OS Upgrading: More Customer Education Needed


Apple arguably could do a better job of educating their non–tech oriented customers about the advisability and desirability of periodic software — especially OS version — upgrades.

That epiphany dawned on me during a telephone conversation last weekend with a friend I don’t see or talk to very often. This individual bought a G5 iMac several years ago, partly on my recommendation, and it has served him well, but he said he recently discovered his favorite tax software wouldn’t work on his own Mac anymore, and was perplexed that it still seem to run fine on his niece’s newer Mac.

When Did You Last Upgrade Your OS?

“When did you last upgrade your operating system?” I asked. The concept seemed new to him. My friend is a college professor, but a complete tech naif, and as far as he knew, he’d never upgraded his Mac’s OS.

“What version of OS X are you using?” I queried. He had no idea, so I explained to him how to check out “About This Mac” from the Apple Menu. It turned out that the iMac was still running OS 10.3.9, probably updated to the ultimate version of Panther via Software Update in the background, but no further. I expressed surprise that the tax application was the first software support issue he had encountered. He then mentioned that there had been issues with browsers as well.

“You need to install Mac OS 10.5,” I ventured.

Can I Do That?

“Oh, can I do that?” he asked. I explained that Leopard should work very well on his G5, but that he would need to purchase an installation disk. Again, the entire concept seemed quite foreign and exotic to my friend, and I suspect he’s not alone in that among Mac users.

I hazily recall reading somewhere that an astonishingly large percentage of Mac users never upgrade their operating systems from whatever version comes installed on them between purchasing new CPUs, which at least, in some instances, would be analogous to trading your car in because the tires were worn out.

Macs Just Chug Along

I suppose this issue is more common with Macs because PC users are obliged by the Windows malware siege to pay attention to patching and upgrading their operating systems. Macs just typically keep chugging along obliviously.

I appreciate that Apple likes to keep things as simple as possible for general, non-enthusiast users, and that low-hassle is one of the Mac’s most attractive selling points, but it would still be desirable to gently inform purchasers that in order to keep getting the best performance and software compatibility from their Mac, they need to upgrade the operating system once in awhile.

Unfair Assessment

There is still an unfortunate tendency to identify issues like my friend being unable to run the latest edition of his tax software on his middle-aged Mac as “Mac problems,” his logic being that he can run the Windows version on his IT department-maintained PC at work. That’s, of course, an unfair assessment, but it’s of a sort that is likely quite frequent and not helpful in retention of return customers. A bit more customer education is in order at the sales end.

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