Apple is notoriously tight-lipped about upcoming OS versions and hardware. We fully expect OS X 10.10 to ship sometime this year, probably after a preview at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) held June 2-6, 2014.
- Mid 2007 or newer iMac
- Late 2008 Aluminum MacBook
- Early 2009 or newer white MacBook
- Mid 2009 or newer 13″ MacBook Pro
- Mid 2007 or newer 15″ MacBook Pro
- Mid 2007 or newer 17″ MacBook Pro
- Late 2008 or newer MacBook Air
- Early 2009 or newer Mac mini
- Early 2008 or newer Mac Pro
- Early 2009 Xserve
Mountain Lion and Mavericks run with as little as 2 GB of system memory, and except for some MacBook Air models with 2 GB soldered to the logic board, all supported Macs can handle more RAM.
The most commonly asked question is What new technology will force Apple to upgrade hardware requirements for OS X 10.10? In response, some have proposed a higher level of RAM, a higher minimum graphics processor, a Core i3 or better, etc.
I’m going to go in a different direction with my suggestion.
OS X 10.9 Mavericks Changed the Paradigm
From the introduction of System 7 through the release of Mountain Lion in 2012, Apple has always charged for the Mac OS. But when Mavericks was unleashed in 2013, it was free. I suspect OS X 10.10 and all future versions will also be free, following the model Apple has used with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Apple’s customers have already paid the price of admission by buying Apple hardware, and providing them the latest compatible version of the OS for free not only helps cement their loyalty but also creates a larger installed base for the latest version.
It certainly worked with Mavericks, as the chart below demonstrates based on Low End Mac site traffic. Looking only at Intel-based Macs, from Mavericks’ release in October 2013, Mavericks (brown) has decimated the Mountain Lion installed base (red)and reduced OS X 10.7 Lion‘s share by 50%.
We can expect Lion to hold out longer than Mountain Lion, because there are some Macs for which Lion is the last supported version of OS X. Among Lion users who can upgrade to Mavericks, some will continue to do so, and because every Mountain Lion user can move to Mavericks, that will continue to happen as well.
OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard users can also upgrade to Mavericks for free, assuming their hardware is compatible and that they can migrate to Mavericks without great expense. In my case, putting Mavericks on my Late 2008 Aluminum MacBook meant no longer being able to use Microsoft Office 2004 and AppleWorks, both of which are PowerPC-only software that requires Rosetta to run on Intel Macs – and Rosetta has not been part of OS X since 10.7 Lion arrived. (I’ve recommended to others that they stop at 10.6 Snow Leopard if they have Office 2004, as upgrading to a newer version is not inexpensive. In my case, I still have Snow Leopard on my 2007 Mac mini, so I can open my AppleWorks and Office files. I’m also migrating to the free LibreOffice to replace both.)
OS X 10.10 Free for All?
Building a solid base of users for the current version of OS X helps reduce support costs and creates a broader market for software designed to take advantage of whatever new technologies will become part of OS X. Because of this, I suspect that Apple will do all it can to support as many machines as possible, doing to Mavericks what it did to Mountain Lion last year.
A more homogeneous Mac user base benefits everyone who can run the current version of OS X, and I think that’s what we’ll see moving forward. More older Macs will be officially supported for a longer period of time to grow the software market. Over time, some will be dropped due to limited RAM, older graphics chips, old Core 2 Duo technology, and so on, but not at the pace we’ve seen since OS X 10.5 Leopard cut off so many OS X 10.4 Tiger users seven years ago.
What do you think?
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