MacBook Pro laptop with the kind of high-resolution display found on the new iPad. The result: a 15in laptop which easily beats anything else on the market for image quality.
Upgrading the standard MacBook Pro 15in display of 1,440x900 pixels to an impressive 2,880x1,800 pixels, the new MacBook Pro is pretty impressive. Internally, too, things have been upgraded: the device now includes a 2.3GHz Core i7 chip and 8GB of RAM, with the option of a 2.7GHz version with 16GB of RAM for those with the cash. Nvidia gets a chance to play in this release as well, with Apple's long-standing relationship with AMD being ditched in favour of an Nvidia GeForce GT 650M GPU with 1GB of dedicated video memory.
At 18mm thick, the MacBook Pro is slimmer than the last generation's 24mm while half a kilo has been shaved off the weight - although, thanks to its all-metal construction and some tightly-packed components, the device still tips the scales at just over 2KG.
So far, so impressive: but the changes Apple didn't mention at the WWDC event that have people raising their eyebrows: a teardown of the device by the guys over at iFixit
reveals several changes which come to the detriment of the user. Firstly, the battery pack - good for seven hours of use, Apple claims - is glued in place and completely irreplaceable. Secondly, the standard 2.5in SATA hard drive of the last-generation MacBook Pro has been replaced with a proprietary SSD manufactured for Apple by Samsung - similar to that found in the MacBook Air.
The biggest change in the new release is also the most egregious. Spotted by Ian Chilton
, Apple is so serious about vendor lock-in it has taken the move of soldering the memory modules directly to the motherboard - meaning that it's impossible to upgrade the memory on a MacBook Pro with Retina Display after purchase.
It's something Apple has done on its consumer-oriented products in the past: as with most tablets, the iPad features soldered memory modules, and the ultra-slim MacBook Air family uses the same. The point of the MacBook Pro, however, is to appeal to professionals - and by refusing to allow users to upgrade the memory after the point of purchase, Apple is artificially restricting the device's lifespan.
To be fair to Apple, the default configuration of the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display features 8GB of RAM, with 16GB available as an optional extra - but the base model will already set you back £1,799 while a factory upgrade to 16GB costs a whopping £160 on top - significantly more than the £72 a pair of Corsair 8GB modules suitable for the previous-generation MacBook Pro systems costs on the open market.
It's easy to see why Apple is taking this route: charging £160 for something which costs £72 retail means a whole wodge of pure profit. The company has got away with the same tactics in the consumer space, but - once fans have finished being distracted by the admittedly impressive display - we can't help but wonder if doing the same in the purportedly professional space is a step too far for the fruit-themed company.