42 Comments

Summary:

OS X Lion will only be available in the Mac App Store, but a 4 GB download-only OS upgrade is going to be trying for some consumers, because of connection quality and bandwidth caps. Apple has one possible solution: come use our retail store Wi-Fi.

Mission Control OS X Lion

Mission Control OS X LionAt WWDC this year, Apple announced that OS X Lion, its next major operating system update, would be available only through digital distribution. But a download-only OS upgrade of 4 GB is going to be trying for some consumers, either because of the quality and speed of their internet connection, or because of bandwidth caps that limit how much you can download in a month.

Apple wants to alleviate some of those issues, by suggesting that users should bring their Macs in to their local Apple Store (via Computerworld), and use the free Wi-Fi connection provided by the store to download the update. That Apple, a company known for wanting to make thing easy for consumers is suggesting such a clunky solution, suggests that it’s well aware of the broadband problems facing a subset of the population and it can’t afford to ignore them.

Obviously, this solution really only works for users with portable Macs, since lugging a 27-inch iMac down to your local mall may be a tad inconvenient, but it still might be the best option for some Mac owners come July, when Lion is set to be officially released to the public.

It may even be worth the inconvenience to some. If you’re stuck in a remote area, your connection might be spotty at best, and probably doesn’t offer blazing speeds. The Lion download from the App Store is designed to be stopped and started as much as needed in order to get the job done, but OS buyers aren’t going to want to take a few days over the course of a week to get their hands on their purchase.

Even if you have a solid connection, limited bandwidth plans might affect your ability to get Lion. The system update download is 4 GB, which is actually fairly small, considering that it holds an entire operating system. But 4 GB represents a significant chunk of some throttled home internet plans. Rogers in Canada, for instance, offers an entry-level Ultra-Lite internet plan that only allows for 2 GB of monthly usage, so you would technically have to wait two months to complete the Lion download without incurring overage charges. Even the next step up only gets you 15 GB, so Lion represents a full quarter of your monthly allowance with that plan.

Volume customers like businesses and colleges will get an installer via single download that they can then use on multiple computers, but for consumers, the only upgrade path seems to be purchasing through the Mac App Store. That means you can buy it once and have it available to all your machines, but you may have to download it to each in order to get it to work. Apple could make the downloaded file transferrable via flash drive or local network connection machine-to-machine to make it easier for customers to upgrade multiple computers without using more bandwidth, but it’s not clear whether the company plans to do that yet.

Does the prospect of a mandatory 4 GB download affect your decision to upgrade to OS X Lion, or is this just a marginal problem affecting a few fringe customers?

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. Howie Isaacks Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    I realize that Apple is trying to push the idea of getting OS upgrades from the Mac App Store, and that’s a great idea. What are users supposed to do when their hard drive dies? When you replace a drive, there’s nothing on it. Are we supposed to install Snow Leopard, and then download Lion again? What about customers who buy a Mac with Snow Leopard pre-installed? I actually wrote to Steve Jobs about this issue. I asked if there would be any install media that would be distributed by Apple. His response… “Nope”. That’s it. There will be no media provided by Apple. I’m not sure I like that. I know how to create a Lion install disk, or thumb drive from the Lion installer, but the every day consumer wouldn’t know how to do that.

    1. I realize that Apple is trying to push the idea of getting OS upgrades from the Mac App Store, and that’s a great idea. What are users supposed to do when their hard drive dies? When you replace a drive, there’s nothing on it. Are we supposed to install Snow Leopard, and then download Lion again? What about customers who buy a Mac with Lion pre-installed? I actually wrote to Steve Jobs about this issue. I asked if there would be any install media that would be distributed by Apple. His response… “Nope”. That’s it. There will be no media provided by Apple. I’m not sure I like that. I know how to create a Lion install disk, or thumb drive from the Lion installer, but the every day consumer wouldn’t know how to do that.

