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Apple Moving iLife to Intel-Only, Putting PowerPC Out to Pasture?

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iLife ’09 recently arrived and brought with it loads of goodies and new features for users upgrading from previous versions. iPhoto ’09’s facial recognition tech is the talk of the town, since it can apparently even distinguish between cats. Aspiring musicians can learn from the greats, albeit for a fee, via Garage Band’s “Artist Lessons”. Or rather, aspiring musicians who are lucky enough to be using a Mac with an Intel (s intc) processor can learn from the greats. Those still running PPC architecture have actually been left out in the cold by Apple (s aapl) this time around.

It’s not like “Intel-only” is something Mac users haven’t heard before, but this is the first time Apple has applied it to their popular consumer-level media suite, as Ars Technica points out. As someone who’s currently shopping for a gently used 12″ PowerBook G4, which I’m opting for over a new netbook, the news is somewhat disconcerting. Or dis-“concerting”, rather. See what I did there?

The problem is not so much with my not being able to pay $6.50 for questionably useful musical instruction from celebrities, but with the possibility that this represents the first crack in the dam, so to speak. If Apple begins excluding PowerPC architecture from its support list, it’s unlikely that anyone else will continue to respect the technology either. Should they, though? One of the benefits of buying Apple hardware in the past has been the durability of the computers, and the fact that they retain so much resale value, even as they advance significantly in age. Still, does that mean that Apple and others should bend over backwards to offer legacy support?

I’d argue that yes, they should, if they want to keep their reputation of being a computer that you can happily own for many years, and then pass on or find another loving home for when you are finished. And that reputation will remain intact, so long as the core functionality remains accessible, even if glittering extras like Norah Jones helping you play piano might not.

14 Responses to “Apple Moving iLife to Intel-Only, Putting PowerPC Out to Pasture?”

  1. @frd75 There is a difference between doing something other than what a vocal group shout for and not treating customers properly. Apple aren’t in the business of trying to fill every tiny market segment, and if you can’t find what you need in their line up then it’s not an issue for them.

    Matte displays for example are not preferred by the user-base overall, and for those complaining… they should probably be using much larger external displays anyway. For the group which may be borderline (17″ MacBook Pro users) the option was added.

    Mobile Me has been a joy for me since it was .Mac. I had zero downtime during the bad times of the switch and it’s saved my bacon (mostly with email) many times. It’s fantastic with updating my MacBook Pro and iPhone and it’s never let me down. Again, the vast majority of customers have never reported issues.

    In short, “out of the box, it just works” still stands. Some people will always have issues, that’s a given. Still, that doesn’t mean Apple are mis-treating customers by not spending money on each individuals tailored needs.

  2. My complaint with apple has nothing to do with holding back development of software but how customers are treated. Development would not be held back by making matte screens optional even at additional cost, nor would it be held back by not releasing the iphone or mobile until they worked.

    Mobile me was a disaster for me, first doubling and then tripling the entries in address book Then losing all the saved passwords in keychain.

    What ever happened to “out of the box, it just works”.

  3. Point takes, G5’s are both tired and 64-bit, however they aren’t x86 architecture so it’s completely different. The point that paying customers who upgrade at reasonable intervals shouldn’t be held back by perpetual hold-outs still stands. After all, if some had their way it would all still run inside OS9 on a beige G3.

  4. Are you really looking to buy a 12 PowerBook G4?
    I’ve been thinking of selling mine though eBay (’cause I wanna get into photography, and this one don’ have the space nor the horsepower to deal with RAW images). If you’re already looking, let me know. I might just see if mine is really worth it, and get the guts to sell it.

  5. This doesn’t surprise me. Why should they hold back software development for PowerPC Macs? In 2006, I eagerly switched to an Intel Mac because I knew that this kind of thing would happen in the end. I have no envy at all for Apple store employees who now have to deal with customers who are pissed off that iLife ’09 won’t work with their older Macs. Looking at the system specs, this situation isn’t as bad as people are making it seem:

    • Mac computer with an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (867MHz or faster) processor
    iMovie requires an Intel-based Mac, Power Mac G5 (dual 2.0GHz or faster), or iMac G5 (1.9GHz or faster).
    • GarageBand Learn to Play requires an Intel-based Mac with a dual-core processor or better.
    • 512MB of RAM; 1GB recommended. High-definition video requires at least 1GB of RAM.
    • Approximately 4GB of available disk space
    • DVD drive required for installation
    • Mac OS X v10.5.6 or later
    • QuickTime 7.5.5 or later (included)
    • AVCHD video requires a Mac with an Intel Core Duo processor or better. Visit iMovie ’09 Camcorder Support for details on digital video device and format support.
    • 24-bit recording in GarageBand requires a Mac OS X-compatible audio interface with support for 24-bit audio. Please consult the owner’s manual or manufacturer directly for audio device specifications and compatibility.
    • Some features require Internet access and/or MobileMe; additional fees and terms apply. MobileMe is available to persons age 13 and older. Annual subscription fee and Internet access required. Terms of service apply.
    • iPhoto print products are available in the U.S., Canada, Japan, and select countries in Europe and Asia Pacific.
    • GarageBand Artist Lessons are sold separately and are available directly through the GarageBand Lesson Store in select countries.
    • Burning DVDs requires an Apple SuperDrive or compatible third-party DVD burner.
    • Flickr service is available only in select countries.

