iCloud not working on 10.6 seems completely arbitrary and it really annoys me! I use Quicken 2007 - don't get me started about that, I don't like any of the alternatives - so I have to keep a machine on 10.6. But I also use MobileMe and I need to be able to sync my machines. I am just going to wait it out for a few monts and pray those morons at Inuit will release a REAL replacement for Q2007.
There are some great points here, and I'll add two observations. First, the iPhone 3G's that my wife and I bought in March 2009 gave less than 18 months of trouble-free service, since I made the mistake of "upgrading" them to iOS4 in the summer of 2010. [edited to correct date of iOS4 release -jm]. Saying the experience "wasn't fabulous" is putting it generously in our case, and even then not all the iOS4 features were available (for good reason, I'm sure).
Second, when I buy a Mac, I often consider getting a refurbished unit from Apple instead of a new one. The discounts range from 10-25%. However, if buying a machine with last year's specs means getting 25% less useful life, then these discounts don't look so good any more. Maybe in recognition of this tradeoff, Apple now lists the release date of each refurbished model in its online store.
Yeah, the iPhone 3G with iOS 4 was a mess - I've tweaked to acknowledge that more.
As far as refurbished Macs go, you're absolutely right, if you're buying a previous model, you want to take that reduced lifespan into account when calculating the actual discount.
In the University computer labs I run, the dropping of support for PPC Macs (specifically, the Power Mac G5) made us change our whole operation. I used to be able to justify buying Power Macs (now Mac Pros) because they would last 5-6 years with a mid-life RAM and HD upgrade and we could still use a current OS. Since iMacs aren't an option for us (we need matte displays), we had to turn on a dime and scrounge money for Intel Mac minis when Apple's apps (e.g., Final Cut, Motion) would no longer support PPC machines. We get far less performance for our students using Mac minis over Mac Pros, but hopefully we can afford to replace them on the new 3-4 year schedule, since that is how we expect Apple to operate, both with the OS and their creative apps.
Apple is gradually evolving from a computer company into a consumer products company. Along the way, they have abandoned education, enterprise, and maybe professional users, too, if rumors of the Mac Pro's imminent demise turn out to be correct. Continuing to support older kit just isn't as profitable as selling new throwaway gadgets.
From a longevity standpoint, I don't think Apple is getting worse (at least over the last decade, and the technology world moves much faster now than it used to). Macs are keeping their 4-5 lifespan, and while iPhones are best thought of as 2-year devices, the iPad and iPod touch would seem to be aiming at the Mac's 4-year mark. In the end, Apple is neither doing anything particularly wonderful nor particularly awful.
I commented as someone who worked as a lab tech in a Mac-centric school district. We had been forced for financial reasons to run our PPC Macs for longer than 4-5 years. When Apple stopped supporting Tiger it was a big hit for us. Yes, Leopard would run on the newer G4 machines, but not very well. We were envious of school districts that went with PCs running Windows XP which will be supported until 2014.
What was the "support" that was available for XP but not for Tiger that made a difference? Security updates? It's not like XP has seen functional updates. I would bet that lots of Windows developers tried to keep their software compatible with XP since so many people didn't upgrade to Vista.
It was mostly the lack of security updates for Tiger, which are pretty important to a school district. They bit the bullet, dumped all their PowerPC kit for peanuts, bought new MacBooks to outfit the labs with and PCs for administration way before they would have had to do otherwise. It was quite a financial hit for them.
The reality is that on Windows XP, dating to 2001, Apple still supports the most recent version of Safari. On my 2005 iBook (which I can't afford to upgrade, being a student), even something as basic as a current web browser isn't available any longer. Even if developers want to support PowerPC at this point, Apple has removed support from the current Xcode. This, I think, is completely unjustified, as there's absolutely nothing wrong with my iBook: the obsolescence is completely artificial.
Actually, the current version of Safari for Windows (5.1.1) requires Windows XP SP2. Service Pack 2 wasn't released until August 2004. Other Apple software for Windows also requires at least SP2 and both the iPhone Configuration Utility and Windows Migration Assistant for Lion require SP3 (released in 2008). I think Apple's Boot Camp drivers are their only software that doesn't require a Service Pack to work in XP, which makes sense.
