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Apple Officially Puts PowerPC Behind Them With Snow Leopard

notifyme_box20090608.jpgOne 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.

12 Responses to “Apple Officially Puts PowerPC Behind Them With Snow Leopard”

  1. What’s more stunning is that Snow Leopard drops support for building ppc64 applications. Which means that developers are forced to either build on Leopard or drop support for that architecture. I see no reason for this whatsoever apart from forcibly trying to make software companies drop ppc64 support.

  2. My PowerBook G4 1.33 GHz is still running well since its purchase in summer 2004. It’s been upgraded to 2GB RAM and a faster hard drive. Leopard runs great, and since I don’t do video/movie/graphic intensive stuff, this machine will probably get me through 2-3 yrs yet. On eBay, this model PB would go for $500-$700. But if other software besides Snow Leopard start to become Intel-only, then a PB replacement may be in order.

  3. It seems funny that people would get up-in-arms by this move from Apple, which does indeed make tons of sense, considering they’re a “buy the new model now now now” kind of company. Apple’s gotten incredibly good at the car sales notion of making minor changes and selling it as a whole new model; it’s their bread and butter, just about.

    Maybe the reason people can proudly tout their macs running for six years is that they move onto a new one every year, and their old boxes cease to be stressed as much. :)

  4. CVBruce

    No surprise here. I predicted this when Leopard came out. Apple supports an architecture for three years after they stop selling it. Happened for the 68K macs, and now it is happening for the PPC macs.

  5. Josh Walker

    Even though most of the speed in Snow Leopard most likely comes through a focus on Intel chips only, it still is quite shocking that it doesn’t support Apple’s fastest and most expensive computer in August 2006, the PowerMac G5 Quad.

    There are definitely some useful new features that PPC users would enjoy, but nonetheless left out in the cold. Hopefully developers won’t catch on with what Apple is doing and continue to support Leopard for at least a few more years.

  6. Maybe Apple is leaving a lot of people out to dry when it comes to Snow Leopard’s backwards compatibility

    I don’t see it that way at all – though I understand those people probably do. It’s not like those PPC machines will cease to operate the minute Snow Leopard ships. Snow Leopard offers them nothing in the way of improvements over Leopard even if they could install it. Anyone who feels “left out in the cold” needs to re-evaluate their needs, buying procedures and common sense.

    You don’t buy a flat-roof house and cry when you can’t install ceramic tile roofing – you just keep installing roll-roofing until you can afford a new house. The same mentality applies here.

    Ok, that was probably a lame example, but you get the idea ;)