Wired Correspondent Suffers Through the Downside of Cloud-Delivered OS X Lion



Today is a huge day for Mac users. For the first time ever, Apple is offering a major Macintosh operating system upgrade exclusively over the Internet. The company has also discontinued much of the boxed software it offers in a clear signal that it hopes and expects to see the vast majority of applications for the Mac delivered through the App Store from this day forward. Just as it did with music (and to limited degree with DVDs), Apple wants to eliminate all physical artifacts from its computing experiences other than the hardware it makes.

But there are downsides to this. Immaterial purchases don’t carry all the same property rights that physical ones do. When the iTunes Music Store launched, users quickly learned that it’s a lot harder to return or resell an album bought from Apple than it is to do the same with a CD. With the iOS App Store, we all know that it’s not easy to get your money back if you make a foolish purchase.

With the launch of Lion, Wired correspondent Erin Biba (most recently contributing to this month’s cover story) discovered that the downsides of a cloud-delivered operating system are just the same as those for cloud-delivered music. Only worse. After spending her $29 and waiting an hour for the nearly four gigabyte installer to download, she was alarmed to find out that Lion wasn’t happy to be there but wasn’t interested in leaving.

@erinbiba: OS X Lion won’t install on my computer because I have a Boot Camp partition. Apple wants me to wipe my entire hard drive before installing.

(This is the error Erin was getting that prevented installation. Although Apple claims installations will still move ahead even if you don’t format your hard drive, in Erin’s case it crashes every time.)

@erinbiba: Apple basically just stole $40 (ed: she was pissed off and got the dollar sign wrong) from me for software that I can’t install on my computer and can’t return to them.

@erinbiba: Oh, and here’s the best part. I don’t actually have a Boot Camp partition. I removed it over a year ago. Theoretically.

(She later explains that she switched to Parallels, which does not appear to be the source of the problem, as many Parallels users have successfully upgraded.)

@erinbiba: I’m gonna email Apple for a refund. Who wants to take bets on a no refund policy in the Terms and Conditions?
Software that won’t play nice when you get it home is nothing new. Software that you can’t take back to the store and fling on the counter in disgust really is, and it’s a real problem (it looks like Wired’s IT guy will take care of upgrading Erin’s Mac early next week, but he’s unfortunately of limited utility to people who don’t know him). There is no question that the advantages of moving to a cloud-only distribution model are numerous and several. Lord knows that I’m delighted that I didn’t have to swing by the local Apple Store today or pre-order. But the downsides are real, and Apple has not done enough to think through making returns and exchanges as delightful to the cloud as they are in its brick-and-mortar locations.
  • Luke Lucas

    odd. i have a Boot Camp partition on my MBP and had no issues upgrading whatsoever. was this a widespread problem?

  • dsjr2006

    You can’t return software to Best Buy, Staples, Walmart, Target or anywhere else once it’s been opened. Why would this be any different?

  • vanmacguy

    If she didn’t really have a Boot Camp partition, why was she bothered about formatting the drive?

    As another poster mentioned, once you open software bought from a retail store, it’s your too, working or not, that’s always been the way. Probably the same with CD’s as well (feel free to correct me on this, it’s really been years since I tried to return a CD).

    There are always going to be teething problems for any new distribution method, we all learned how to work around not being able to return tracks to iTunes, this is no different.

    I too, was delighted that I didn’t have to go and buy a box today, especially as I live in Canada and they’d probably have sold out anyway.

  • oakdesk23

    California has a law against “shrink-wrap license agreements.” That is, if the SLA/EULA is only presented to you after purchase you must be able to return the software. If the app store didn’t present her with the license agreement (or a way to view it) before she made her purchase and she’s in California, she’s entitled to a refund. Why she wants a refund doesn’t really matter.

  • macleodwc

    I have a Bootcamp partition and Parallels and I had no problems whatsoever.

