OS Upgrading: More Customer Education Needed



Apple (s aapl) 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.


Charles W. Moore

Hi Aboo;

I used a 1.33 GHz 17″ PowerBook as my main production machine running under Leopard for 16 months. It was less lively than OS 10.4 had been, but I got addicted to Spaces and QuickLook and it wasn’t that bad. I expect my friend’s G5 iMac would be significantly faster than the old PowerBook running Leopard.

Different users will draw the line in different places. For my 550 MHz G4 Pismo PowerBooks, OS 10.4.11 is as far as I will go.



I used to have this problem too, I agree that for persons who are not really used to do tech works they sometimes get lost in the OsX version they’re running.

Could be solved simply by sending emails to clients of their database and inform them that operating system has been updated and available in stores and that they should buy the new one if they wish to use upcoming Apps.
Like the each time you receive an advert mail when a new Mac is available.

But then again a conflict takes place because some applications they are using right now have the chance of not working with the new OsX.
Establishing a compatibility list for each versions of OsX would help.
An finally it would be consumer’s decision as they will be already infomed.


Howie Isaacks

I disagree with this. Most of the non tech savvy Mac users I know understand about OS upgrades. Furthermore, Mac users tend to be more knowledgeable about their computers than their Windows using counterparts. I ask people all the time what version of Windows they’re running. Most of them don’t know which is strange considering all of the publicity surrounding Vista, and Windows 7. Older Mac users tend to be the most hesitant to upgrade to newer versions of Mac OS. However, they do get curious about new versions of iLife which gets them in the door and allows them to be told about the latest and greatest Mac OS.


It is indeed rather strange that something as basic as tax software should require the latest os version. Those “PC users” can still run everything on XP, an os released way back in 2001. Apparently if I had bought an apple in 2005 with panther, not feeling obliged to buy a service pack for 129 dollar, I’d be having a problem with something as basic as a browser or a tax program. That just sucks.


But, to add to your point, you should not forget that if you want to run a software (like your friends tax software) that just works on leopard you have to upgrade to leopard. Leopard does not run fast enough on eMac or iMac G5. It is even slower than Tiger on those machines.

It is not fair for them to ask for you to upgrade while you think (and I think) your machine is good enough for other things… If you can run debian or any other ppc version linux on your G4 machine faster than leopard thats Apple’s fault not consumers…


I agree completely. The same thing happened to me this week. My brother (also a University Prof.), found out he had to update his emac from Panther if he expected it to work with the new Airport.

Apple already makes it as cheap as can be to update, not sure what other incentives they can offer other than bundles. Even if it were completely free and completely automatic, I’m sure there would be a lot that wouldn’t upgrade.

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