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Ars Technica Tracks Mac Update Lifespans

Long ago, we published “Apple’s Planned Obsolescence Schedule” (2 November 2011), an attempt to determine the number of years different versions of macOS and iOS maintained backward compatibility. Over at Ars Technica, Andrew Cunningham has now taken a swing at the topic from a different direction, trying to determine how many years Macs receive macOS updates and if that’s changing over time. He shows that the number of years that Macs received updates fell from 1999 through 2004, increased until about 2012, and then dropped again through the end of the data in 2016. The first dip matches the transition from PowerPC to Intel chips, and it seems likely that the recent downturn is related to the move to Apple silicon. The question is if the chart will start to trend back up once Intel chips have joined 68000 and PowerPC processors in the depths of Mac history. Interestingly, the average Mac receives 7 years of macOS updates from the date it’s introduced, plus another 2 years of security updates.

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Comments About Ars Technica Tracks Mac Update Lifespans

Notable Replies

  1. I’m not sure I understand.

    …and it seems likely that the recent downturn is related to the move to Apple silicon.

    You note that that downward trend lasted from 2012 to the end of data at 2016. But the transition to Apple Silicon was only announced mid 2020. What am I missing? :confused:

  2. Apple was working on Apple silicon for years before the announcement, so development decisions in macOS would have been made with that in mind.

  3. Really interesting research and analysis, but the editorializing tone and conclusion put my teeth on edge.

  4. Yeah, I agree. It was as though he was really looking for a gotcha—“Look, Apple’s really out to screw Mac users!” but it felt to me like there are just technological breakpoints that can result in certain models having shorter effective support lifespans.

    But it was truly excellent work assembling all that data, and I’ve snagged a copy for reference sake in case it goes away.

  5. Short-lived computers is both an enviromental and a cost-wise issue - as well as a safety consideration to take for secondhand Mac-buyers.
    A longer lifespan could widen the use of MacOS and give Apple a larger market share. But that will not happen as long as the batteries are solidered into an expensive (and non-upgradable) box that is garbage in 5 years time.

  6. This is out of topic, but sometimes I wish laptop designs can follow a “recraftable” approach. The designs can allow for a greater degree of integration than, say, a Framework laptop, but parts e.g. SoC and the mainboard can be upgraded and the chassis refurbished instead of having to scrap and re-manufacture whole units.

    One example of recrafting is Goodyear welt shoes. The upper can be preserved and renewed, while the soles, laces etc. are replaced. For premium products like Apple machines, this should be justifiable.

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