Humble Apple Pie: Cupertino sweetens pot to get its DTK prototype machines returned after developer backlash

Tosses in extra cash 'to recognize the tremendous effort ... put into creating amazing universal apps'


Hell hath no fury like a code monkey scorned. Don't believe us? Just ask Apple, which has been forced to dramatically improve the incentive offered to convince its Developer Transition Kit (DTK) users to return the prototype machines.

Released last June, the DTK is a Mac Mini-style computer running the same A12Z Bionic processor used in last year's iPad Pro. Unlike the standard Mac fare, this was provided exclusively to developers on a rental basis, with the intent that it would be used to port apps from Intel to Apple Silicon.

For the privilege of helping Apple switch to its own chippery, developers forked out $500 to lease the machine, and were instructed to return it within a year.

Last week Apple started the recall process, though its handling left something to be desired. Asking for returns months before the one-year period had elapsed left some with a sour taste in their mouth. The biggest kick in the teeth, however, was deemed to be the incentives offered: $200 store credit, to be used on a first-generation M1 Mac, with an expiry date in late May.

We heard your feedback regarding the 200 USD appreciation credit mentioned in our last email. Our intention was to recognize the tremendous effort you have put into creating amazing universal apps

As we noted in our coverage, many developers thought that to be fairly paltry, if not an outright slap across the chops. It didn't cover the initial cost of loaning the DTK, and it would barely make a dent in the cost of a new Mac.

Moreover, the credit would expire before the expected launch of the next-generation Apple Silicon machines, with the rumour mill forecasting new 16-inch and 14-inch MacBook Pro models with an expanded port selection and faster processor. Magsafe is also touted to return.

The new incentive offered by Apple is more generous. In exchange for sending the DTK to its new forever home (read: a recycling centre), developers will receive a $500 credit that's good for the rest of the year. And the credit isn't just limited to first-generation M1 Macs, it can be used on any Apple product.

In an email sent to developers, seen by The Reg, Apple acknowledged the furore surrounding its initial offering, saying: "We heard your feedback regarding the 200 USD appreciation credit mentioned in our last email. Our intention was to recognize the tremendous effort you have put into creating amazing universal apps. By partnering with us early, you showed your commitment to our platform and a willingness to be trailblazers."

For every big carrot, however, there's an equally large stick to go with it and Apple noted that the DTK will no longer receive security and feature updates after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2, drastically limiting its long-term usefulness.

This threat, as well as the incentives given and the fact that the DTK remains Apple's property, will likely persuade most developers to return the kit in a timely manner.

Still, some users may decide to try to hang on to the machines in the hope they'll become a sought-after commodity for collectors. From time to time, the original Intel Pentium 4-based Developer Transition Kit will pop up on eBay, where they command a steep price.

Apple's latest offer remains fairly miserable compared to the original sweeteners dangled before those with the original Intel-based DTK in 2005, which saw Apple offer a 17-inch Core Duo iMac in exchange.

One must remember, you don't become the most valuable tech company in the world by handing out free computers, do you? ®


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