Adam - you have neglected to mention the fact that Apple DOES continue to support the immediately previous version of OS X with security updates. This keeps the machine functional - even if it can't access the latest web services.
Thus, with Leopards release in 2007, Tiger stayed alive until 2009, when Snow Leopard was released.
With Snow Leopards release, Leopard stayed alive until 2011, when Lion was released. I have been using a 2003 12 inch PowerBook G4 for 8 years - fully supported!
With Lion's release, Snow Leopard is still alive, and thus there is current backward compatibility for 5 years, with a reasonable expectation of 2 more years, even for those early Intel adopters with Core Duo machines.
Yes - iCloud is missing from Snow Leopard (for now). You can't always expect new services to be ported into old products, but Apple will make a pragmatic decision on this.
iOS is different. Apple only supports the current major version....
Yes, it's absolutely true that Apple continues to release security updates to the previous big cat. I didn't mention that originally because it feels ancillary - while there's nothing wrong with security updates, I don't use a Mac because it has security updates, I use it because it helps me get work done.
So from a practical, "is this Mac useful?" standpoint, continued release of security updates plays only a very minor role. More important factors are actual bug fixes from Apple, which happen only within the current big cat, and support from developers, which tails off over time.
Adam, I was puzzled by your reference in the article to the lesser need for security updates than functional ones. I'm glad you followed up here.
If I'm happy with my functional apps, I NEED the security upgrades to keep working, since that's where the external change (threat) is that could corrupt my work. Could you elaborate your stand?
Hmm... how to say this. I think security updates are absolutely worthwhile and should be installed because they in essence confer herd immunity - bad guys won't focus on vulnerabilities addressed by security updates because there's little to be gained.
But the mere fact of a security update existing in no way changes the functional capability of your Mac. What you could do before it, you can do after it - no more, no less. If we're talking about being able to view the latest Web sites (with the latest Web browsers) or use iCloud or take advantage of the latest Photoshop, the fact is that you need to be able to use a version of the OS that's supported, and security fixes are simply unrelated.
Wasn't there a 5th generation iPod touch released this year with a retina display?
No, the Retina display came with the 4th generation iPod touch in September 2010, matching the display specs of the iPhone 4 a few months earlier.
I'm in the early stages of evaluating how useful iPad 2's will be in the higher education space, both from an institutionally-owned perspective and a student or faculty-owned perspective. Functionally, this future looks very bright. But given the current horrific budget situation for many in higher ed, maintaining a decent longevity to hardware investments is critical to their acceptance. We can't afford to invest in hardware for education that will become outdated as fast as the consumer products do.
This means either Apple wakes up and smells the coffee, or someone new rushes into this space with gear that has more longevity for the difficult budget times I see ahead--as far as my eyes can see. The tablet is coming at us like the Cannonball Express . . . I hope it's not an impending train wreck.
Since the iPad is currently the least-expensive option that has the most longevity, I don't see anyone swooping in; at least, swooping in and doing a better job.
If you're not already familiar, check out Frasier Speirs's writings and work as a teacher who has been using the iPad in education for the last year or so. Lots of insights there. http://speirs.org/
Remember, just because Apple launches an update that is not compatible with your device does not make the original device unusable. Everything you were able to do before, you can continue to do. All the software you are currently using, you can continue to use. And with Apple's usual reliability, you will be able to use all of those devices for generations past when your current equipment was discontinued and rendered unable to upgrade.
All you lose is the ability to take advantage of cool new features (iCloud, Siri, higher speed processors, etc.). Additionally, you can selectively update portions of your inventory in order to take advantage of new capability while still retaining the ability to use your older software.
I do appreciate the cost of having to upgrade to newer versions of existing software after a revolutionary upgrade (PPC to Intel) but, thankfully, those types of upgrade are relatively rare and most software vendors try to make the upgrade cost reasonable.
Well, that's not really true, and iCloud was the thing that really prompted me to write this article. Previously, you could use MobileMe to get wireless push syncing of calendars and contacts, and shared calendars among multiple people. But with the release of iCloud, those features go away, either right away if you have some people/devices that need to use iCloud and some that can't, or in June 2012 when MobileMe goes away.