      1. Um, isn’t that what the USB stick is for? I thought one could boot from it?

    2. Hence Time Machine/Time Capsule.

    3. I think the obvious thing to do upon downloading Lion would be to back it up. If you’re saying that the “every day consumer” doesn’t know how to back up files, then they would certainly be lost as to what to do when their hard drive died regardless of physical media or not. Most likely they would go to a computer repair shop where a new internal drive would be installed, along with the latest OS one would assume. When I’ve had hard drives replaced by the Apple store in the past, they never delivered me a blank hard drive, it had the OS on it. They even offered to transfer everything else if I had a backup.

      Basing an entire argument in favor of distribution on install DVDs to accommodate the rare case where a Mac user doesn’t know how to back up files and whose hard drive dies is kind of ridiculous, with all due respect. What about all the Mac Air users? Are you saying that they should be required to somehow secure a DVD drive? Aren’t there more of them than there are clueless users with bad hard disks?

      1. What’s rally ridiculous is assuming that savvy users back up their entire OS, most do not. They only back up their files. If my HDD dies and I myself install a new one there is nothing on it, I would have to install Snow Leopard and re-download Lion. In the case the HDD is fine, but the machine won’t boot because the OS is hosed for some reason, same boat. If you did happen to be backing up the entire OS in that instance I wouldn’t even trust the backed up OS not to have the same issues.

      2. @Pants: I’ll say it again. If you have the wherewithall to replace a hard disk in a Macintosh computer (no easy feat), then surely you had the foresight and knowledge to make a backup of the Lion installer (I never said the entire OS).

        If the hard disk is fine but for some reason but Lion is “hosed” and needs to be reinstalled, Lion automatically installs a recovery partition from which you can boot to reinstall the OS, repair disk drives, or even browse the local network for backups and installers. It may even let you look on the internet for solutions, I’m not sure, as I understand there’s a way to run Safari without logging in.

  2. I understand why Apple is requiring Lion to be a download, it makes sense in terms of moving us (the end user) to the future. However, I think its too soon to make it be the only option. Perhaps the next version of Mac OS, but not now. I would be willing to pay an extra 10 bucks to have the physical media – I bet most people would…

    1. Actually, I am glad they are doing away with discs. They’re a hassle and a pain. As soon as I get any physical media I make a digital copy pronto so that I have an immediate solution should I need it (hard drive dies and I have to install on a blank hard drive) as well as the fall back network download/install.

  3. “Apple wants to alleviate some of those issues, by suggesting that users should bring their Macs in to their local Apple Store (via Computerworld), and use the free Wi-Fi connection provided by the store to download the update.”

    I thought Apple’s reasoning was that we would’nt have to drive to our local Apple Store or as your article so quaintly plugs Computerworld and that is why they were not releasing it on DVD. Defeats Apples purpose for the App Store.

  4. MySchizoBuddy Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    being in Pakistan with 2Mbit/s unlimited connection this doesn’t have any affect on me at all.

    How many times in an year does an average Mac user format his hard drive?

    1. “How many times in an year does an average Mac user format his hard drive?”

      The correct answer should be zero unless you have had hardware failure and need to replace it.

  5. I like the thought of no disks and the ability to download to all my machines. I have 4 macs in the house and satellite internet with a 12GB cap( no I don’t have any other options and no I don’t live in the boondocks, only 5 minutes from I-5 and between two cities). The MacBooks aren’t a real problem as stated in the article just a pain to go somewhere to sit and download. The iMac and Mini are the problem. I can’t see myself hauling my computers to a Mac Store set up plug in and wait for the download. The plan, in a place with good internet connections to all, would work in the real world it is ill-conceived.

