Phil Schiller: Apple Isn’t Afraid to Ditch Legacy Tech

| The Back Page

Mechanical ComputerMechanical Computer

If you want to find the secret of Apple's success boiled down to its simplest form, look no further than an interview with Apple Senior Vice President of Marketing Phil Schiller. In comments given to Time, Mr. Schiller said that old technologies are anchors holding the world, or at least his company, back, and that his company isn't afraid to ditch them.

Mr. Schiller was asked about the new Mac hardware introduced during Tuesday's iPad mini media event, including the lack of optical drives in the company's new iMac line.

"These old technologies are holding us back," he told Harry McCracken. "They're anchors on where we want to go. We find the things that have outlived their useful purpose. Our competitors are afraid to remove them. We try to find better solutions — our customers have given us a lot of trust."

Big Redmond

Contrast this with Microsoft, a company desperately afraid of leaving Windows—the source of the company's vast wealth and success—behind. Microsoft's Windows 8 strategy has been to anchor media tablets down by marrying them to the desktop metaphor where Windows matters.

Microsoft hopes that it can have its Windows cake and eat into Apple's iPad empire, too, but that strategy has seen Windows-based touch tablets stagnate. The company released Surface—its own version of the toaster-fridge concept—on Friday, and I will be very surprised if it any way changes anything.

Microsoft and its PC OEMs are far too terrified to simply shuck aside legacy technologies, whereas Apple will ditch something it no longer wants without a second thought. For instance, you can still find VGA ports on Dell computers...why?

Note to Dell: Your website still sucks, and it doesn't even consistently suck. Different UI elements on different device pages? Different layouts? Please, it's 2012.

So Long, Sucker

Dirty, Dirty Floppy DriveApple has gone through, what, six display technologies since VGA mattered? DVI, Mini-DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, and now Lightning? That's six, and with each move, Apple dumped the predecessor with little or no concern for those with legacy hardware.

Floppy drives? ADC? FireWire? FireWire 800? Gone the way of the dodo. Now we have optical drives, and sooner, rather than later, hard drives will be few and far between on any Mac. On the iOS side, Apple just recently gave its own 30-pin Dock connector the boot.

Offering some insight on the company's thinking, Mr. Schiller said, "In general, it's a good idea to remove these rotating medias from our computers and other devices. They have inherent issues — they're mechanical and sometimes break, they use power and are large. We can create products that are smaller, lighter and consume less power."

The company has been very successful doing this, too. Apple has outgrown the PC market since George W. Bush was president, and the company is selling record numbers of its Mac computers, even while its iOS empire has grown larger still.

Simple, streamlined, integrated, smaller, lower power...this combination has been part and parcel to Apple's stellar growth during the last ten-plus years.

Hard DriveAdmittedly, Apple has often gotten pushback for its decisions to drop legacy products. As someone who prefers to buy music on CD and rip it in a lossless format (Apple Lossless currently), and who prefers Blu-ray movies for the quality and the extras, I personally lament the loss of optical drives and wish I could watch my Blu-ray movies on my Mac.

Apple doesn't care, however, and that's for the best. Also, and this is important, those of us who get anxious when our beloved legacy thing gets axed eventually get over it. There was much gnashing of teeth and wailing when the original iMac was introduced without ADC or a Floppy, and that was from Mac fans. Do you remember how the PC world laughed and pointed?

Who's laughing now? (Hint, it's Apple on the way to the bank to drop of sacks full of cash.)

Even Blu-ray, a technology that many Mac users clamored for (see above), gets nary a peep from customers these days, according to Mr. Schiller.


The Apple marketing guru also spoke to the rush-to-the-bottom approach of all of its competitors, saying, "Our approach at Apple has always been to make products we're proud to own and use ourselves. We wouldn't make something cheap or low quality."

This also is part and parcel to Apple's success. When the economy fell off a cliff in 2008, Apple's stock tanked like the rest of the markets, but the astounding thing was that Apple's results accelerated, rather than declining.

"When the economy is difficult," he said, "people care a great deal about the things they spend their money on. Customers have come to understand that Apple's products aren't priced high — they're priced on the value of what we build into them."

To that end, he pointed to netbooks, once the (bleak) future of the PC market. Today, no one talks about netbooks, and that's entirely because Apple didn't jump on the bandwagaon.

"People said they were the future," Mr. Schiller said. "We rejected them because we thought they were poor. Even if the market was going there, we weren't going to chase everybody downhill."

He added, "This is what Apple has always been about, and the Mac has been about, from the first Mac and first iMac. It's always been about making the best Mac we know how. Among the many benefits are making it easy to use and affordable, with great features. This high level of integration is part of delivering on that."