So that is an actual loss of functionality that, while not rendering the device unusable, does render it less useful than it was before.
Prior to iCloud, software compatibility was still an issue, though less so, since it was less common that an older Mac would be incapable of running software that was necessary to keep it functioning in an ecosystem of devices.
I concede your point on iCloud. That truly is an example where Apple actually retracted capability for older equipment. I can not think of another example, though. The loss of Rosetta in Lion meant that many users could not upgrade without abandoning certain software (Quicken '07...) but it didn't stop their devices from continuing to work as they did prior to the introduction of Lion. Your SE/30 is an example of the point I was attempting to make.
That said, the issue of obsolescence applies to all vendors. As an end user, you aren't privy to the prime manufacturers upgrade plans or schedule so you have to make a somewhat subjective decision on how much weight to give vendor upgrade history when making a purchasing decision. I submit that, by comparison, Apple has been a rock of stability compared to recent history from the likes of Microsoft (Kin, Courier, Vista/Win7/Win8/phones), google (phones with numerous flavors of android, services such as wave), HP, RIM, Dell...
Yes, what finally killed the SE/30 was not software incompatibility, but the fact that a Performa 6400 could do all the server tasks I wanted of it to do and everything the SE/30 could do, faster than the SE/30. So it just made no sense to keep the SE/30 running. And even then, though it makes for a fun example, the SE/30 wasn't actually useful for much - the one thing I'd gotten to work well was LetterRip Pro, so it could run that single app acceptably. I certainly couldn't have done any real work on it (or even really on the 6400 back then - this was in the days of the Power Mac G4).
So while I've long been a proponent of keeping old Macs running, I'm seeing more and more situations where the hardware is willing, but the software is weak. :-)
You can still use pre-10.7.2 with iCloud calendars via CalDAV (using BusyCal, for instance), but Apple isn't supporting any such for Address Book.
The ipod touch 2G was abandoned by 4.3 in March 2011. Nothing I needed in the new features (airplay for third party apps, Nitro in Safari, a few more minor things.) but that means no more security updates since then, either, including the pulling of 'trusted' certificates that are known to be nasty.
Oh right - forgot about that. I've added a parenthetical, but for the most part I'm not including it in the analysis since it's a complete outlier that just confuses things further.
I vividly recall Apple declaring that hardware older than 18 months would be considered legacy with regard to Mac OS X. This was circa 1999. As you can imagine, there was a loud uproar from all corners. Carbon was born. Mac Classic OS compatibility was born. A lot of remarkably old Macs ran Mac OS X 10.0. Windows box users point to Intel and Microsoft's nearly eternal legacy support as an asset. But all things must pass and I have no complaint about Apple's periodic moon shots, leaving reasonably old hardware and software behind. Then consider that I still have my 1993 Quadra 650 running as an imaging workstation, albeit souped up with a PPC 601 daughter board. My 1997 9600 continues to run 24/7 as an FTP server on the Internet using Mac OS X Server 10.3 Panther, albeit souped up with a 900 MHz G3 CPU. Meanwhile, my 2006/11 Mac Book 2GHz runs 10.7 Lion perfectly.
That's probably about right - Mac OS X 10.0 shipped in March 2001 and the last pre-PowerPC G3 Mac (the 240 MHz PowerBook 2400c) was discontinued in December 1998. The first PowerPC G3-based Macs appeared in late 1997. So even with that massive transition, there was a 2.5 to 3.5 year range of backward compatibility.
The need to run the constant latest and greatest software should not be confused with obsolescence of hardware. I upgrade an OS only when I am forced to, kicking and screaming. I use XP on my Windows machines and whatever OS shipped with my Macs. I don't upgrade my software either unless absolutely forced to. New OSes and Software are built, by definition, for hardware that your older computer does not have so why torture yourself? If you really need the latest version of Office you'll NEED a new machine anyway.
PPC Macs are exactly as functional today as they were a decade ago when running the same software and for those FEW items that need updating there are usually acceptable alternatives. As for security, REALLY??? What security do you need? I mean I get it that my Windows machines need to be locked down in the most annoying way possible but I don't have anything running on any of my Macs, no firewalls, anti-virus, nada. Never have, either.
