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  • The Fast March to OS X Mavericks

    December 4th, 2013

    As Microsoft continues to confront the problem of hundreds of millions of PCs still using the ancient Windows XP, Apple's strategy to make OS 10.9 free appears to have paid off. According to Net Applications, which tracks Web traffic, Mavericks is now installed on some 32% of the Macs currently in use. Remember that Mavericks was only introduced on October 22, so this has been one huge upgrade cycle.

    But that doesn't mean all Mac users will get with the program. A stubborn 20% insist on sticking with OS 10.6, better known as Snow Leopard. But there may be critical reasons for that. You see. Snow Leopard is the last OS X version that supports Rosetta, the translation utility that lets you run PowerPC apps on an Intel-based Mac. So Mac users are confronted with either finding an upgrade to the affected apps, if one is even available, or doing without. Clearly they can't always do without. It's also true that some of these Macs won't support Mavericks, so an upgrade will never happen.

    That's a very different situation than the one that impacts Windows users, where many of the PCs that are using Windows XP can probably be upgraded to Windows 7. There are various reasons why it hasn't happened. One is that a system migration may be time-consuming for a business with lots of PCs deployed. Mission critical apps may have to be updated, potentially a costly proposition, assuming the updates will even work with current versions of Windows.

    My chiropractor is an example. His office uses Windows XP Professional, which is required for the office management software installed on all their PCs. When I asked if they'd ever consider switching to Windows 7 (Windows 8 is out of the question), it was a matter of buying new computers, along with the prospect of maybe having to switch to a different management app to run the office. It's never easy or cheap, and Microsoft's decision to declare Windows XP as an "end of life" product in 2014 isn't going to help. People will still use it.

    When it comes to OS X, Apple made a smart decision with Mavericks, which is to support pretty much the same hardware as Mountain Lion. Whether that'll apply to 10.9's successor is anyone's guess, but it will certainly ensure that the adoption rate will grow. And making it free doesn't hurt.

    But there are Snow Leopard users who might have other reasons to avoid later OS versions other than Rosetta and hardware limits. The few interface changes, with the scrollbars as a blatant example, — which brought OS X more in line with iOS — are not always treated with respect by some. There's the ultimate fear that Apple will pull a Microsoft and merge OS X with iOS some day. But I don't expect anything like that to happen unless Macs join Windows PCs and come in convertible notebook form, which work as swollen touchscreens in addition to the normal personal computer functionality. While there are reports that Apple might embrace ARM processors on Macs some day, that doesn't mean you'll have an iPad/MacBook combo.

    But despite the concerns about the iOS-ification of OS X, I really haven't seen much of that actually happening. That some apps share the name and basic functionality doesn't count. That Apple has grafted a more minimalist interface on such apps as Contacts and Calendar on the Mac reflects nothing more than a decision to remove the skeuomorphic excesses. There will be more of that, more consistency in the sometimes scattershot approach seen in OS X, but none of that should impair the user experience to any serious degree, or force you to learn new things.

    As I've written previously, the early Mavericks experience is actually quite favorable. There have been some issues, and one hopes they will be addressed soon in expected maintenance updates. According to published reports, Apple is actively testing a 10.9.1 update, though it's not certain when it'll be out. There was already a Mail for Mavericks update, but it appears more work needs to be done to fix Apple's email app, so maybe more fixes are forthcoming.

    However, compared to most versions of OS X, the first maintenance updates were already out by the first month. On that score, it appears Apple is doing better this time, or maybe the lingering problems require more work to fix. The most serious issue, one that involved the possible loss of data on a Western Digital external drive, does appear to have been addressed with updated utilities from WD. I don't know if that issue involved Apple-related issues, but what's done is done.

    I suppose, then, that it may be time to consider what Apple has afoot for 10.10, or whatever it'll be called. Would it be known as OS 11, or OS XI? I don't think it looks as good as a branding exercise, so maybe it'll be something in the OS X family for the foreseeable future, although an OS 10.20 may seem a bit much.



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    5 Responses to “The Fast March to OS X Mavericks”

    1. DaveD says:

      I usually wait for a .3 update before upgrading, but this time I pulled the switch early. On December 1, the MacBook Air was running Mountain Lion got upgraded to Mavericks. The installer was sitting on the solid-state drive for over a month as I waited for the third-party apps to become compatible. The upgrading process itself was uneventful. It was after the first login when quite a few third-party apps were requesting permission for accessibility of assisted devices. And I saw that Apple made a change in that arena. I lost the use of two third-party apps, one is no longer under active development for over a year or more so it is a bye-bye. Overall, the upgrade looks good. I see the iBooks app which one of the reasons for an early upgrade and hoping the virtual memory process is less aggressive. Under Mountain Lion, the VM size grew to be near 4 GB a few days after a restart. So far, so good.

    2. Peter says:

      I'll stick with 10.8. Remember the "Star Trek" theory--the even numbered ones are the good ones.

    3. dfs says:

      I upgraded, and have only noticed three significant differences: 1.) the new way of handling memory ("memory compression), which looks like a good step forward and would seem to be the only under-the-hood improvement that will benefit all users; 2.) AppStore refuses to launch, which is bad. 3.) And of course the long-overdue iBooks.

      Gene Steinberg Reply:

      @dfs, Obviously the App Store issue isn't normal. I did see one comment of a similar problem at Apple's support forums (I didn't check if there were more). Maybe look for a preference file and remove it?

      Peace,
      Gene

    4. James Katt says:

      I upgraded to OS X Mavericks.

      Unfortunately, this caused Now Up-To-Date and Now Contact to completely fail to start.

      My solution was to install and run OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server virtually in Parallels. This allows me to have OS X 10.6 running simultaneously with OS X 10.9.

      Now Up-To-Date and Now Contact can now run forever in OS X 10.6, no matter what future OS X upgrade occurs. And any legacy software that needs OS X 10.6 and Rosetta will also now run forever.

      It works fantastically.

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