Snow Leopard – Intel only

It had to happen, right? Mac OS Snow Leopard is out today. It’s the first version which doesn’t run on PowerPC Macs.

“Snow Leopard is an upgrade for Leopard users and requires a Mac with an Intel processor.” — Apple Store

I suppose it’s been about three years since Apple stopped selling PowerPCs. I wonder how many 3rd party software vendors are also abandoning them. I know my sister has a PowerPC Mac laptop from circa 2004, but I wonder how many others are still out there in regular use. Perhaps the more significant issue will be how long patches for newly discovered vulnerabilities will be supplied.

Perhaps it’s no biggie, but I’m just imagining the fuss that would be made if Microsoft made a new operating system that didn’t work with four-year-old PCs.

9 thoughts on “Snow Leopard – Intel only

  1. Chris Till

    >> I’m just imagining the fuss that would be made if Microsoft made a new operating system that didn’t work with four-year-old PCs.

    They did, it was called Vista!

    That said, luckily Windows 7 corrects that – even my crappy little NetBook, which utterly struggled with both Vista and XP, absolutely flies like hell with Win7.

  2. Anonymous

    No, Vista didn’t work with ONE year old PCs….

    Apple distributed another update for Leopard the other day so it doesn’t look like support for it is showing any signs of decreasing.

  3. daniel Post author

    That’s just not true. Vista came out in July 2005; there was nothing inherently in the design that prevented it running on a PC bought in 2001, if it was capable/fast enough and drivers were available. You can argue that proper drivers weren’t provided for much of the 3rd party hardware on the market at the time, but it’s simply untrue to say that Vista’s design made a change which made it automatically incompatible with older PCs. I’m not saying it was very compatible, but they didn’t go make it incompatible with 4-year-old processors.

    As for Win7, remember, Win7 is based on Vista. One could argue that it’s Vista done right.

    Good to hear about Apple’s ongoing support for Leopard.

  4. Chris Till

    >> there was nothing inherently in the design that prevented it running on a PC bought in 2001

    What the!!!!!! You’re being sarcastic surely?

    A standard PC in 2001 had 128MB of RAM – I assure you Vista is “inherently designed” to NOT be compatible with that, absolutely no way what-so-ever!!!

    And let’s not forget that the original Vista project, which several years in was ditched and re-started from scratch, was far far worse. What did Bill Gates say at the time when they started… something about Vista being intended for PCs that didn’t yet exist.

    Yet, laugh and cry all anyone wants about O/S preferences, but I could (until Snow Leopard) grab the latest release of OSX and throw it on one of my (now 7 year old) PowerBook’s and it would run faster and better than the day I bought it. Same applies to any UNIX based operating system, they get leaner and meaner with every release.

    Sorry but Windows has NEVER been capable of that except NT 3.5 and Windows 7 (well, NT 6.2 IMHO) – but even then their latest efforts are but a step in the door compared to what they will (hopefully) learn and achieve through the MiniWin project, something they should have done a long long time ago.

    To your original point though, I was rather surprised when they announced last year that Snow Leopard would be Intel only – didn’t think they would do that for a couple more years. That said, given the heavy hardware based acceleration (Open CL, everything rewritten from the ground up to be utterly multithreaded, etc) they’ve been spending all their time on it makes sense that trying to support an entirely different platform isn’t exactly compatible with that direction.

  5. Noel Goddard

    Actually, Chris touched on Microsoft’s first foray into the realm of suddenly dropping support for existing (let alone obsolete) processors in mentioning Windows NT. That system was originally meant to be multi-platform and initially supported Intel IA-32 (later simply referred to as x86), MIPS R3000/R4000, PowerPC and Digital’s Alpha. The distribution kits for NT came with all 4 versions and the one you installed was automatically determined based on the hardware you had.

    As I recall, the MIPS support was dropped first, followed by PowerPC and then Alpha. NT4 in its later forms only supported x86 and Alpha but Alpha support was dropped when Win 2K went to RTM.

    And yes, the various non-x86 users were exceptionally browned off at the sudden removal of their OS and “fuss” is putting it mildly …

  6. Chris Till

    Ironically they still had builds they could run on PowerPC themselves internally, as Microsoft famously purchased countless Mac Pros to develop on when they switched XBOX to PowerPC.

    I recall Windows CE dumped a couple of its processors in its early years too, leaving many of us early adopters with devices we couldn’t upgrade. Not to mention nobody would compile their programs for those processors after that, so we quickly ran out of software to use too. No universal binaries or Rosetta layers there, MS dumped us high and dry…

  7. daniel Post author

    No, I’m not being sarcastic. In 2000 I bought a PC running at 650Mhz (P3 I think?) with 256 Mb of RAM. I recall that being mid-range at the time, though it was probably more RAM than was typical.

    Intel released 1.5 GHz processors in November 2000 which would have made them capable of running Vista when it came out later. It might not have been pretty, or advisable, but with enough RAM, it was possible.

    You can argue that Vista (released in November 2006) demanded faster CPUs and more RAM than were typical (in 2000, or even in 2003), and that driver support was poor, but you can’t argue that Microsoft intentionally designed it not to run on an entire class of CPU that had been common/mainstream under Windows 3 years prior to Vista’s release. It’s wrong to say that Vista was only capable of running on CPUs that were 3.5 years old or less, as Snow Leopard is.

    Though Noel’s point is a good one; Microsoft did do something similar with NT.

    All that said, in a lot of ways I admire Apple’s stance on not being afraid to let old technologies go. Along with the hardware restrictions, it certainly helps them have a more stable platform than MS, which after all, still has a level of DOS-compatibility in its latest versions of Windows.

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