If WWDC 2021 was an indication, Apple is now ready to cut off a growing number of Intel Mac users. The company depreciates machines on seemingly arbitrary lines rather than technical constraints. As it gears up to transfer the rest of its range to Apple Silicon, it is already dropping features, even for brand new machines.
Shortly after Wednesday’s main course, the company outlined which desktops and laptops could install the new version of macOS. Several machines that had been supported with last year’s Big Sur were now unable to upgrade to macOS Monterey. This included iMac models manufactured before 2014, Mac mini models before the end of 2014 and MacBook Air and Pro models manufactured before the beginning of 201
Here it gets interesting. Apple withdrew support from the MacBook Air back in early 2014, which at the base specification runs a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-4260U (Haswell) CPU with 4GB of RAM and Intel HD Graphics 5000. When asked, Apple said that it has to deprive older hardware when these machines no longer support the experience that users have come to expect from macOS.
It’s remarkable because macOS Monterey do supports Mac Mac Mini in late 2014, whose base model … packs a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-4260U (Haswell) CPU with 4GB of RAM and Intel HD Graphics 5000. Owners of mid-2014, 15 -inch MacBook Pro is in a similar situation as the mid-2015 model that is still supported has almost exactly the same internals at the base specification.
One of the likely reasons why Apple will have to make decisions like this is because of the unique way it updates its computers. The same i5-4260U Mac Mini was on sale at Apple until the 2018 update, and four years is a long time for any chip to be on sale. That means Apple with Monterey would have to abandon models that customers could have bought just three years ago.
Similarly, the base model 21.5-inch iMac, which was updated in early 2019, was powered by Intel’s i3-8100, a CPU from the end of 2017. And it’s the model that has just been replaced by the new, ultra-thin M1 version that has received so much applause in recent months. By dragging its feet with chip refreshes over the last few years (obviously not helped by Intel’s own problems), Apple is making it harder to convincingly put forward a technical argument for withdrawing support for some models and not others.
Similarly, even new Intel Macs running macOS Monterey will find their experience limited in some ways. 9to5Mac noted that Apple has listed a number of features in Monterey that are not supported by any Intel Mac. This includes the ability to blur backgrounds in FaceTime videos, copy live text from photos, and use the new, more detailed maps.
In these cases, it is likely that the new features are coded to take advantage of the M1’s Neural Engine. But that does not mean that some of these features could not run on Intel machines if Apple was willing to work on. When even affordable Windows laptops with integrated graphics can blur backgrounds inside a Zoom call, is it fair to deny a similar FaceTime feature to someone spending $ 2,800 on an Intel MacBook Pro today?
The only thing that the company really risks with all this is some goodwill with users still persisting with their older Macs. Apple’s priority is understandably looking towards its future, but the decision to perhaps arbitrarily pull support for some machines is not ideal.
Compare this to smartphones where Apple runs rings around its competitors for OS support with older devices. From September 2015, the iPhone 6S will be able to upgrade to iOS 15 this fall in a world where competing manufacturers have only recently deigned to start offering three years of OS support for a similar Android device. When it comes to desktops and laptops, Apple must strive for an even greater level of support.
Compared to Apple’s last transition, the first Intel Macs arrived in January 2006, and Apple’s first Intel-only OS update arrived in the summer of 2009. Apple is likely to continue offering security and usability updates for older models, but writing is on the way to any Intel-powered Mac currently on sale. If you want to buy one of these machines today, be aware that you can avoid using all the exciting new features announced at future WWDCs. Hi, you may even run out of new operating systems to install in the not too distant future.
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