Thursday, February 4, 2021

Apple Wants Developer Transition Kits Back

Filipe Espósito (Hacker News, MacRumors, tweet):

In an email sent to developers today, Apple says that soon developers will have to return the Developer Transition Kit (DTK) as it was only designed to test the apps on the Apple Silicon platform.


As developers had to pay $500 to get the custom Mac mini with A12Z Bionic chip, Apple will offer a $200 credit for each DTK returned. This credit can be used as a discount to buy a new M1 MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or Mac mini.

On the one hand, the DTK served its purpose, and I was able to get all my apps working with the M1 Macs by the day they were released. I think it was worth $500 to me in marketing/reputation, as well as personal piece of mind. (Of course, this also benefited Apple’s platform and hardware sales to some extent.) On the other hand, Apple’s e-mail is a bit disappointing for several reasons.

First, although the contract didn’t say that there would be any credit, a lot of people were expecting to get the $500 back, or more, based on the precedent Apple had set.


During the Intel transition, Apple offered Mac Pro (cheese grater design) for $999. In exchange for returning Intel Developer Transition Kit, Apple offered 17-inch iMac, which I think retailed at $1699.

Or was it $1,299? In any case, developers were able to keep the Intel DTKs until the end of 2006, i.e. about 18 months, by which point the iMac, 15-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro had all been released.

This time around, the agreement said that we could keep the DTKs for 13 months (12-month term plus 30 days), but then it also said that Apple could ask for them back whenever it wanted:

You agree to promptly return the Developer Transition Kit to the Apple address designated by Apple no later than thirty (30) days after the end of the Term, or as otherwise earlier requested by Apple (including via email or announcement by Apple on At the end of the Term, You agree to immediately cease all use of the Developer Transition Kit and the Universal App Quick Start Program. Failure to return the Developer Transition Kit may result in the suspension of Your Developer account or termination of Your Developer Agreement.

A few weeks more for Apple to e-mail us, plus 30 days, would be mid-March. Apple started taking applications for the program last June, and some developers didn’t receive their DTKs until July or August. So that’s much less than a year of actual use.

The main issues for me are:

I had been hoping to keep my DTK for the full year, until I could replace it with the actual M1 Mac that I plan to use. But it looks as though I’ll need to buy a temporary M1 Mac just to maintain the ability to test Apple Silicon apps. Others have already bought an M1 Mac and won’t be able to use the credit unless they buy another.


Update (2021-02-05): Tom Harrington:

Apple dev support confirmed to me that the DTK return credit is not transferable, so if you can’t use it, you can’t give it to someone who could.

Update (2021-02-08): Juli Clover (tweet, John Gruber):

Apple has now reversed course and upped the credit, and will now be providing developers with $500 to put toward an M1 Mac or any other Apple product. The time limit to spend the credit has also been increased, with Apple giving developers until the end of the year to use it.

Great news. I’m surprised that Apple responded, and so quickly. It also remains surprising that Apple didn’t announce this back in November when the first M1 Macs shipped, like it did when announcing the first Intel Macs. That would have worked out better for the developers who purchased M1 Macs right away. The three-month delay makes it seem like Apple hadn’t thought about what it wanted to do, then abruptly decided that it wanted the DTKs back, stat.


Note that the DTK will no longer receive publicly available software updates after macOS Big Sur 11.2. We encourage you to return it as soon as possible so that your development work is not interrupted. And once you return the DTK, you’ll receive your Apple credit.

Mr. Macintosh:

Just because you can update the DTK to 11.3 Beta, doesn’t mean you should🤣

Upgrading to 11.3 will disable both USB-A ports with firmware update 6723.100.321😳

This pretty much eliminates the incentive to hold onto the DTK as long as possible for testing purposes. I guess I’ll send mine back and cross my fingers that nothing breaks before Apple announces new Macs. In a pinch, MacStadium has monthly rentals. AWS is still limited to Intel-based Macs.

Update (2021-02-19): John Gruber:

I think it’s exactly what Apple’s second email states: someone at Apple thought $200 credit was a generous offer, the offer went out, Apple realized they made a mistake based on developer reaction, and they issued a new offer — 2.5× more costly in dollars, but clearly worth it to Apple in goodwill — within one day. My quibble isn’t that Apple made a mistake with the amount of the “appreciation credit”, but with why it took them so long to make the initial offer. Why not have it ready in December — especially given that the DTKs really are sort of crummy machines, and the M1 Macs are vastly superior in both performance and reliability? Apple should have done whatever it could to get developers to move from DTKs to production M1 Macs as soon as possible.

