Apple, Windows and the art of greenwashing

Apple put special time aside this week at the launch of the iPhone SE to talk up its green credentials — and then proceeded to rubbish the greenest thing you can do with IT.
As a function of the job I do, I was up early and bright on Tuesday morning for Apple’s latest launch of iOS devices, specifically the iPhone SE and iPad Pro 9.7 inch. We talk about those at some length in the latest Vertical Hold, which you can listen to below:

I also wrote them up over at; here’s my wrap of the iPhone SE, and the same for the iPad Pro 9.7 inch.
But Apple didn’t just talk up new iOS devices at the launch. It spent considerable time patting itself on the back about its healthcare and especially its environmentally sound initiatives, including a robot that can disassemble an iPhone and the use of solar power for its Chinese factories.
This is all well and, indeed, very good stuff. Big clap, Apple… except then you kind of went and spoiled it, at least from my perspective.
Apple’s Phil Schiller took to the stage to announce the 9.7 inch iPad Pro, and, as you’d expect, hype it heavily. That’s fine, and that’s what I’d expect from such a launch. However, he also took a rather measured potshot at Windows users in the course of hyping up the iPad Pro 9.7 inch.
(I should probably point out that the majority of my work is done on a Macbook. I like the OS, but I like Windows too. I don’t intend this to be a fanboy kind of thing)
He stated that “There are over 600 million PCs in use today that are over 5 years old. This is really sad. These people could really benefit from an iPad Pro.”
It starts around 45:50 in the following video, just in case the embed doesn’t take:

Sure, he pitched the iPad Pro; that’s what he’s there on stage to do.
Here’s the problem with that. On the one hand, it’s entirely admirable that you’re involved in green energy initiatives and recycling products that have met their genuine end of life cycle. That beats the heck out of sending them to landfill.
But if Apple’s figures are correct, and I’ve no particular reason to think they’ve made them up, then that’s some 500 million PCs that are still in some form of working order.
Would a consumer or business benefit from a faster machine? Perhaps — it depends on what they use that device for.
But if it’s functional, then the absolute greenest thing to do would be to put it to use. Yes, a newer system might be more power efficient, and that could offset some of the power and resource use of building a new device (iPad or not), but compared to using a PC (or a Mac, or an iPad) to the actual end of its life, it’s a drop in the bucket. Even if you do recycle that PC, there’s always going to be waste products, not to mention the power used to run your recycling centres, ship parts to new factories, and so on, and so forth.
Whereas if you kept on using that PC (or that old Mac, or whatever) then you’re already using something into which a sunk resources cost has been paid. Please, please do recycle it responsibly once it no longer works at all, but junking a working thing just because the newer one is shinier isn’t wise in an environmental sense.
Lest I be accused of picking up an argument that’s just sophistry, as noted, I’ve got a lot of Apple gear. The thing is, I’ve still got it, including several generations of iPad, some of which are well past the iOS upgrade cycle, including a first generation iPad. Old? Yes. Slow? Yes, compared to a newer model? Still working? Absolutely yes.
The older tech still get used for various functions, because it still works, and I wouldn’t say it was the most environmentally conscious thing to do to replace them with the newer and faster model “just because it’s sad”.
Sad is wasting the earth’s resources, what with us only having the one planet and all.
Image: Apple

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