The Lion Report: Letting People Off Gently

July 6th, 2011

As you might expect, I am already receiving letters from friends and readers wondering when they should upgrade to Mac OS X Lion. A notable example came from someone who publishes books about making money from a home business, and I suppose that is a hard sell these days. Regardless, he had read Apple’s puff pieces about the joys of Lion, and was ready to buy that upgrade as soon as it’s released.

I had to let him down gently.

Yes, he has a speedy broadband connection, a prerequisite unless you can find a nearby Wi-Fi hot spot, a library, or an Apple reseller to download the installer. But his Mac is way, way out of date. Seems he has an early generation Mac mini, a model with a PowerPC chip, whereas Lion requires a 64-bit Intel processor. But it’s not as if he didn’t have the opportunity to get a new computer. A couple of years ago, the hard drive failed, and a local dealer offered him a decent discount on a refurbished Intel model, or he would end up paying roughly half that amount to replace the hard drive; a lot of that price was the installation fee, since he was not about to mess with the innards of a Mac mini.

He chose the inexpensive solution against my suggestion that he replace that computer, and it was a decision that has now come back to haunt him, since the version of Mac OS X he is running now is the last he will ever be able to run, until his Mac is replaced.

At the same time, the sort of work he does isn’t going to be made that much more efficient on a new Mac. Other than email and Internet surfing, he has to process orders for his self-help books, but that doesn’t require any special software. His older version of Microsoft Office is also perfectly suited to his needs. Worse, the upgrade to a new computer — and Lion — will mean that his few PowerPC apps won’t run, since Lion reportedly won’t support the Rosetta translation software. That’s the utility that allowed you to run PowerPC software on an Intel-based Mac.

Now as far as my friend is concerned, he doesn’t have to do a thing until his Mac fails. Apple doesn’t care about him until he buys a new computer, and they will do nothing to help ease the migration to Lion for such customers. Besides, the vast majority of Mac users run Intel hardware anyway, and a hefty portion of that group can upgrade to Lion if they choose to do so. Sure, some don’t have Snow Leopard, and may have to perform a double upgrade (to Snow Leopard 10.6.8, then to Lion), assuming that Apple doesn’t relent and provide a a more favorable upgrade scheme, such as a physical installer DVD. Whether that happens depends on customer demand. If only a small number of users complain, Apple won’t budge.

Now I did get one other interesting letter, from someone who bought one of my computer books 10 years ago, wondering if I planned to write an Lion update. Well, I haven’t written computer books for several years, and I don’t plan on looking for such an opportunity now or ever. That market is well served by a number of excellent authors. I did, however, provide the basic information about Lion to that reader; also the advice that some of the material in that old book is probably still somewhat useful.

As the Lion user base grows, I expect I’ll receive more and more inquiries about upgrades. But you have to regard a $29.99 price for a downloadable installer as largely an accommodation to existing Mac users. Apple really wants you to buy new hardware, which is their primary source of income. Sure, enough copies of Lion will be purchased to more than compensate for the R&D expense. Apple, being way more efficient than Microsoft in such matters, doesn’t have to squander billions of dollars of cash to create every single major OS upgrade.

And even though tech pundits continue to want to put Apple and Microsoft in the same business, they’re not. Apple offers an operating system as part of the whole widget, a full-blown user experience. Microsoft expects third parties to build the hardware, which is good or bad depending on your point of view. That Apple delivers a more elegant, more reliable and predictable user experience is the end result of avoiding model proliferation and making sure that everything works well together. Adding iOS-inspired elements to Lion will also ease the transition from one gadget to the other. You buy Apple, you can depend on a consistent experience, only altered to cater to the exclusive needs of a specific platform.

Microsoft craves Windows everywhere, even on a tablet, without compromise or alteration. But the public has already decided that’s not where they want to go. Unfortunately, Microsoft remains too obtuse to understand.

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4 Responses to “The Lion Report: Letting People Off Gently”

  1. Duane says:

    What about the ‘elephant in the living room’ that no one seems to mention? By that I mean, what happens to the ‘cloud’ (or your access to it) if a region wide power shortage comes up as happened in the Northeast US and Canada some years ago when the power grid was crippled by massive sunspot activity? Or what about when you lose power due to natural disaster (think New Orleans, places flooded by raging rivers that are overflowing due to huge amounts of rain? No, Apple, you won’t catch me with your cloud.

    • @Duane, I assume there’s some level of redundancy in terms of server capacity elsewhere, since North Carolina doesn’t have the only Apple datacenter. I’m also certain they have in-house emergency generators, typical for such establishments. Otherwise, you’d be seeing loads of sites going offline during a weather and/or power crisis.


  2. Russ says:

    @Gene, there are two aspects to this. The first, which you describe, is the loss of the servers where my data may be stored. Like you, I assume that any competent company will have redundant storage and power and the loss of access to my data will be relatively brief. However, there is a second scenario where I am physically in the area that is experiencing power failures and/or loss of internet access. In this case, I am truly out of luck in trying to access my data. Of course, one could ask if the power goes out how will I charge my phone or computer, but there is the possibility of doing so with solar batteries, limited access to power, etc. The cloud access may not be so easy to fix.

    This is one of the reasons that I prefer Apple’s cloud solution to Google’s solution. Google wants you to keep you data in the cloud. Apple wants you to use the cloud to to make sure all of your devices have the same version of your data. These are very different approaches.

  3. ccllyyddee says:

    FYI: Some libraries limit the amount of traffic that an individual user can use at a time. The librarian may not know, but your download could be rudely interrupted and not rebooted until a later time. My reseller advises me that if my cellular download is interrupted that it will pick up where the download left off. I downloaded over 2 GB’s of an Apple update the other day. It took several hours, but never went bad. Incidentally, my experience with streaming video with Apple is that it is not subject to ‘time out’s’ either.

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