Why OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard should leave PowerPC in the cold

Why OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard should leave PowerPC in the cold

Snow Leopard is on its way and before even the first feature was announced it seemed like the loudest voices were those demanding ongoing support for their PowerPC computers. But why should their wish come true?

The focus of Snow Leopard is on core upgrades not shiny new features. A bedrock focused update that delivers a streamlined enhanced OS X. Stability. Efficiency. A “new generation of core technologies.â€

All this is about raising the floor on the entire system. Multi-core optimisation support for 16TB RAM (yes Terabytes) and a language to allow developers to tap the power of the graphics processor are just a few of the key upgrades. But you can’t lift the floor and let people walk around where the floor used to be all at the same time. Not without leaving holes for a potential rising damp problem further down the track.

So why do we hear the same ‘what about us’ grumblings from the cheap seats? There’s never been any doubt the day would come when this hardware was officially yesterday’s news. While some may wish for the good old times of 5+ years of software upgrade support for their Macs three years plus ongoing updates (just as Tiger has received updates post-Leopard) is still a good deal when considered in the context of such a major change in hardware.

The shift to Intel coincided with the greatest leap in processing power this decade as Core Duo chips left the competition far behind. Back in 2006 video editing tests at Creative Mac showed a Core Duo MacBook (entry level not a MacBook Pro) was directly comparable to Dual G5 desktops of the day.

Accept it folks. You’re on old hardware the clock is ticking… and Apple isn’t Microsoft with its eternal legacy support at the expense of OS advancement. If you must run the latest OS you can pick up a very cheap Intel Mac second hand that will make those G5s feel molasses slow.

Laggards you have two options: suck it up and join the future or leave the rest of us to enjoy the spoils of progress. Cutting legacy support should be applauded and embraced lest we watch the latest hardware be hamstrung just to push some old square pegs into the newest of round holes.

(And let the record show I speak as one who still keeps one of the best Mac notebooks Apple ever made a 1GHz PowerBook G4 (12-inch) in regular operation. It’s still running Tiger the last OS X it will ever run – and it is very happy that way.)