    The way I see it, you’re being very unrealistic if you think that Apple should hold back software development or, allow some users to have a lousy experience with the software just because there are people who have not upgraded their Macs. How long is Apple supposed to wait?

  6. I switched from win to mac 10 years ago because microsoft just rammed things down their customers throats. Now Apple is getting in the same bad habit.

    Don’t like glossy screens –Tough. like dot mac but not mobile me— tough. have a perfectly good G5 dually and want to use Ilife –tough.

    This new ” take it or leave it attitude” by Apple seems to me to reflect the idea that mac users will swallow anything just to use a mac. That attitude has cost apple the sale of a 24 inch iMac to me and if I can’t hack iLife into my G5 it will cost them the sale of my next pro model. computer.

  7. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to get people to upgrade hardware every 5 years or so is it? As Gazoobee says, that outlasts most consumer and pro-sumer PCs for a kick off.

    With regards to comments about video resolution and binaries however I have to disagree. It’s completely reasonable to want to deliver quality wherever possible, and while software is still being distributed on DVD there is no reason at all to offer lower quality videos. Those who can’t play the 1080p videos reasonably are using vintage, or near vintage machines which are vastly outnumbered by machines which can play the video. Someone always has to loose out and it’s best that it’s not those with brand new machines.

    The same goes for making things universal. Due to the changes being made under the hood in Snow Leopard, most of the optimisation has nothing to with the binaries. A lot of the changes allow 64-bit systems to run faster which counts out all PPC machines and even Core Duo Intel machines. This is no bad thing – progress has to be made and consumers with new machines shouldn’t be held back by those who refuse to spend a little money every half a decade.

    Again, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to get people to upgrade hardware every 5 years or so is it?

  8. So much for “as easy just checking one check box” to make a universal binary. Apparently, Apple is too lazy to check a check box. Even more annoying is the easy hacks available online to make iLife fully PPC compatible. Supposedly, the excuse is that the training videos are all 1080 HD and older systems can’t show them while doing something else at the same time. Do the videos really need to be that high a resolution? Couldn’t they offer lower res versions for older hardware (just like the iTunes store does)? Obviously, this is a marketing decision, not a engineering one.

    People forget, not everyone can afford to replace all of their computers every other year (my little company does it every 5 to 7 years), but can afford to buy relatively inexpensive things like iLife every year. If Apple wants to completely clear out the channel from end to end every three years, then they are going to have to lower their prices. Or is the $20 billion or so they have in cash not enough?!?

  9. Actually, the previous version of iMovie wouldn’t install on a PPC Mac, either. At least, it wouldn’t install on my tired ol’ PB G4. I was able to install their we’re-sorry-iMovie-08-sucks-so-much free copy of iMovie 06. So, that might’ve been a horsepower thing and not a processor issue, specifically.

  10. Gazoobee

    I understand the sentiment, but I (kinda) disagree.

    Most computers last less than two years, three is totally normal. Macs always last longer, I find somewhere between five and six years is the top limit for most people. PPCs are almost that old at this point, certainly much older than the average windows PC is before it’s obsolete or broken.

    Also, these computers still work fine, they just won’t be able to run the latest OD and apps, nothing unusual about that really.

  11. Whew. Good thing my Late 2001 Dual-USB iBook died last year (by my doing unfortunately). I anticipate that thing would still be running beautifully had I not dropped it … hard.

    Yep. Apple’s hardware is typically a long-lasting tank. I say let it be that, and let it run what it can. Do you really want to be installing iLife 09 with all it’s bells and whistles onto Snow Leopard on that G4 Powerbook of which you speak? Doubtful. Talk about sluggish.

    If you’re purchasing the new (gently used) hardware for a work task, and you desire the new software, you should buy new hardware. If it’s just for knock around stuff at home, recipes, taking on trips, etc … go for the old. It’ll last forever, unless you drop it.

    I’m sad to some degree about this news since my three year old G5 tower at work still works fabulously. I haven’t put 10.5 on it even yet, or CS4. Still going strong with room to upgrade behind the curve. But, it won’t be able to muster Snow Leopard or the new iLife either. I guess this is why I’m starting to not buy what Apple’s telling me to as soon as it’s available. If I wait a year or so, I can upgrade to the old stuff and still be doin’ well.