Make few mistakes, but recognize the mistakes you do make quickly, admit to them, and fix them. That’s the recipe.

Update (2021-03-09): Phil Dennis-Jordan:

Falsehoods the people at Apple running the Universal App Quick Start/DTK Programme believe[…]

26 Comments RSS · Twitter

The Apple-developer relationship isn’t what it used to be. I’ve found myself more and more diversifying my development skills into other platforms.

Absurd pricing, bad design, bad QA and moves like this are making it harder to keep myself behind this company.

@Allen C:

Yup. Apple now views developers not as valued partners, but as just another customer base which can provide them with service revenue. It has taught users to hate devs, for "violating their privacy" or selling games that addict users into buying in-game content. Yet it creates that situation by forcing apps to be sold in a marketplace that pushes for unsustainably free apps.

I was surprised to discover that JS runs well enough to make a pretty good pinball game (advertising the French State's "Ouigo" trains) that works well on an iPhone. You can find it here: My dislike for Apple has reached the point that I have started investigating whether "web technologies" might be a good enough replacement for native apps.

I've long thought collectively we developers are own worst enemies. The unedifying carry on from certain quarters of the developer community since this news dropped has done nothing to make me change that opinion.

There is plenty to criticise Apple for when it comes to developer relations but a surprising 40% credit off the price of the DTK isn't it. To the public it make us look petty and entitled, at a time when Apple is already making developers out to be the bad guys with all this talk about malware, credit card fraud and data abuse to protect their App Store monopoly profits.

There are some argument whether you could keep it until your original 12 months period. But I am not sure how they are getting that idea.

I think the $200 rebate is reasonable - there must be an order of magnitude more DTK developers now than during the Intel transition.

However, the timing is off. I'm in the same boat as Michael - I don't really want to buy one of the current M1 offerings, but at the same time we need an M1 for testing and development... What's the rush Apple?

Thanks Michael,you summaries exactly what I was thinking.

The small adjustments that Apple could do:

1°/They could wait for the new mac to be release to use the credit...
2°/They could give you the $200 upfront to purchase a device and not wait the return so you don't spend time without a test device...

The quality of the DTK is not really good so changing it is not bad ... the timing and the constraints are bad

This is why companies are reluctant to be nice. If they do something slightly less nice in the future, everyone's going to go on Twitter and rip them a new one because they didn't live up to what they did that one time 15 years ago.

Apple was always clear that this was a $500 rental for being able to ship ARM binaries on day one. That's it. That's worth it for some developers, and not for others. It was also clear that Rosetta 2 would be perfectly functional for 99% of apps. It's not 2006 any more.

Look, if you really hate the current options, buy a Mini now and sell it on eBay or Craigslist for list price, and pocket the difference. They're essentially giving you free money. Deal with it.

It's always crazy to see people get outraged at a company for doing exactly what they said they would do. They're giving a credit that was never in the contract, and more choice of an upgrade machine than last transition. But: it's 'only' $200, and you've got to use it within 3 months? Tim Cook is evil and/or an idiot and/or destroying the company! STEVE JOBS WOULD NEVER HAVE!

"I never thought leopards would eat MY face," sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People's Faces Party.

It’s odd that Apple is asking for the kits back early, and that the coupon has such an aggressive expiration date.

As for the coupon value, I suppose it’s nice they are offering anything, but again, the expiration date seems designed to make it so you won’t use it.

I'm pissed that it turns out I didn't even need to get a DTK because my programs were not affected by the M1 in any way.

So, I purchased it "just in case", and effectively wasted $500 (I won't need a M1 anytime soon) for the vague suggestion that I may need one in order not to not lose revenue on my indie sales when the new machines came out.

Apple could be giving us back at least the same value that we paid for it, and it wouldn't hurt Apple at all. And it would've been a gesture of them supporting us developers who are trying to stay on top of it all, in good faith. But by giving us back less, and only as a voucher that many of us may not even be able to use (like, when they already purchased an M1), is just giving us the finger.


> Apple was always clear that this was a $500 rental for being able to ship ARM binaries on day one.

That's not accurate. Turns out we did not need a DTK to build ARM binaries at all! Whoever thought like you actually rented the DTK needlessly.

So, by your own words, you believe you needed it in order to build M1 binaries, and so you paid $500 only to then learn that you didn't need it. And you're not upset about that misinformation by Apple?

