Apple Notifies Developers to Return their Developer Transition Kits

It is not often that Apple makes the move from one type of architecture to another. For the Mac it has happened a total of three times. Motorola to Power PC in the early 90s, Power PC to Intel, in 2005, and now Intel to Apple Silicon; the last transition began last year with the release of the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro with the M1 chip. In order to be able to make sure that the hardware and software was ready for users, Apple unveiled a program called the Universal App Quick Start Program. This program was announced on June 25th, 2020 at Apple’s World Wide Developer conference.

If a developer applied for, and was subsequently approved, they would be able to receive a Developer Transition Kit, or DTK, machine. The 2020 Developer Transition Kit has the form-factor of a Mac mini and has the follow specifications:

  • An 8 -core A12Z (the same processor as the 4th Generation iPad Pro)
  • 512GB SSD
  • 16GB of RAM
  • Two USB-A ports
  • Two USB-C ports
  • One HDMI port
  • One Gigabit Ethernet port
  • 802.11AC wireless networking
  • Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity

If you were an Apple Developer and you wanted to obtain one of these machines, you had to apply. If you were approved, you would be able to order one for $500. The program came with some stipulations. Some of these include:

  • The DTK is Apple’s property
  • The DTK would need to be returned to Apple.

The program was to last up to one year and Apple would let you know when you needed to return the machine. Apple has begun doing so. Many developers began receiving an email that states the following:

Thank you for participating in the Universal App Quick Start Program and your continued commitment to building great apps for Mac. Response to the new Macs has been incredible, and we love the fantastic experiences developers like you have already created for Mac users.

Now that the new MacBook Air, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro powered by M1 are available, it’ll soon be time to return the Developer Transition Kit (DTK) that was sent to you as part of the program. Please locate the original packaging for use in returning the DTK. We’ll email you in a few weeks with instructions for returning the DTK.

In appreciation of your participation in the program and to help with your continued development of Universal apps, you’ll receive a one-time use code for 200 USD* to use toward the purchase of a Mac with M1, upon confirmed return of the DTK. Until your program membership expires one year after your membership start date, you’ll have continued access to other program benefits, such as Technical Support Incidents and private discussion forums.

This $200 code has some stipulations. The first is that it can only be used towards an M1-based Mac. The second is that the code is only valid until May 31st, 2021.

With the previous transition from PowerPC to Intel, Apple also provided Developer Transition Kits to developers. At that time, when developers returned their machines, they received an iMac. I would not expect Apple to do the same thing this time, for a couple of reasons. The chief amongst these is that Apple is in a different situation this time. They have significantly more developers than before and likely have more 2020 Developer Transition Kits out in the world than in 2005. Secondly, Apple is not going to provide even a base model Mac mini for that price.

At no point did Apple indicate that there would be any sort of compensation for partaking in the program. However, precent did show that they had done it before. As we are all aware, that does not mean that what happened in the past will happen again.

Even with that though, there are a couple of issues as I see them. First, Apple made over $114 billion in revenue last quarter, and over $28 billion in profit. The $200 seems like a jab in the eye of developers, given how much profit that they made just last quarter. This is particularly true given that those who purchased the rental of the DTK helped Apple test and validate that the software and development tools were ready for production.

Second, many developers already purchased M1-based Macs. Having a one-time use code for $200 off of an M1-based Mac is not going to help them with their previous purchases. This means that either developers will end up purchasing another M1-mac, which starts at $700 for the base model Mac mini, or they will let the code expire. Neither of these provides any good will towards developers.

I think it would be great if Apple offered either $200 towards the purchase of an M1-based Mac or an extension to the Apple Developer program. I think this would make the most sense, because developers who already purchased an M1-based Mac would be able get some benefit without having to purchase another machine that they do not necessarily need. For individual developers that extension might be two years, and for enterprise developers it might just be for a year. Even though I like this idea, I do not see it happening. My reasoning for it not happening is the fact that the $200 towards the purchase of a new M1-based Mac only reduces the profits of Apple, but the cost of the machine is still covered. If Apple opted to give an extension, then that is services revenue that they would end up forgoing entirely, instead of just having a bit less profit overall.

An alternative to providing an extension would be to extend the length of time that the code can be used. Maybe make it expire at the end of the year instead of the end of May. I am sure that some developers might still not end up using their code, but it would provide a bit more time for some developers to be able to purchase a machine. What would be a real kick in the pants would be that if the higher-end MacBook Pros are not released until June or July, because then it would really look bad for Apple to not have the true developer machines be purchased by developers. Overall, given how profit-motivated Apple is, as well as how they put developers at the bottom of the list, I do not see them changing anything at all.

There are some developers that are perfectly fine with the $200, because they were not expecting anything. Honestly, that is the best approach to anything when it comes to Apple. Expect nothing, because then when you do get something, it is a big surprise. Ultimately, no matter what Apple does, it will just irk developers and may not generate all that much good will with them. It might have just been better for Apple to not offer anything, but they would get pushback for that approach as well. No matter what Apple decided to do, it would be a catch-22, but that is the burden you take on when you are the richest company in the world.