There's a somewhat different longevity question that interests me.
For various reasons, I'm sticking with Snow Leopard. But as new versions of the OS bring changes to the APIs developers use, there will come a day when the newest applications from, say, Adobe won't run on Snow Leopard.
I'm curious how long that's likely to be.
How about instantly? Adobe Carousel.
There are too many variables to predict that, unfortunately, since it depends on how compelling the new APIs are, and how hard it would be to maintain the same feature set for previous operating systems. For instance, if iCloud becomes a big deal for syncing data, Lion will become required far faster than if it doesn't.
And as an example, when Matt Neuburg updated the TidBITS iOS app to iOS 4, he had to drop iOS 3 compatibility because it was just too much work to maintain what was essentially a second code base in the same app. Perhaps it wouldn't have been with a big commercial app, but for something free, the effort equation changes quickly.
Complicated sets of cascades, too. The older version of Photoshop might be just fine for my needs. But if I've bought a new camera, Camera Raw might need to be updated to provide support for the camera ... and that might require an update to the new Photoshop ... and that might require update to the current version of OS X ... which would break the software for my orphaned Minolta scanner that runs only with the help of Rosetta ...
I can understand that Apple drops support for older machines after a appropriate period of time. But I am very disappointed about discontinuing certain applications, especially AppleWorks. I have created a lot of documents using it, but iWork is only partly a replacement. People have to retain an older computer to be able to work on their old data. Very uncomfortable situation.
I agree. Apple should provide backward compatibility for documents. And they easily could. Either by continuing to support Rosetta in future versions of Mac Os. Or, possibly better, by allowing older versions of Mac Os to run under VMWare or some other virtualization solution. That would certainly be better for the customer. And it will probably be better for Apple because people won't be held off buying a new Mac that won't support their old documents.
I joined the ranks of iphone users (3g, stood in line at AT&T) because of the idea that _software_ updates would increase the longevity of the device.
iOS4 broke that feature, essentially hobbling the device. The performance was so slow that it couldn't unlock itself in time to answer phone calls! The iphone experience was no longer delightful or fun. Apple forced me to jailbreak and go back to 3.1.3 to have a usable device. I am still annoyed with Apple for forcing me down this path.
Now Apple ships iOS5 and my wife's <1 year old Verizon iphone4 doesn't get Siri!? Are you kidding me?
Shameful treatment of loyal customers (4 macs, 4 ipods, 1 ipad, 2 iphones, 1 atv2)!
PS.... The irony of Apple loyalists complaining about Android market fracture seems entirely lost on them.
Well, just for the record, the college I work for still has a functional SE/30 that is used for looking up some unique records in a proprietary database that is incompatible with anything newer. We keep encouraging the department to extract the records to a newer system, but it is slow going. There were conversion tools at one point, but they didn't get used, and now we don't have anything they would work on. Good thing the SE/30 is reliable...
And you can probably keep buying old SE/30s to replace it if necessary. :-)
One of the consequences of Apple's dust binning of Macs and devices is the not inexpensive need to upgrage software applications. For example, none of Adobe's imaging software is now being offerred for non-Intel machines. I am sure other readers will cite other specifics.
Yes, of course, but at least that's an organic situation of needing to move forward from machines that stopped being sold over 5 years ago, especially given the huge performance increase from the Intel processors (which is especially necessary for things like Photoshop).
The iOS devices that no longer run current versions of iOS are based on the ARMv6 architecture. In fact, Apple makes it moderately difficult to create new projects in Xcode to support these earlier devices.
I would add that Apple does support new apps that run on old iOS hardware. I have not heard of Apple denying access to the App Store due to support of earlier hardware and iOS v3.1.3. That said, it is frequently uneconomic for developers to support this older hardware. I only support iOS v4.0 and later. (Grand Central Dispatch, iOS v4 only technology, is just too powerful a technology to ignore.)
Apple is notorious for dragging us, sometimes kicking and screaming (or bitchin' and moanin') into their future. No floppies, USB for ADB, bye-bye PPC, etc.