Dave Peterson

Apple SHOULD send us a $200 discounted M1 Mac mini of OUR choice FIRST, THEN we send back our DTKs. What they have proposed either requires devs to go without for a week or a month, or to buy 2 Macs this year.

Okay, go ahead and keep the DTK. Even if Apple doesn't suspend your Developer account, it'll be a brick come June anyway, perhaps even sooner. It is clear Apple has no plans to offer OS updates for the DTK.
I do agree that it'd be great if the $200 credit was extended long enough to allow them to apply to the next round of Macs, or to be retroactive or something like that, especially since many have already purchased another M1.
Since that doesn't seem to be the case, I'd take up Ted's suggestion.

Regarding the $200 discount from Apple.
- Sure there the May 31 deadline is completely arbitrary on Apple's part.
- Sure, the equivalent M1 Mac mini costs $1099, making the coupon an 18% discount before sales tax.
- Sure you have a very limited time frame to use that 18% discount.
- Sure you may have already bought a production M1 Mac and don't need another 1st gen device.
- Sure, if you didn't buy a 1st gen, production delays mean you'll be be out nearly two months between sending in DTK and getting M1 Mac.
- Sure they threatened to shutdown your developer account, ending your business prospects if you don't meet their time frame.
- Sure they have a complete legal right to do what they did, even if it's mean spirited and a stick in the eye to developers who had problems getting basic functionality working on DTK for much of the pre-release period.
- Sure it may discourage some developers from helping Apple with their time in the future as it becomes obvious that Apple doesn't value a 3rd party developer's time much and the benefits to jump through all of Apple's hoops for this stuff are minimal and the costs ever increasing in both actual dollars and time.

Other than that, it sounds like an amazing offer.

[…] The condition that developers have to use the $200 discount code before the end of May is another sour ingredient of this shit sandwich. I was trying to put myself in a developer’s shoes, and think about the implications, but Michael Tsai has already provided such scenario: […]

@Thomas said: "That's not accurate." (in response to "... able to ship ARM binaries on day one.")

The first (publicly released) compiler which could produce universal Intel+ARM binaries was Xcode 12.2, released Nov 12. The first Apple Silicon Macs were released Nov 10. I stand by my claim that it was not possible to have Mac ARM binaries ready *on day one* without a DTK. Or a nuclear-powered DeLorean.

"Turns out we did not need a DTK to build ARM binaries at all!"

I said "ship", not "build". I don't know any developers who shipped any ARM binaries without having tested them on ARM hardware first.

It's true that, *today*, you don't need ARM hardware just to compile for ARM (if you're willing to forego testing), but it was no surprise that Apple would eventually support that. They always have. You could compile Intel binaries on PowerPC Macs, and you could compile PowerPC binaries on 68K Macs.

I don't see anywhere that Apple stated or implied that you would not be able to build ARM binaries on Intel Macs. That seems nuts to me. Why not?

"I'm pissed that it turns out I didn't even need to get a DTK because my programs were not affected by the M1 in any way."

Of course, you wouldn't have known that everything would work perfectly until you had Apple Silicon hardware to test on. You're upset that it Just Worked? (Are you also upset when you write unit tests and they all pass?) I would think any professional ponying up for a special early access developer membership ought to be *delighted* when it requires no extra work.

Yep, I'm in exactly the same boat as you.

I want to buy an M1 iMac, but there aren't any.

Since I really need an M1 Mac to test, this means that I will likely have to buy an M1 MacBook just for this purpose, which is largely a waste of money.

And the $200 is in many ways worse than nothing, since if it was nothing, I could just go buy that M1 MacBook now, but like you it means I'll be without an M1 Mac for probably a month. If the $200 at least had a lot expiry, I could buy the M1 MacBook and use the $200 towards an iMac down the track.

I understand most of the “why” of what Apple is doing, but it is another case where they completely look after themselves, and are completely careless of the affect it has on developers.

"We heard your feedback[...] So instead of the 200 USD credit that expires in May, we are giving you a 500 USD Apple credit and extending the time you can use it to get a new M1 Mac through the end of the year. If you already purchased a new M1 Mac, the Apple credit gives you the flexibility to purchase any Apple product to help with your app development work. "

This is ridiculous. I'm surprised that so many people got this kit, knowing that they'll have to return it. Sadly, a huge number of people who develop for Apple platforms are complicit morons. You should be ashamed for letting Apple screw you so badly.

