On Apple’s aggressive dropping of old hardware

the web, I’m seeing people react to Intel Macs getting left out of
macOS Ventura’s featureset, and in response to people justifiably tilted
about it, I see a trend: People saying “if you’re surprised by this,
you don’t remember the PowerPC to Intel transition”.

Oh boy! I do! And it wasn’t as bad as these people think it is.

announced the Intel transition in 2005. The last PowerPC Mac to ship
was a speed bumped G5 in 2006, replaced by the Mac Pro that same year.

last OS to support PowerPC was Leopard, aka 10.5. At the time, Apple
was on a two-year cadence with their OS releases. Panther released in
2003, Tiger in 2005, Leopard in 2007, Snow Leopard in 2009, and finally
Lion in 2011 before switching to the yearly cadence we’re on today.
However, things were also different back then in that you paid for
your OS upgrades. As such, Apple also had to look after previous OSes
more aggressively than they do now and keep them up to speed with other
software releases (like iTunes).

Because of this there was also less incentive for developers to aggressively drop older versions of Mac OS. 

to this (and possibly Leopard being the final version of Mac OS that
PowerPC machines saw), Leopard saw software support all the way until
2012. Security updates, updates for things like iTunes, Safari so on and
so forth.

Something to keep in mind too is that Leopard actually
supported a wide range of machines and kept them “current” until that
2012 cutoff. Leopard at a minimum requires an 867MHz PowerPC G4,
something that could be easily bought as far back as 2002.

brought with it a whole slew of features and a lot of quality of life
improvements that shaped Mac OS into what it is today. And as far as I
remember, PowerPC machines didn’t really miss out on any of the major,
headlining features. You still got Stacks, you still got the new Dock,
you still got Spaces, so on and so forth. And since Snow Leopard
famously boasted about not having new features…I’d consider 2011′s
Lion to be when PowerPC started truly missing out on new gubbins.

if we consider worst case scenario here: Someone who bought a G5 in
2006 would have seen 5-6 years of “support” before their Mac started
missing out on new features. (And even then, some stuff in Lion–like
Safari 5–were brought backward to Leopard.)

Comparing that to what Ventura is doing, one has to consider that Apple is still selling an Intel Mac as we speak: The Mac Pro. When the PowerPC transition was “done” and Snow Leopard released, Apple was very much into the Intel era and no longer actively selling PowerPC Macs. PowerPC Macs didn’t actively start feeling like second class citizens until (in my opinion) Lion.

Brief interpolation: It’s absolutely ridiculous that Apple has outright said that the Series 3 Apple Watch is not getting watchOS 9, but yet still sells it on its site as this article is being written. The S3 should have been killed last year, but continuing to take peoples’ money for a product that’s dropped from new OS releases as of this fall feels particularly scummy. Do better, Apple.

Yet, Intel Macs are already starting to feel like second class citizens even as the transition is still actively underway. The big boy MacBook Pros didn’t even get upgraded until late last year, so until then if you wanted something more than the 13″ MBP you had to buy an 16″ Intel model. And now those models are starting to miss out on features.

Another interpolation: There’s also the tale of the 2013 Mac Pro, which got dropped entirely from Ventura. What makes that kinda shitty is that Apple continued selling it all the way until 2019. So if you bought one fairly late, you just got boned. Or hell, even the 2017 MacBook Air! That was sold up until June 2019.

If we make this as favorable as we can to Apple, that’s about three years of support before Apple started considering Intel to be not worthy of some of these features. It would have been two if Apple had been able to get away from it, but user outcry over Monterey trying to pull that convinced Apple to let Intel in on the fun, too. It’s clear that Apple wants Intel gone, but it’s also clear that Apple’s arguably doing this way more aggressive than they did for the PowerPC transition.

In contrast to the last transition too, there also feels like more incentive now to aggressively drop old macOS versions and architectures due to 1. Free OS updates, and 2. Yearly cadence of updates. I feel like when the x86 architecture is dropped from macOS the Intel machines will be left behind far faster and more aggressively than the PowerPC transition. But of course, we’re not at that point just yet.

Oh, and iOS

Even though this piece talked about the whole comparison to the PowerPC/Intel transition, I want to take some time to talk about the iOS because some of this is perplexing.
As predicted, the iPhone 6s finally got cut. What a run it had. 7 years of new OS releases and will probably get security updates for another year or so. What wasn’t so predicted is that Apple also brought the hammer down on the iPod touch and iPhone 7/7 Plus. Apple just killed two generations in one go. (They also did the same with the MacBook Pro, killing both the 2015 and 2016.)
While the 6s and 7 are both getting long in the tooth sure, what makes their loss of support interesting is iPadOS. If Apple were just dropping all A9 and A10 devices, the logic would be pretty sound. The CPUs are just too old! Not saying that it would be a valid reason, but a logical one? Yes.
Anyway, iPadOS: If we look at the iPadOS compatibility chart, one might notice something odd: The iPad 5 and iPad 6 are both supported for iPadOS 16. The iPad 5 and 6 use an A9 and A10 CPU, respectively, and with the very same amount of RAM as the 6s and 7.
Given iPadOS has to drive a much larger display with many more pixels (and is arguably a “heavier” OS), it feels less like Apple canned the 6s and 7 because they couldn’t run iOS 16, and just canned them because they’re an arbitrary number of years old and they don’t want to deal with then anymore. Which is well within their right, but it feels like a really shitty reason. If you can support the 6s and 7 and have iOS 16 run acceptably, why not just do it?
Yeah, one could argue that Apple makes money on hardware and they need people to buy new phones, but for a company that tries to hold themselves up as environmentally friendly, it really should be their objective to keep hardware running for as long as possible, not ensuring it ends up in a landfill.
I get the feeling though that we haven’t seen the last of this and that next year will probably be a bloodbath too, especially on the Mac side. Apple wants Intel gone, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they take further steps to get people off Intel and into Apple Silicon Macs.
(And if Apple cans the iPhone 8 I feel like it’ll honestly be too soon. The A11 CPU is still pretty damn good.)