Apple to offer developers a US$200 in exchange for returning US$500 Developer Transition Kits; cheapest M1 hardware starts at US$699
While the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini were the first consumer products to feature ARM SoCs, they were not the first ARM-based Mac hardware that Apple made available to purchase. When Apple announced its plans to transition away from Intel processors, the company offered developers a Mac mini based on its A12Z Bionic chipset to develop for its new ARM platform. Apple calls the machine the Developer Transition Kit (DTK), which is the same name it used for the device that is offered to developers when it transitioned from PowerPC to Intel between 2005 and 2006. Incidentally, Apple repurposed the Power Mac G5 for its original DTK.
Developers had to pay US$500 to access the DTK this time around, called a program fee under the Universal App Quick Start Program, which was non-refundable. Paying the program fee only entitled developers to use the DTK for up to a year though, while Apple also retained the right to terminate the program without reason. Upon terminating the program, the documentation explains, developers would have 30 days to return the DTK in its original packaging. Accordingly, 9to5Mac reports that Apple will send the following email to developers within the next few weeks:
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.
The Universal App Quick Start Program makes no mention of developers receiving a US$200 credit for returning the DTK, which is a bonus. Apple has applied caveats to using the code too, as described above. Paying US$500 to rent a Mac mini DTK for a few months sounds rather steep anyway, in our opinion. However, the current prices of M1 hardware means that developers must pay at least US$499 for a Mac mini DTK replacement, even with the US$200 coupon applied.
On the one hand, and to Apple's credit, it is overfulfilling the terms of its Universal App Quick Start Program. Additionally, the Mac mini DTK is US$499 cheaper than the DTK that Apple offered to developers in 2005. On the other hand, it is worth remembering that once developers had finished transitioning to Intel from PowerPC, Apple's DTKs were eligible to be 'exchanged for a new Intel-based iMac at no charge'. Moreover, Apple requires developers to return the Mac mini DTK before issuing the US$200 coupon. Fifteen years ago, the company provided developers with an iMac before returning the DTK.
Unsurprisingly, developer responses have been mixed. Some developers claim to have received faulty DTKs, for instance, while others are unhappy that the US$200 code expires in May. Conversely, others seem happy to receive a US$200 coupon, even with the terms that Apple attaches.