November 10, 2012, 7:01 AM — Mac owners still running 2009's OS X 10.6 are not about to give up on the operating system, making arguments strikingly similar to those trotted out by diehard Windows XP users.
A news story Monday that cited statistics from Web metrics company Net Applications on OS X usage struck a nerve, and resulted in a cascade of comments and email.
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Many declared that they would not abandon Snow Leopard, the OS that launched in August 2009, because it was the last from Apple that let users run PowerPC applications, even though the operating system itself runs only on Intel-based Macs.
"I would love to have some of the new enhancements in Mountain Lion, but I have lots of software that I still use, and want to continue to use, that is PowerPC only," reader James Frederick said in an email. "That will all die if I 'upgrade.' Because of this, I will not do so."
Snow Leopard doesn't install Rosetta, the translation utility that allows PowerPC software to run on Intel-powered Macs, by default, but users could select it to be installed. It also automatically installs when a user launches a PowerPC program.
Apple ditched the PowerPC processor in early 2006 when it began shipping its first Intel Macs. At the time, OS X 10.4, or Tiger, was the Mac's operating system. OS X 10.5, aka Leopard, which launched in October 2007, was the last edition that runs on PowerPC hardware.
Others echoed Frederick, noting that neither 2011's Lion or 2012's Mountain Lion support Rosetta.
"I'm running with new peripherals whose drivers depend on Rosetta to work, and there's no suitable replacement for Mountain Lion," said Chris Gray, also in an email. "I need the hardware. There's more to a Mac than just its own hardware -- there's something called drivers for third-party hardware."
Another thread running through reader commentary was a not-surprising "if it's not broken, don't fix it" attitude, which is as common among long-time users of Windows XP as it is in the Snow Leopard camp.
In many cases, that thinking was tightly tied to complaints about Snow Leopard's successors, OS X 10.7, aka Lion, and OS X 10.8, Mountain Lion.
"I have no urge to upgrade again since I do not want a computer that looks like a tablet/phone. I want a computer that looks like a computer," said "SusanW" in a comment Monday on Computerworld.com.
"I'm never switching until Apple removes all the kiddie toy iOS 'features' and changes of Lion," echoed "xbj" in another comment. "The last thing I need is my desktop workstation mimicking a toy walkie-talkie (iPhone) or Etch-a-Sketch (IPad)."
Both readers were referring to the moves Apple made last year in Lion, and expanded this year with Mountain Lion, to bring elements of iOS, the operating system that powers iPhones and iPads, to Macs.
In October 2010, when former CEO Steve Jobs introduced Lion, he put it plainly: ""Mac OS X meets the iPad," he said.
Still others objected to Lion and Mountain Lion on more practical grounds. "Lion was the worst thing Apple ever put out," asserted Jeffrey Martin.
"It's perfectly simple," said Clive Sweeting. "Lion and Mountain Lion haven't brought anything that we need and take away things many of us do [need]."
According to Net Applications, 31% of all Macs that went online during October ran Snow Leopard, about the same percentage as relied on Lion. Both were more popular than Mountain Lion or Leopard, which powered 26% and 9% of all Macs, respectively.
Meanwhile, Windows XP -- at 11 years and counting, more than three times older than Snow Leopard -- ran 44% of all Windows PCs last month.
Some griped about the fast pace of Apple's upgrades, now slated for annual release, mimicking the "upgrade fatigue" that not only affects Windows users, but has been cited by analysts as a major reason why enterprises, just finished with or even still in the middle of, their upgrades to Windows 7, are unlikely to migrate to the new Windows 8.
"It's a trend in general that people just aren't upgrading as much as they have in the past," said a commenter identified as "Patty O'Furniture" on Monday. "Just as some folks never left XP because it worked well for them, same goes for [Snow Leopard]. Why re-invent the wheel if you don't have to? Why upgrade just to upgrade, especially if it breaks something that works?"
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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