One detail that escaped mention during the keynote presentation at Apple’s WWDC earlier this week likely does not sit well with users still clutching their beloved G4 machines, namely that OS X 10.6, also know as Snow Leopard, will finally drop PowerPC support and only run on Intel (s intc) Macs. It’s unfortunate for people attached to their eMacs and 12-inch Powerbooks, especially given that Snow Leopard appears to be more resource-efficient than Leopard ever was.
Yes, it’s unfortunate, but it also makes sense from Apple’s (s aapl) perspective. The company hasn’t released a PowerPC computer since October 2005, which will be nearly four years ago when Snow Leopard is released in September. Four years might not be a long time to own a car or a refrigerator, but with computers, it’s a lifetime. Just think about the difference between the original MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Pro announced this past Tuesday.
A lot of what Snow Leopard brings to the table won’t be all that applicable to a computer with PowerPC architecture, either, such as multicore processing improvements with Grand Central Dispatch, and OpenCL tech that leverages graphics processor capabilities for general computing tasks. Not to mention that the whole thing runs in 64-bit mode, which probably wouldn’t play all that nice on older Macs.
Macs have always been notable for their value proposition in the long term. I was only recently shopping for a PowerPC G4 12-inch PowerBook as a gift for my girlfriend, thinking I could pick one up for a song at this point. In fact, for a decently spec’d machine with a newish battery, I was looking at paying at least $550-$600. Many people were unblinkingly asking $750 and up for their cherished machines, and weren’t open to being talked down at all.
Does a lack of continued OS support hurt the value proposition of those machines? Sure it does, but probably not as much as one might think. Anyone looking to buy an older Mac, for instance, probably doesn’t have technological currency at the forefront of their mind. In fact, whether they find Tiger, Leopard, or Snow Leopard on the computer in question probably won’t make much difference in terms of their usage.
Maybe Apple is leaving a lot of people out to dry when it comes to Snow Leopard’s backwards compatibility, but at the same time, you have to remember that Apple is a hardware company first and foremost. Yes, it makes a lot of software, too, but that’s not its primary source of revenue. Snow Leopard is really just another reason to buy a new machine, and you can’t really blame Apple for wanting people to do that.