Apple has abruptly pulled all its products out of the EPEAT green technology database. On the face of it, the move will make it more difficult for some government and corporate accounts that use the certification as a procurement tool to continue buying the company's laptops, monitors, desktops and integrated systems.
But the move raises a larger question: as more companies allow employees to use their own notebooks and tablet computers for work purposes, how important will green IT procurement criteria be in the future?
Apple isn't commenting on why it is ditching a specification it helped to create, but The Wall Street Journal CIO Journal reports the EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee believe it is because of "design direction."
EPEAT, aka the Electronics Product Environmental Assessment Tool, includes set of lifecycle management criteria, including how easy it is to break down a given product at the end of its life so that it can be recycled, refurbished or reused. The scuttlebut is that the new MacBook Pro, which includes batteries glued into the case, violates EPEAT's criteria but there's no official confirmation of that.
EPEAT posted a terse statement on its Web site, saying it was disappointed that Apple is leaving "a community effort by all interested stakeholders to define and maintain best practice in environmental sustainability for electronics."
The city of San Francisco uses EPEAT criteria for purchasing, and it will no longer be able to buy Apple products as a result of the development, reports the Silicon Valley MercuryNews.
"We strongly believe that eco-labels are essential for green purchasing, and Apple just withdrew from the list," Chris Geiger, San Francisco's toxics reduction coordinator, told the MercuryNews. "We want to register our displeasure, and urge Apple to reconsider."
I've got to believe that Microsoft executives are super-psyched about this development, which is bound to have an impact on Apple's nascent encrouchment in enterprise accounts.
The thing is, will this really hurt Apple in the long run?
As more businesses embrace a BYOD device philosophy, it will be harder to tell employees what they can and cannot buy or can and cannont bring. The most powerful device in BYOD today, the Apple iPad, isn't even covered in the EPEAT database. Today, the only products that can be registered are notebooks, desktops, integrated all-in-one systems, monitors, thin clients and workstations.
Apple's decision suggests once again that decision is paramount to environmental considerations, at least in that company's eyes. For people who care about that sort of thing, it's a disappointment, but it probably won't have that big of an impact on its corporate incursion.