  • Fred Lewis

    I too had a similar problem – about 1/3 of the way into install it said that “Install Failed” because Lion could not create a recovery partition because I had partitioned my drive in my MBP sometime after either Boot Camp partition ( I have never had a BC partition btw ) or after OS install… 

    FWIW I did have two additional partitions on my “Mother” start-up disk HDD…

    I already had SD copies of the latest drive image before upgrade so I copied all of the data from those two partitions to other External HDD’s… I then mounted one of my SD copies and deleted the partitions from the “mother” drive – rebooted onto the mother and then the Lion install proceeded without a hitch…

    Just now I reversed the procedure = remounted Snow Leopard SD copy – resized main OS partition – re-created the other 2 partitions – rebooted onto Mother Lion disk & and am currently recopying old moved data back onto the partitions…

    I am sure this is probably an extremely complicated approach but I was a bit sleepy last night here in Japan at 03:30 and once I started down this path I needed to follow it through…

    I am sure some brainiac will pipe in and tell me that I could have just done a 3key 2finger swiping palm strike to avoid all this trouble but I am happy nonetheless to be back to normal ( near )…

    I am certain that Apple will address this shortly…

    FYI – the error message directed me to apple.com/support/no-recovery but this wasn’t too much help but did give me some clues to what to do…

  • Dustin Martin

    Those companies deal with packaged goods and would not be able to resell those items.  Here were talking about digital license and if the software distribution system could wipe the software from the system, then effectively its like buying a packaged product and returning it to the vender in an unaltered state.  

  • TylerHoj

    This terrifies me because I want to install Lion but don’t have EVERYTHING backed up…most of the important stuff, but still…geesh. This poor woman. I personally love the fact i don’t have to go physical store in particular to buy Lion. Yeah, I have to go buy an iTunes card[Mac App Store card], but I’ll do it when I buy smokes after work tomorrow. I like the positive impact this is going to have on the environment [says the smoker]. Regardless, I can’t wait to download it tomorrow. 

  • davester13

    Yeah.  Good luck with trying to return an opened snow leopard box…

  • Ceramic God

    I have a bootcamp partition, as mentioned by a few others here, and had no issues either.

  • Daibidh

    What on earth?!  

    While it is true I have never sought a refund on a “foolish purchase,” when ever I have had technical problems that could not be resolved, I got a refund from Apple… whether I asked for it or not… and I am not a pushy personality.

    An App Store purchase would not install correctly… kept crashing at launch.  After several emails back and forth with both Apple and the developer.  I finally just asked for a credit.  Apple apologized, gave me a credit with no additional hassel AND let me keep the app… which has since received an update and works perfectly.

    The real kicker was an album purchase for Father’s Day.  One song of twelve had a noticeable audio artifact at the very beginning of the tract… before the actual song.  I notified Apple of the problem saying no big deal, when I have a minute I’ll just use Garage Band and edit it off.  Within a few hours I got a response from Apple that no one should have to resort to editing purchased tracks and gave me instructions on how to re-download it.  When that track also had the same artifact, I told Apple I was still happy with my purchase and it took all but 30 seconds for me to fix but maybe they should look into fixing that particular file.  Again, within a few hours Apple responded saying that was unacceptable and would be refunding my album purchase because it didn’t meet their quality standards… not a credit, mind you, but a full on refund to my credit card for the entire album!  It appeared in 3 days.

    While I am not saying Apple is perfect… I am saying I have more confidence in my property rights regarding my “immaterial purchases” from Apple than some of my physical purchases from someone else.

  • John S. Wilson

    Great point. Also, she’s crying over spilled milk. I had a movie download issue (where I paid for it and it didn’t download properly) in iTunes once and all I had to do was email them and they refunded my money without a hassle. It’s really not that serious. Yes, it’s an inconvenience but nothing is perfect.

  • Edward Chamberlain

    Is it just me or is there no back gesture in OS X Lion? Obviosly theres there 2 finger swipe to go back in safari but no universal gesture? i can’t go back in the app store, can’t go back on anything

  • marioyohanes

    It’s working just FINE!
    Common Apple users, when will you guys learn a little bit more about something called corrupted disk layout! Her disk partition map probably looks like a complete mess!

  • jayjaytee

    No problems for me either. Everything was perfectly smooth, including Parallels (which I upgraded before installing Lion).

  • Guest
  • Guest


    My review of OS X (Lion) to the Russian-speaking population.

  • Guest

    OS X Lion very poor and poor-quality operating system. Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 very good!

  • Paul Clark

    Apple does give refunds on software from the App store, and often quite quickly. I’ve requested and received refunds on the Mac and iOS app stores at least half a dozen times. Every time Apple has responded quickly and helpfully with a refund. That’s something you’d never get with packaged software.

