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Does Apple Mistreat Early Adopters?

This post was first published by Doug Flora on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.

I’m not an Apple die-hard, because I like brand variety in my life. I have a phone running Android, a PC running Windows and an iPad to quench my tablet needs. The iPad is the first Apple computer I’ve had since the Macintosh Performa (complete with CD-ROM and modem!) my family owned in the early to mid-nineties, and I’ve found it to be a great tool and an elegant, highly functional device. I sing its praises plenty.

However, recently my two year old, first generation iPad has had a few performance hiccups (some feel this is due to an iOS 5 compatibility bug – I won’t speculate for now). Thinking an upgrade to iOS 6 might alleviate these problems, I was surprised to discover that the new operating system is not supported by first generation iPads. And I think it’s safe to say that this will be true for all iOS upgrades going forward.

If I had a truly aging device, I would be more understanding of Apple freezing my software upgrades. But the iPad was released to general availability just a little over two years ago. If it’s physically incapable of supporting iOS 6 in full, it seems reasonable that Apple at least offer a “lite” version, to provide functions that can be supported by first generation devices. Yet the tech behemoth likes to phase things out quickly these days, as pointed out by Jonathan Feldman in InformationWeek. Does this indicate that Apple is a tad unfair to early adopters who aren’t ready, and have no real reason, to upgrade?

Ken Hess feels similarly in a recent ZDNet article. Calling into question whether the lack of iO 6 support even has to do with hardware capabilities, Ken contends that Apple is simply getting too big for its britches, with a premature planned obsolescence strategy – and it’s enough to make him consider never buying an Apple product again! I certainly won’t go that far, but this trend does have me looking at alternative tablets going forward.

It has become part of Apple’s sales model to strongly “encourage” hardware upgrades, and it likely isn’t going to affect their revenue anytime soon. But this tendency might give competitors a chance to differentiate themselves, by promising to fully support their devices for X amount of time, or by providing alternative software upgrades to keep older devices up to date with new features and service offerings. After all, when you invest in a car (or even a PC), you don’t expect to have to ditch it for the next best thing after two years. Why should it be any different with pricey tablets and mobile devices?

This is one early adopter who feels a bit left in the dust.

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