One important feature of OS X Mavericks was the list of system requirements. It ran on the same hardware as OS X Mountain Lion, and evidently with good performance overall. I hadn’t really heard much in the way of complaints about OS 10.9 operating slug-like on someone’s vintage Mac, though I can see where the boundaries might be stretched on some of those 2007 and 2008 models.
What this means is that the uptake of Yosemite is apt to be similar to Mavericks, which now runs on over 50% of the installed base of 80 million Macs according to Apple. The rest? Well, an estimated 15-20% still use OS X Snow Leopard. Unlike Windows XP, though, that’s not necessarily an indictment against the quality of later versions of OS X. Complaints that the Mac is taking on too many of the characteristics of iOS are misleading, since a Mac is still a Mac and most functions work the same regardless.
One key reason for the high level of OS 10.6 users is the hardware. The equipment won’t run newer versions of OS X. A second reason is Rosetta, the PowerPC conversion software that lets you run older apps on Intel-based Macs. You could argue that Apple should have found a way to continue to offer that capability, but Apple rarely looks backwards. On the other hand, allowing Macs that are five to seven years old to use the latest OS X is far different from the Apple of a few years ago. You see, if performance is good, customers may be less likely to buy new Macs, although some features, admittedly, won’t make the transition.
The key impediment to Yosemite adoption, though, is the new look. One of my long-time clients muttered “YUK!” after reading about this week’s WWDC presentation. But changing artwork, fonts and special effects amounts to window dressing. It doesn’t make you use your Mac differently. The new features, particularly Spotlight on steroids, will give you more flexibility, but it won’t stop you from working on your Mac pretty much as you do now. Apple isn’t forcing you to buy an iPhone or an iPad to use Continuity. Use it or not, or stick with an Android or a Windows Phone device if you prefer. The complaints are overblown.
In the iOS world, there were plenty of complaints that the iPhone 4 and iOS 7 weren’t very happy together. Performance wasn’t so good, though the iOS 7.1 update improved things considerably. Still, a lot of the power of iOS 8 no doubt makes it necessary to set the iPhone 4 out to pasture. The iPad 2 and the first iPad mini, however, will support the new iOS. In fairness, performance of the current iOS on my wife’s third generation iPad isn’t all that terrific. I’ve turned off some of the special effects, but she will probably push me to get her a new one after iOS 8 is out.
A year from now, though, Apple will report that over half of the Mac user base will be using Yosemite, and a greater percentage will be running iOS 8 ahead of the announcement of their successors. That’s nothing surprising, though I’m certainly assuming that the new OS upgrades will be fairly reliable and won’t present any serious show stoppers for Apple’s users.
When you look at the Android world, though, you’ll see that only a tiny percentage of a much larger universe are using version 4.4 KitKat. Even if the gear is compatible, and Google promised that the latest Android would run better on older hardware, the possibility of an update is little to none. The sole exception is Google’s own Nexus product line.
So there’s the unfortunate situation where even new Android gear is running an OS that may be two years old or older. Security problems remain unfixed, and app developers aren’t able to exploit the latest and greatest features.
But with Android, it’s not that recent upgrades have been all that spectacular. That’s why Google went from Android 4.3 to 4.4. It was a modest upgrade. In contrast, both Yosemite and iOS 8 offer a larger number of changes and improvements than any Apple OS in recent memory. Or perhaps ever.
In the past, Apple has been forced to stretch the definition of “new feature” to exceed the magic 200 number. This time, 200 is the starting point, and hardly a day passes where I don’t read about yet another undiscovered feature reported by beta testers. Besides, only the first developer releases are out, so it’s quite possible other features that weren’t quite ready for prime time will appear.
So I’m still hoping for a side-by-side multitasking capability for an iPad, allowing you to run two apps or documents on the same screen. You can do that on Android gear now, and I was hoping Apple would say something about it at the WWDC. Some rumors suggest it’ll show up later, when it’s ready to demonstrate, and one can always hope.
As it stands, though, it’s really encouraging to see Apple providing a high level of support for older hardware as an amazing number of new features are being added for both OS X and iOS.