Why Apple’s move from Intel to ARM means we should stop buying Macs

Apple WWDC2020. Credit: Apple

We give Intel-based Macs about five years of life support from Apple, tops

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23 June 2020 | 0

Apple’s news that it will be dropping Intel’s x86 CPUs for its own ARM chips can mean only one thing to anyone who does not want to be left behind: do not buy a Mac.

You may think this is another Internet-baiting hot take that will argue that x86 is better than ARM. Or you might think the math does not add up that Apple—despite its near-infinite loop of resources and cash—can outwit AMD, Intel and Nvidia.

But there is a practical, real reason why you should not drop $1,500 or $4,500 on a new Mac – you will be abandoned.

 

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During the announcement, Tim Cook said Apple will continue to support Intel-based Macs for “years.” But as we know, that could mean two years or two hundred years.

If the past is prologue, we can look at Apple’s last big transition from PowerPC to Intel x86 chips. According to Wikipedia, the change was announced on 6 June 2005. The first Intel-based Mac was introduced in February 2006, and the first Intel-based MacBook in April of that year. Apple announced the “transition complete” later in 2006.

The final release of OS X 10.5 with PowerPC came out in October 2007. Two years later, when OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” was released in August 2009, it did not support PowerPC Macs.

By 2011, Apple’s Rosetta, which translated code for from older PowerPC apps to run on Intel x86, was dropped as well, and Apple ended all service and support for PowerPC Macs. That all adds up to four years of OS support and six years of any support for PowerPCs, before Apple pulled the plug.

Here’s what your favorite x86-app could look like if it faced the fate PowerPC apps did once Apple turned off Rosetta. Credit: 9to5mac.com

Will you use your computer longer than five years?

As anyone who has a vintage PowerPC PowerBook knows, they essentially became useless within five years of Apple’s announcement. I do not know about you, but I like to use a computer for more than five years because I do not like the idea of filling up landfill. I know many people who continue to use, say, a seven-year-old MacBook Air 13, with no intention of buying a new laptop.

Sure, you will argue that an Intel-based Mac will function just fine once the “transition” completes. In fact, the situation is far worse for legacy Intel MacBook users now (and yes, they are ‘legacy’ now) than it was for the PowerPC-to-Intel phase. In 2010, targeted malware attacks on OS X were rare. Today, MacOS is a high-value target for cybercriminals. Without constant OS and UEFI security updates, that Intel-based Mac will basically be a house with kicked-out doors and windows during a zombie apocalypse. 

And no, if you are thinking, “surely Apple will support my new $3,000 Mac,” you have not paid attention to Apple’s history. Apple turned its 2012-era Mac Pro into “vintage” status, and its current Mac OS “Catalina” no longer supports it.

An eight-year-old computer sounds ancient, but that 2012 Mac Pro featured Intel Core i7 6-core “Nehalem/Westmere” CPUs. That CPU is still an extremely serviceable platform that my son currently uses for gaming. His PC is running Windows 10 and still gets all the OS updates just fine.

Apple could offer OS support for all its older x86-based Macs, but it does not want to. Aside from the cost of supporting older hardware, Apple’s history has consistently been one of kicking older stuff to the curb and making way for the shiny and new. That is the fate your shiny new Mac will eventually face if you buy it today.

Gordon Mah Ung, IDG News Service

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