Snow Leopard and the End of PowerPC Macs

In late 2008, I wrote an article about the future of PowerPC Macs, The Future of PowerPC Macs and Software as Snow Leopard Approaches. Well, all the rumours have been put to bed: Apple have announced the next version of Mac OS X, and it isn’t looking good for PowerPC users.

Scheduled for release in September, Apple are offering OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard at a knock down price of only $29 for existing OS X 10.5 Leopard users. At this point, I was excited. I was sure all the rumours of Snow Leopard being Intel-only were rubbish.

Intel Only for Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard will require an Intel MacHowever, read the small print. It is only for Intel users after all.

Since the release of Intel Macs, it has been a waiting game to see how long before PowerPC Macs were classed as extinct. Even before the mention of Snow Leopard, more and more software was being released as Intel-only.

When a new OS comes out, you expect new versions of software to be for that OS only – that is the forced progression of computing – but when the same OS runs on two architectures, it makes it a little more difficult.

The last G5 Power Mac clocked in at 2.5 GHz with 4 cores – still a very respectable machine, and certainly full of life – but it won’t be able to run Snow Leopard, Adobe Creative Suite 5, or other Intel-only software, yet a 1.5 GHz Core Solo Mac mini will.

With recent announcements, it just seems another nail in the PowerPC coffin. Okay, it was inevitable, but how long before owning a PowerPC – even a fast one – will mean not running the latest OS or latest version of software?

15 Years of PowerPC Mac OS Support

The PowerPC platform was introduced in 1992, although the first PowerPC Mac didn’t ship until March 1994. The last PowerPC Mac in production was the above-mentioned Power Mac G5, sold until August 2006. This makes some of the last PowerPC Macs just over three years old, making them “old hat” in a very short time.

September will see the launch of Snow Leopard. Every new Mac sold will come with Snow Leopard, and any existing Intel user with a spare few quid will be upgrading. By Christmas, the Mac world will be awash with Snow Leopard and probably will have have seen the first update (version 10.6.1).

PowerPC users will slowly become a smaller and smaller minority. More and more software will be come Intel-only, as well as Snow Leopard only, leaving Intel Leopard users out in the cold too – but at least they have a cheap upgrade option.

By October 2010, Snow Leopard will be well into it stride, rumours of Mac OS X 10.7 will be flooding the Mac community, Apple will have a new bunch of peripherals and fancy gadgets that only work on Snow Leopard – and the PowerPC platform, along with Leopard, will just about be forgotten.

It’s Inevitable

Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about it. It’s part of computer evolution. While the hardware in your machine may still be good enough to do what you need, the latest software and latest trends require a newer OS. A newer OS won’t run on your PowerPC hardware (even though most of the time it would be physically possible); therefore you have to buy a new (or newer) computer to keep up with the latest standards.

And this evolution just keeps going.

I’m a PowerPC user. My 867 MHz Titanium PowerBook G4 meets the minimum requirements for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, but as soon as Snow Leopard is released, my PowerBook will start the downward slope of being out-of-date.

Of course it will still do everything I need it to do at present, but it is a downward slope.

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