A little more detail about Apple's improved program: Apple DTK Credit for Developers Increased

I think it's great that Apple offered the $200 credit, even though it didn't have to, but that doesn't mean that Apple is beyond criticism for how it originally implemented the program. It was clumsy, unnecessarily strict, and treated developers as cost centers, rather than as essential partners. It would have been better off either doing nothing or simply waiving the developer program fees for a year or two after return of the DTK than offering what is essentially an awkward coupon/rebate program.

In all, it's just an example of how today's Apple doesn't seem to care about Steve Jobs' admonition to "delight" people. Aside from the unexpected performance of the M1 hardware, when is the last time you were delighted and surprised (in a positive way) by Apple? It seems Apple is mostly in the business of delighting its own design and accounting staffs.

...but hey, I do give them credit for recognizing they bungled this program and then quickly coming out with an improved effort.

@ Yuri

So, you essentially came to Michael's website/blog to tell him he's (among others) a complicit moron?! You are the one, who should be ashamed, for being rude idiot.

I am sure a lot of my fellow developers will see Apple’s response to our complaints as a good thing. I don’t.

Go and read the comments on mainstream Apple sites in reaction to the news of the revised $500 credit. You’ll see a lot of praise for Apple but not so much for us. Words being used to describe us include “greedy”, “ungrateful”, “whiny”, “immature”, and “entitled”.

Apple has come out of this smelling of roses but not us.

Again there is plenty to criticise Apple for when it comes to developer relations. Apple has devalued our software to next to nothing because it helps them make money off their hardware. Apple is painting us developers as greedy, malware pushing charlatans in order to maintain their grip on their App Store profits. Apple has the power to wipe out our businesses with just one capricious App Store rejection. And Apple thinks they’re entitled to 15-30% of our income for doing nothing. So what do we do? We kick up a stink over a measly three hundred dollars.

I still maintain we are our own worst enemy.

Old Unix Geek

A little under 2 decades ago, Mac users were grateful if people developed for their platform. One of the reasons it was fun to develop for it was that one knew that one wasn't working for a bunch of ungrateful entitled users.

As you point out rightly, Matthew Drayton, things have changed. Users now believe developers to be evil, entitled, immature, greedy and so on. They thought that before developers complained about having to return their DTKs early. And thanks to confirmation bias, they think the same afterwards.

Of course, if they spared a little thought, they might realise that their belief is ill-founded. Larger companies, or VC backed companies don't care about buying another computer and writing off a loss. Therefore they don't complain. It's only people who don't make much money who find it worth the time to complain. Many of them develop software for the Mac, because they care about it. I.e. it is indies who are complaining. Many of them are hardly swimming in money. They'd be better off working for the start-up du jour, and getting paid by Venture Capitalists who want to vacuum up users' data.

Apple seems to have realised that it has upset the indies, and seems to want them to continue providing their software on the new M1 platform. It was to Apple's advantage that all this software was available on day 1, and they outsourced some of their testing to 3rd party developers. There wasn't much actual upside for the Indies, since working with buggy M1 software slows you down, and the M1 will obviously start with a very small share of the market. Therefore Apple did a U-turn. This is a hopeful sign, in that it tells us that Apple would still prefer to have a wide range of Mac software available on their devices.

So unlike you, I feel it is good news in that it gives us the impression that Apple still feels it needs to pay some attention to what 3rd party developers say. Had they just ignored the complaints, they would have made it clear that they no longer feel the need to have a wide range of software on their platform.

As to some users' negative impressions of developers, quite honestly that ship sailed a long time ago. Apple's unfair portrayal of 3rd party software as unsafe, needing to be sandboxed and to be "reviewed" by Apple, needing notarisation so as to make it easy to remove, is here to stay. So is the the expectation they that have created that software should retail for free, or be incredibly cheap.

"Go and read the comments on mainstream Apple sites"

No, don't. Never read the comments. The comments on web sites are universally terrible on any given subject. Even on this web site. ;-)

@Old Unix Geek

Your pinball game is DOPE! Great end result and yes, very smooth and fluid performance!

Tangent thought: I miss the guy who made the Tetris knock-off game for Mac, Quinn. Does anyone here know what happened to the developer, Simon Härtel?

After thinking about this for a while, one thing that seems somewhat pertinent here is that these devices are going to be pretty valuable in a decade or two, like all Apple paraphernalia. Apart from all the direct issues this causes to developers, to me, this makes the 200$ particularly grating.

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