  • LeCorsaire

    I just upgrade my to Lion without a glitch and it seems to me by now probably millions of others have done so without issues.  So this looks like an issue unique to her, but excuse me why does this warrant pasting all her tweets here?   Was she famous or sth?

  • Anup Kumar

    I am sure there was some issue…but hey it worked fine for thousands of users, one or two special cases…I think Apple will refund her… but i think as far as refund policy is concerned, there should be a “report a problem” or something like iOS app has which should allow contacting the support for such issues.

  • ggore

    Chalk me up as another user that has a Boot Camp partition with Win7 on it and I had no problems installing Lion.    The only problem I had was not stopping the Lion installation in order to save a copy of the installation file to use on all my other Macs, which necessitated me downloading it again on the second machine.    Lesson learned and now all my Macs are roaring with delight!      

  • Justin Ferrell

    Three finger swipe left/right works for me. I don’t think it works on trackpads with the big button though, if that matters. 

  • Takeo

    *written with Windows 7 spell-check* LOL.

  • Andrew Ian Dodge

    Same thing happened to me and I am still running Bootcamp w/XP. They should have warned us it does not work with a partition & bootcamp. Or better yet not released the damn thing until it worked properly. 

  • Brian

    Too much vodka?

  • Takeo

    You played around with it for 4 hours and you didn’t even figure that you only have to hold down the ALT-key to reinstall Lion from the Mac App Store if you have installed the GM already… really?… get back to Windows 7!

  • markdyson

    External drives are cheap and Carbon Copy Clone is free. No reason not to have a disk clone set up for a fast revert if needs be.

  • RB

    Why would any of us Mac User need this info? NYET to you!

  • BigWillyBurns

    You can return stuff from the App Store. I have received a refund before for something that didn’t work.

  • pjs_boston

    I’ve installed Lion on 2 systems so far.  Very fast and seamless upgrade process.  No complaints whatsoever.

  • brichardson2001

    Yeah… I didn’t have a SINGLE ISSUE… and I run Parallels as a .Net developer.  Granted, I have really fast Internet – and that’s a big issue for folks who don’t.  Oh, and I upgraded my iMac, my MacBookPro, and my wive’s MBP.  I just downloaded it once, used the trick all over the internet to extract the dmg from the install package, burned a DVD with the dmg file, and then used that to do the MBP updates.  No issues at all – and my wive’s MBP was still on LEOPARD (don’t know how I forgot that)… so I updated it to Snow Leopard with my original disc, then to Lion.  Everything works perfectly.

  • brichardson2001

    hahahahaha… take it from a very senior Windows developer… OSX is the way to go… Windows actually runs BETTER under Parallels on my iMac that it EVER ran on Windows hardware.  Windows 7 IS pretty good… a heck of a lot better than VISTA ;)  Still…. troll on, dude.

  • brichardson2001

    Also, the up/down swipe directions are reversed.  More like iOS swipes that swipes we are used to in a desktop OS.  You can reverse them in the trackpad config though.  Just turn off “natural” swipes.  Still, it doesn’t fix side to side swipes – they are “backwards”, and I’ve not found a way to reverse them.  I.E, to swipe to my next desktop, I have to swipe to the right, when what I really want to do is swipe FROM the right.  Takes a little getting used to.

  • Visnes

    Same here. Managed to both upgrade and actually clean install without problem. Been using it since DP 2, too… :P

  • FenTiger

    Same principle in the UK. You can’t pull T&Cs on people after you’ve taken their money.

  • Dilbert A

    “I am still running Bootcamp w/XP …”

  • Dilbert A

    stop spamming.

  • Juan2X

    Why are people such slaves? Well then ALL these companies are a-holes for not honoring the integrity of their products. How about that?  Instead of being such a drone use your brain a little.

  • dsjr2006

    There is most likely nothing wrong with the product. She’s having issues installing. Nothing about it says there might be an issue with the software but there is quite likely a problem with the way her computer is configured.

  • dsjr2006

    Still doesn’t explain how you could prevent it from being transferred and used on another system before returning. The MS Office activation method?? Don’t think so.

  • mai duc chung

    The usual idea is that you would use NFC to set up the link between the two devices and then do an automatic hand over to a different protocol for doing the actual transfer of data – eg Bluetooth,iphone 5