Saturday, June 22, 2024

Will Snow Leopard Leave Some Mac Users Out in the Cold?

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Apple’s update to the Mac OS X line might still be a year or so away, but information on this latest incarnation, called Snow Leopard, has started trickling out of Apple. While information is thin on the ground, some of what we know seems to suggest that the new OS might leave a fair number of existing Mac users out in the cold.

In recent weeks, Apple has made it clear that Snow Leopard is going to go back to basics and will concentrate of building a firm foundation for the future rather than add new features. Here’s an excerpt from a press release issued on June 6:

“We have delivered more than a thousand new features to OS X in just seven years and Snow Leopard lays the foundation for thousands more,” said Bertrand Serlet, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “In our continued effort to deliver the best user experience, we hit the pause button on new features to focus on perfecting the world’s most advanced operating system.” [emphasis added]

Now on the face of it, this sounds like a good idea. Every so often an OS needs to go back to basics and concentrate on building a stable foundation for future growth (it can be argued that this is what Microsoft did with Windows Vista).

But upgrades that concentrate on building a foundation aren’t all that compelling to the end user. After all, rather than upgrading in order to make use of some new feature or applications, you’re upgrading on the chance than a feature of application that’s relevant to you will come along sometime soon.

To me, this echoes the time when some gamers upgraded to Windows Vista in order to have access to DirectX 10 only to find that games were scant and that DirectX 10 sucked whole lemons in terms of performance (there are still very few games that perform better under DirectX 10 compared to DirectX 9).

Another problem with platform upgrades is that it takes time for everything to mature, and usually things reach maturity with the next OS upgrade. So what Apple is doing here is making it easier for Mac OS X end users to do what Windows users did with Vista and skip Snow leopard and wait it out for the next upgrade.

OK, so an OS that concentrates more on foundational futures might not float everyone’s twig, but Snow Leopard could also spell the end of the road for Mac users who are still using older Macs running PowerPC processors.

This revelation came to light when a French Mac site, LogicielMac, posted an image claiming to be the system requirements for the developer preview of Snow Leopard:

Snow Leopard developer preview system requirements

This could very well be a very big deal. After all, Apple only stopped selling PowerPC systems a couple of years ago, so this could be seen as Apple withdrawing support prematurely simply in order to encourage those with three year old PowerPC Macs (which the youngest PowerPC-based Macs will be when Snow Leopard is released) to upgrade.

If I had PowerPC systems I’d want to hear some seriously good reasons why the PowerPC architecture (and architecture that Apple had claimed for years was far superior to the x86) was being abandoned.

I think that what’s becoming obvious about Apple is that the company is out to squeeze every dollar it can from customers, whether that be through forcing users to send in their iPhones back to the mother ship to have the battery replaced, demanding hugely inflated prices for RAM upgrades on systems, or through making good hardware obsolete before its time.

Anything goes…

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