    1. “ill-conceived” is a polite term to say the least. It almost boarders on arrogance to assume that every Mac owner either has access to a broadband-type connection with a large data allowance, or is near a Mac store. Really, how difficult is it for Apple to make the upgrade available on a flash drive? Given that people are willing to pay $29-$59 for Apple accessories that cost a few dollars to make, it stikes me as odd that they would not just charge people for the convenience of a flsh drive, as selling convenience is really a large part of Apple’s DNA. I am beginnning to wonder if Apple will be “jumping the shark” some time soon with its recent attitude towards its customers. And for the record, I currently own and use equipment that runs on Windows, Android and iOS. And yes, I have my issues and praises for all the hardware and software manufacturers, and Apple is no exception one way or antoher.

      –Ken

      1. This is a environmental solution as well. Apple has always been concern about it. The fewer DVD’s in the market the better. Just because you have the money to spend, it doesn’t mean that you can do it and generate more garbage.

      2. @ Romino
        I take exception to your statement that Apple has always been concerned about the environment. For the most part, environmentalists had to pressure Apple to get in the game with respect to environmentally friendly manufacturing and recycling. And I am still not sure how environmentally friendly using aluminium for computer cases is until I see a recycling plan for these machines when they are no longer in service. And with regards to DVDs, I did not advocate the use of DVDs for distribution. I suggested flash drives, which can be used and re-used extensively. Being concerned about the environment, I would think that you would be in favor of extending the life of any existing machines in any way possible, including making it easy to upgrade operating systems. I can see some people deciding to replace thier machines with a new model rather than deal with the unecessary hassle of having to obtain the upgrade though inconvenient means. Why encourage them with arrogant policies?

        –Ken

    2. You could bring a MacBook in, get the Lion “download”, pay for as many licenses as you need and burn a DVD or USB stick at home for your other machines. Within the Lion installer there is talk of a .dmg that can be imaged to other media.

  6. I’ll be waiting to see if a disk is made available.

  7. You note: “That Apple, a company known for wanting to make thing easy for consumers is suggesting such a clunky solution…”

    I’ve been in and out of the corporate world enough times to know what we’re probably seeing here. It’s a high-tech version of the tale of The Emperor Has No Clothes. A boss gets a big idea that most of his subordinates know is “clunky” or worse, and yet none of them dares to raise an objection. Only disaster and embarrassment bring resolution and that comes too late.

    For those worried about disk crashes, I suggest using SuperDuper or one of its kin for backup. It beats the socks off a DVD reboot. I had a drive crash and ten minutes later I was back at work with everything configured as I like it, including all my apps, and with nothing of significance lost. When the drive began to go, I quickly saved the file I was working on to a thumb drive. Everything was on that backup drive. I booted off it, and went back to work. When the replacement drive arrived, I cloned it from my backup drive. I also use Time Machine to another drive, but it’s SuperDuper that I trust most.

  8. Stephen Moye Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Agreed: Apple’s decision about installing Lion is both arrogant and insensitive. I have seen estimates of the number of people still on dial-up and it was enormous. For those in that situation, but who are lucky enough to live relatively near an Apple store, I don’t see why they should not make an appointment with an Apple Genius and, armed with a blank DVD, log in to the App Store and download the installer. Two options present themselves: copy the installer app onto the DVD, or find the disk image of the installer (which lurks in the app bundle) and burn a DVD from that. All this assumes that Apple will not forbid that possibility. In any event, I’m pretty sure that Apple will have to supply Lion install disks at some point.

  9. Apple is Dumb not making it available on a DVD. I know many New MACs do not have DVDs. And yes – Installing Lion on a NEW Disc is a real problem also as
    Howie points out.

  10. - Approx 2 Mil Macs per quarter were sold for last 2 years = 8 Mil Macs
    – say 50% of them will upgrade.
    – 4 Mil Macs to upgrade
    – 4*10^6 * 4GB = 4PB. That is lot of bytes to download.
    – This would be over a period of time
    – Even if 0.1 % people upgrade every day , we would be pumping 4TB of data apart from regular traffic

    Would it be historic enuff ?
    How does it affect our regular traffic

Comments have been disabled for this post