Of Wishes & Horses

If Apple's competitors were smart, they would break into Harry McCracken's office, steal his computer, find the full interview, listen to it over and over again, take copious notes, develop an action plan based on those notes, and then do the things on that action plan.

If they were concerned about such subtleties as "the law," they would at least read the Time story over and over again and spend some time thinking about how their businesses differ from the ideals and thoughts laid out by Mr. Schiller.

The truth is, however, that few of Apple's competitors are capable of running their businesses anything close to Apple's model. They don't control their ecosystem, they don't control their own hardware and software, they're tied into legacy technologies and ideas, they're afraid to charge a price that will actually sustain innovation, and they have little or no vision.

That's why Mr. Schiller and other Apple execs can be so open about these things, and why Mr. McCracken's computer is safe.

Images courtesy, courtesy, and courtesy of Shutterstock

Popular TMO Stories



Here’s the thing…

Upgradeable RAM and storage isn’t “legacy” tech.

I really don’t get Apple’s obsession with anorexic computers that are completely non-user upgradable or user-serviceable. This is especially true with the latest “upgrade” to the iMac..  Not one of my customers wanted a thinner iMac. My customers have wanted an iMac with a desktop class graphics card, and easier user-upgradeability/serviceability. I have customers sitting on PowerMac G5s, 2010 Mac Pros, iMac G5s, early Intel iMacs, and non-unibody MacBook Pros, because they don’t like a single thing Apple’s currently making in their price range.

I’ve been a Mac user since 1987, and a Mac owner since 1993. (Apple shareholder since 1997) I’m not a hater, or an Android fanboi.. But, as someone that’s been watching the tech and consumer electronics industries since the 80s, I have to say, it scares me (as a shareholder especially) to see Apple looking more and more like Sony, right before they started to fall off the cliff. Sooner or later, they’ll piss off all the “loyalists” and then all it will take is one or two flops that aren’t the Beanie Babies of the quarter, before Apple is “beleaguered” again.

Samir Shah

It is about time somebody took a bold stand and removed all mechanical media.


By praising how progressive apple is with removing legacy ports, maybe the users will forget about the new $30 iPhone adapter.  Your apple distortion field has no effect on me, sorry.


This is a megamistake Apple. Drives of all kinds perform vastly more efficiently when they are split into multiple partitions because the catalog and extents files have far fewer entries. You also don’t want to be opening apps or files from the same volume as the OS. And when I need to reinstall the OS having all my files and apps on seperate volumes means it’s a breeze. And did Mr. Schiller bother to ask all the Pro video and audio customers out there if they want all their huge media files all stored on one volume with apps and OS? Obviously not. Apple has also traditionally been about listening to customers. Ask any pro A/V person how much 30TB of SSD costs and you’ll quickly see hard drives are indispensible. No pro A/V person is going to buy a 3TB Mac they can only partition into 2 volumes. No one. Apple is going to see a huge drop in iMac sales among one of its key markets - pro A/V. Trust me, this is a mistake. Maybe if we had 25GB SSDs for $50 bucks this strategy might work. The other reason this is happening is due to pressure from the record companies. CDs are an unprotected format. They dont want people ripping CDs, period. So take out the optical drive and now you are forced to buy through iTunes. This is the same reason Schiller won’t put a Blu-Ray drive in it. Just wait til there is a catostrophic internet failure and both iTunes and iCloud go down. You’ll wish you had that optical drive back.


Both the author and Phil Schiller fail to realize one very important fact: there are hundreds of millions of PCs in the world, most being used for more important activities than watching videos, listening to music, or viewing websites, which makes it far more difficult for companies to remove legacy components that might still be in use or necessary for some users. Case in point: Apple dumped the PowerPC architecture and switched to Intel. It didn’t affect many people because there just weren’t that many Macs. In the future, when Apple replaces Intel with ARM in the Mac line-up, again, it won’t affect that many people. Now, imagine MS, HP, Dell, etc. trying a similar stunt. It would be a disaster. And this isn’t just true with CPUs, but all legacy components. The author wonders why Dell still includes a VGA port on their laptops. It’s because most projectors still have VGA connectivity and VGA cables can be found practically anywhere for much cheaper than HDMI cables. It isn’t rocket science to figure this out, and I’m not sure why either the author or Schiller has a difficult time figuring it out. In short: if Macs were more popular, Apple, too, would have a more difficult time ridding its devices of legacy hardware.

Also, the author’s interpretation of Schiller’s comment about the rush-to-the-bottom of the market among PC manufacturers is a product of competition. Apple has one competitor: the PC. But HP has hundreds of competitors: every single PC manufacturer. Completely different circumstances that results in completely different actions that a company can take to compete.

