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This just in: Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) really, really doesn't want you tinkering with its beautiful hardware.
OK, maybe that's not a huge shock. Cupertino has a long history of locking down both hardware and software to protect the integrity of its iOS and Mac OS environments. But the company is going to extremes these days.
The hardware experts at iFixit ripped apart a brand-new MacBook Pro with a Retina display to see what's hiding inside. The site aims to help you, the end user, do simple repairs on the hardware we buy. This laptop got a rock-bottom fixability score of 1 out of 10.
The MacBook is held together with Apple's special five-cornered screws to prevent users from tinkering around with it, but these screws have been around for a while. You can buy special tools to deal with them nowadays. Worse, the memory chips are soldered to the motherboard and the solid-state drive is a totally unique model. In short, you'd better buy all the memory and storage you need right away, because these parts simply cannot be upgraded later.
Moreover, Apple glued the battery to the case, so you'd probably rip out cables for the trackpad if you tried to remove the battery. The iFixit guys actually gave up on doing it themselves, because the risk of ripping a hole in the battery was too great. And if anything ever breaks inside the display cabinet, such as the webcam sensor or the backlight, well, the whole thing is "completely fused" and you're on the hook for an entire display unit. Given the Retina display's high-tech pedigree, that's not going to be cheap.
If you want the option of upgrading your laptop piece by piece when it's getting stale, you'll be much happier with a Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) or Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) model. These guys assemble their computers from fairly off-the-shelf parts, and it's a simple matter to just drop in more memory or a larger drive. But the MacBook Pro is what it is, and you can't do a thing about it. Upgrading any part of the system means buying a new laptop; fixing even a pretty minor problem like a glitchy webcam is best done by Apple itself and hopefully under warranty.
For Apple's sake, I hope the build quality here is totally impeccable. Otherwise, the warranty repair bills could stack up really quickly, thanks to an architecture that's nigh-on impossible to service.
Apple is no stranger to high costs, of course. Despite the potential for rising costs of doing business in markets like China and India, Apple's been able to expand into and eventually dominate emerging markets. The Motley Fool highlights several other companies that are doing just that in a brand-new free report, "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World." You can get instant access to the names of these companies -- it's free.