Wednesday, 01 December 2010 09:25

PhotoFast MacBook Air SSD pulled at Apple's behest


PhotoFast's fast SSD kit for the new MacBook Air has proved short lived. The device has been taken off the market, apparently due to pressure from Apple.

Within days of the new MacBook Air's debut, PhotoFast announced a replacement SSD kit (GM2 SFV1 Air) that provided 256GB of storage with 30% better performance. The kit also included a compact USB case to simplify cloning the factory-installed drive and then using the removed SSD as an external storage device.

According to reports apparently originating at 9to5Mac, PhotoFast has complied with a request from Apple to stop production of the device.

9to5Mac suggested that PhotoFast went along with Apple's request because it did not want to harm its iPad/iPhone accessories business. The company is a participant in Apple's MFi licensing program which (among other things) provides access to the proprietary connector and other components needed to make accessories for the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

But what does Apple stand to gain? It does not offer a 256GB storage option for the 11in MacBook Air, only on the 13in model. Surely the main attraction of the 11in model is its compact dimensions, so potential buyers are unlikely to select a 13in configuration just for the extra storage.

From that perspective, arbitrarily blocking the PhotoFast kit hurts Apple.

What's the alternative? See page 2.

A more plausible explanation is that PhotoFast failed to obtain a licence to use the apparently proprietary connector adopted by Apple and its SSD supplier Toshiba. Given Apple's history with the iPod dock connector and the MagSafe power connector used in the MacBook range, legal rather than merely implied commercial pressure on PhotoFast is believable.

If that is the case, it could just be a matter of negotiating an acceptable royalty (as with the dock connector). Alternatively, Apple's plan could be to deny access to the connector to everyone apart from its own suppliers (as with MagSafe).

People do expect to be able to upgrade the storage in laptop computers, so the latter course could harm sales of the MacBook Air, however much Apple - and, by many accounts, especially Steve Jobs - seems to favour a 'sealed box' design for its products.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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