Phil Schiller a “guru.” Riiight. Thanks for the laugh.


Both Apple and MS are in a death spiral race to the bottom.  Creating closed systems on devices that cannot be upgraded might look swell to the marketing idiots, but ultimately all it will do is drive people to look for alternatives.  Enter Linux and Android, stage right.


Apple has it right and those in disagreement will be dragged along kicking and screaming. I have used Macs since the Plus. Here are just a few legacy things Apple has dumped from the start:

The command line interface was replaced by the mouse and GUI. My DOS using friends with PHDs in computer science laughed my “toy” mouse driven Plus to scorn. Still using the mouse some and so are they. wink

SCSI has been replaced by a succession of connectivity protocols. Nearly every change has brought cries of protest. Anyone miss the wonders of SCSI?

AppleTalk has given way to Ethernet without all the voodoo of trying to get compatible with adapters between them. No. I don’t miss this fun.

There are many others with the death of Apple being forecast as imminent over the heresy of no floppy drives in the iMac being the all time end of the world of Mac. Does anyone really think that CD/DVD/Blu-Ray are the be all end all media delivery methods?


I’ve been using Macs since the first version was released in 1984, and have always been, up until lately, and advocate.  I do, however, disagree that this is the right thing to do.  No kicking or screaming required: I’ll simply pursue an open system with upgradable hardware.


The VAST majority of people NEVER upgrade their computers other than to put a little bit more RAM into them. If you’re not one of those consumers, then the iMac isn’t for you. Neither is the iPhone (which is slowly being killed by it’s non-removable battery…I mean, nobody buys iPhones, right?).

Apple makes a system for you. But you don’t want that one. Somehow. So get a linux box.

Gareth Harris

This reminds me of the Henry Ford quote:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”


This is nothing new.  The original iMac was essentially impossible to upgrade.  Engineered obsolesence has been Apple’s watch word for close to twenty years, and it’s only gotten worse since the bluk of their profit comes from disposable electronics (iPod, iPhone, iPad).  It won’t get better.


What is “ADC”?


Really Bryan, ‘tis time to start the death knell count again. If only the facts wouldn’t keep getting in the way of the naysayers’ dreams and opinions. Computer sales dropped 8.5% past quarter, year?; if Apple computers are not added into the story, PCs fell 12%. Apple now commands 12% of computer sales in the US. Compare that to around 2% when Steve returned to Apple. Most boys and girls are now more interested in their mobile devices and clever apps than tinkering with speed and plugs and screwdrivers. The world is changed and Apple is the designer, chef and seller of all things good in these realms. Get used to it guys. There’s a lot more comin’ from where them Apples are grown.
Hey skipaq, SCUSI - what does skin disease have to do with computers. And what is Drop Off Service used for? And I talk to my Apple every day—nothing wrong with that. Floppy, I would keep personal worries to myself. This is a family site. And jfbiii, we let our pet lynx roam free up north. It’s cruel to keep them in boxes? S., A Dell Computer? Not Mac.


To the guy who said “Upgradeable RAM and storage isn’t “legacy” tech.”:

There are two kinds of computer purchasers. Those who just buy a computer and use it, possibly asking for advice to get exactly what is best for them. And those who know what they are doing, and can and do replace bits and pieces in their computer.

The first group is the _huge_ majority. It’s the purchase model that is used everywhere else. When you buy a car, you choose what equipment and what extras you want, you look at what they cost, you decide which ones are worth the money, and then you buy the car and live with it. Most people don’t expect a computer to be any different.

What sounds very strange is your claim that people stick with early Intel Macs because they don’t like new Macs not being upgradable. Frankly if you keep using a 2006 or 2008 Mac, you don’t have any need for what upgrading a new Mac could give you. I think the problem is not the lack of upgradeability. The problem is that you can’t save money by buying a Mac with the lowest possible amount of RAM and storage and adding RAM and storage yourself, buying it cheaper elsewhere.


You’re a keeper, gnasher. smile
Sometimes truth is as obvious as the nose on one’s face. You have closed this case. Now we can get on with some serious talk. What’s up with this hockey lockout?



Oh please: Anyone who wants to expand an iMac’s storage or use an optical drive can just add an external drive. I have a 2008 24” iMac. I blew the internal hard drive over a year ago. I’m managing just fine with an external LaCie FireWire 800 drive as my boot disk and storage, with a daisy-chained LaCie as a Time Machine backup. I’m hell on mechanical hard drives because of what I do—think lots of Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut, and Cinema 4D—yet I manage just fine on a four-year old “consumer” iMac. Bonus: The thing is whisper-quiet, unlike my previous 747-at-takeoff-thrust G4 tower.