But you could stay behind if you needed to, keeping old equipment and its latest supported software. The cloud changes all that, and MobileMe should have been seen as a precursor. When Apple yanks a service (bye-bye MM), people who have become dependent on it are stuck, literally abandoned. When the rules of engagement for iCloud change in a way you can't work with, you're locked out. What happens when the next shoe drops and you MUST be an iCloud user to use the App Store, just as you had to (perhaps) pay to move to SL just to get to Lion?
I expect even my everyday consumer electronics to be useful (if not state-of-the-art) for closer to 10 years than 2. (And I recognize that I've foregone the benefits of state-of-the-art when the platforms I've chosen to keep do well enough for my humble needs.)
I suspect that the technical reason why the iPhone 3G can't use iOS 5 is the amount of RAM is too small. The 3GS has twice the RAM of the 3G, 256MB vs. 128 MB.
That's entirely possible. It is a little surprising, given the low cost of RAM (I have a large collection of 1 GB flash drives that were giveaways) that Apple wouldn't have put more in to start.
With all the comments on the evolution of machines and software (including the OS), it becomes difficult to make a choice on the combination as one is on the verge to by or to upgrade. I am at that point: my experience with Imac is not very good (nice machine at decent prices), but with time, the difficulties in keeping a functional unit is difficult because of the nature of the computer, especially with the complexity and tightness of the components, and the costs. I am thinking of a Mini (recent) or a used Mac Pro (1-4 years old); the first choice is obvious, but the Mac Pro offers a superior platform when one considers the base and the "upgrade" path. My question is simply: a Mini or a Mac Pro.
Unless you know you need a Mac Pro, I'd recommend the recent Mac mini - the cost for performance is much better. The Mac Pro hasn't seen an update in a while, and there have been rumblings about it being discontinued entirely. And I have to admit, it's a lot harder to make the case for a Mac Pro unless you need multiple video cards, other internal cards, the absolute highest performance, or the most RAM. And then money is no object.
Thanks. I will go the way of a MINI, but well equipped.
Apple looks forward, not backward. Want backward compatibility to 10-year-old viruses? Go with Windows 7. Cut the conspiracy theories. BTW, iOS5 works fine on my 3GS. Of course, Siri does not work, but the less-than-equivalent Dragon Go does.
I'm sorry but I think Adam has got things backwards.
I feel that t support period has grown shorter. I bought a Computer (MacPro) in Feb, and an iPad 2 in May. I also have a MobileMe.
If I don't upgrade to Lion - (system software that's only been out for several months - and hardly ready for primetime) I'm screwed. Alternative is a couple thousand dollars to upgrade my 3D program and Adobe Creative just so I can run iCloud...
I'm even too scared to install iTunes 10.5 (since reports indicate it won't sync with my ATV1 (purchased in September 2010). (The senior Tech at Apple TV couldn't even confirm!).
So while I can't speak for others: I have 3 major devices about to reach dinosaur land: 2 purchased THIS YEAR, and 1 purchased 14 months ago - unless I'm willing to move to less stable system software, and spend a fortune upgrading software.
For now, I'm waiting it out for the final demise of MobileMe Come June I'll have to decide what to do.
As I said, iCloud is the wildcard that's causing confusion here. But otherwise, your Mac and your iPad are completely supported by Apple now and will be for quite a few years. You could upgrade to Lion and iOS 5 now, and barring iCloud (ie, if you were happy to ditch MobileMe in favor of non-Apple solutions), you could stick with Snow Leopard and iOS 4.3 as long as you wanted.
Whether you wish to upgrade because of the associated expense of upgrading elderly PowerPC software is a separate problem - Apple always provides backward compatibility for major architectural shifts for a few years, but always drops them in the end - witness Classic and now Rosetta. But you can deal with this with VMware Fusion 4.1, which can now virtualize Snow Leopard inside Lion.
The Apple TV is an entirely different issue, which is why I didn't include it in the overall analysis. Apple considers it a "hobby" and has not been good about maintaining support for the original model, as you discovered.
This is absolutely true. While such a strategy is acceptable for a toothbrush or razor, it's aggravating to have spent $150 on an ipod nano, to have it die 12 months later. It no longer holds a charge. Only Apple could get away with such reckless disregard of its customers' money. How long can they burn their customer base? This will be an interesting lesson. They should be remembering the hubris of the big three US automakers before Toyota.