More power to Apple doing what they are doing. I don’t miss floppy disks, SyQuest disks, ZIP disks (wow did THAT come and go fast), and I rarely need optical disks, even though I regularly create files in excess of one GB. Zip it, upload it to an FTP server, send someone a download link…welcome to 2012, doubters. Optical media is painfully slow, and physical disks, though I have my external LaCies, are prone to mechanical malfunction. I long for the day that I only use SSDs. It can’t happen soon enough as far as I’m concerned, and only mass-market adoption, led by companies like Apple, will make pricing affordable.


Nice article, Bryan.

Since SJ’s return to Apple in 1997, and the subsequent release of that first iMac, Apple have consistently led the industry in ditching legacy tech, not for some geek-driven, antisocial quest for the iconoclastic badge of dishonour; nor due to congenitally hard wired premature tech-ejection, or even a perennially poor business sense, but rather to a penchant for breakthrough design - designs that intern influence how we interact with our devices. That first little bondi blue iMac’s success begat the first of many subsequent imitative moves by industry.

The anointed technorati, those cognoscenti of computerdom and high priests of hardware, scoffed at the little iMac’s missing floppy drive, they bemoaned the blasphemy of the iPhone’s missing but obligatory tactile keyboard, and they wailed and lamented the iPad’s abstinence of USB connectivity. At each heretical turn, the cyber clergy predicted fire and damnation conveyed by digital deity displeasure, and that the almighty market would smite Apple, and pestilence followed by flood would overrun Cupertino. Woe unto Apple!

But those floodwaters were turned into wine (champaign, actually) and that pestilence into chariots of gold as there was seen to be life after death of legacy tech, and it was happy and integrated, innovative and connected, and increased were the numbers of those who came to believe and follow these strange ways, and there was more gold. Ash fell upon the clerics, and dust filled their mouths (and it was full of pestilence), and house after competing house, one by one, spurned that legacy tech.

The lesson from this wondrous tale is simple. When design serves enhanced user experience, and old tech is sacrificed for new, and that new tech forms part of an integrated ecosystem, the pleasure of using that device is enhanced, productivity is served, and the people will purchase in abundance. And the competition will follow swiftly.


“This is what Apple has always been about, and the Mac has been about, from the first Mac and first iMac. It’s always been about making the best Mac we know how”

I have a one-word response to this: LISA. I got to see and interact with a Lisa when it first premiered. I was blown away. Sadly, it was both way outside most people’s budgets and quite probably ahead of its time. Some time (years?) later when I saw Apple introduce their amazing, new, innovative machine the Macintosh, I was stunned and saddened to see a tiny, lobotomized Lisa. I understand that from a marketing perspective, it was a necessary move. Lisa was just too expensive at $10K, and even the much cheaper early Macs struggled for many years. And eventually, the Mac met and surpassed Lisa’s specs and capabilities. But it definitely was a huge backward step, and I find it extremely disingenuous that Apple constantly sweeps this important and relevant (albeit failed) part of their history under the rug. Failing once in a while doesn’t make you suspect. But denying your failures, claiming you’ve had nothing but success certainly does.



Some people here don’t know the new mac line ups. You can still purchase an external hard cd/dvd drive to watch your movies and CDs for 129 dollars, intended for users to convert their old CDs to mp3. There is a port for media that reads Sandisk drives popular with photo and video media for easy file transfer from your cameras. You can also use the massive sandisk drives as cheaper storage than any external hard drive. Plus there is The cloud storage available. Technology changes faster now. It’s people’s responsibility to ask a Mac salesperson or study the specs and understand the changes, but don’t count on a floppy drive. When it comes to DVD’s, I watch them on my MacPro with Retina display. Buy CD’s at Ebay and rip to .mp3. But getting a movie off of a Mac bought legally is impossible, thanks to the greed of the movie industry. Don’t blame Apple or Amazon for movie issues, that is Studio Copy Protected Profits. It is a miracle Jobs got the music industry to agree to allow sales. They were facing death anyway and thank him for the rescue.  Still most younger generation prefer older music. Can’t expect Jobs to inflict talent in an industry that lost it’s creative direction.


Of the hundreds of millions of potential Mac buyers out there, I would guess at least 95% of them, maybe even 99%, don’t give a flying faloolly about upgradeability.  They just don’t.  They don’t have the time, they don’t have the energy, or they don’t have the expertise.  When their laptops start getting bogged down, most people just buy a new one.  It’s easier, you get a brand spanking shiny new machine, and the Apple Store staff will even take care of the migration for you.

There is this persistent mindset held by some folks that the people running Apple are dumb.  The most successful company today, run by dumb people.  Well, bless his heart, whoever thinks this.

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account