Apple's "Bad record" at backwards compatibility

Comes from this post:


[quote=113096:@Eduardo Gutierrez de Oliveira]Well, kidding aside, I have one friend who keeps an old PPC mac and a “modern” Intel mac with Leopard (10.5) so he can keep using MORE and MacDraw (one in each).

[/quote]Not sure what you mean. Neither is the case here nor do I see Apple doing this any worse than other companies.

MacDraw kept existing and being updated as ClarisDraw but this user happened to prefer MacDraw. ClarisDraw in turn was made obsolete not by Apple but by the market itself, where it became a small player and was discontinued along with AppleWorks.

MORE was a product created by Dave Winer (of RSS fame and who created the first blogging platform) in 1987, sold to Symantec and then discontinued by Symantec in 1991. Its existence and obsolescence in Macintosh are a product of their developers, not Apple.

What we’re talking here are software products from the Windows 3.11 era which kept working more than a decade after they had been discontinued and stopped receiving support officially. Neither are “Apple-promoted technologies”, only happen to run on Apple hardware/operating systems.

In both cases, Apple made enormous changes to the infrastructure and made sure the software ran OK in it. When switching to PPC from 68K it supported the older code natively for over 10 years in the PPC platform.

I had a software called “Bus’d Out” (later released as Maze Wars), it’s very famous because it’s a huge hack that permitted running a multiplayer first-person maze game back in 1982, something supposedly impossible, in prototype Macintoshes, to test network protocols. I could still run that hacky thing in 2006, 24 years later, in a machine with a completely different architecture both in CPU and in motherboard, not to mention 20 major OS revisions (System 0 up to OS X 10.4, with the switch to Intel) and one major OS change later (Classic to OS X).

Your software for PPC (which debuted in 1994) could still run natively in 2006 and emulated under Intel (again, a whole new architecture) until 2011 (when 10.8 “Lion” removed the PowerPC Rosetta emulator). That’s 17 years of support, throughout 16 major OS revisions and one major hardware switch (PPC to Intel)

The hardware switch, obviously, did mean that newer OSes can’t go as far back as desirable. So while your Mac Plus from 1986 could install System 7.5.5, released in 1996, the machines sold right before the switch to a new platform would’ve enjoyed only 7 or 8 years of support for new OSes.

Your PowerPC machine, purchased in 1999, could still have 10.5, Leopard installed in it, launched in 2005. That’s 10 major OS revisions, from 7.1.1 to 10.5.

The discussion about Apple deprecating technologies has usually no basis in reality, and comes from side comments and generalizations. We heard here about “deprecating Carbon in favor of Cocoa”, but in reality Carbon exists precisely because it’s a compatibility layer to ensure software created in the 90s could function in the 00s. As such, it was deprecated 12 years after its introduction, having enabled 15-yeard old software to run. “deprecating QTKit in favor of AVFoundation” is another one, that usually forgets that QTKit has allowed us to keep software from having to be majorly rewritten for two decades.

Of course, it’s annoying that we need to modernize our programs as OSes modernize themselves, but I would argue Apple provides enormous facilities for old technologies and backwards compatibility. That Microsoft is even better only makes Apple second to Microsoft, which doesn’t translate into doing a bad job.

If you keep in mind that Apple has transitioned through various hardware architectures, it may make sense to see how Microsoft has fared in that same situation: How much support do you get today from Microsoft if you happened to foolishly purchase NT for Alpha, MIPS, ARM or PowerPC? (supported only 7 years) What about Windows for Itanium? (supported for only 5 years). Microsoft has kept backwards compatibility only because it doesn’t need to change anything to do so. Another good example is backwards compatibility with DOS, for which it would’ve needed to do similar work to what Apple did in its transitions. It didn’t, and tons of DOS sofware doesn’t run properly under Windows now.

I know this won’t change anybody’s idea of Apple’s “obsolescency problems”, but I had this response waiting for several years and I guess this is as good as any a time to type it.

If you don’t evolve your products, someone else will do it on their products, and when you notice a clear market preference for the products of your competitor, your business can be seriously damaged.

“The only big companies that succeed will be those that obsolete their own products before someone else does”
– Bill Gates - Founder, Microsoft Corp.

Well said and well written, Eduardo.

[quote]“The only big companies that succeed will be those that obsolete their own products before someone else does”
– Bill Gates - Founder, Microsoft Corp.[/quote]

ok, but see how things are, the Windows software is more conservative of the universe, so much so that the software end of the 90s still work perfectly on windows 8.1 , then you can not take seriously what is said but what is done in practice.

API replacement. Microsoft update things to keep it current with the emerging technologies, deprecating themselves and avoiding to die. The bad effect of their “way” is that the OS carries an enormous pile of junk with it trying to keep compatibility with those old things and it made it slow and unnecessarily huge and even making things hard to the OS engineers to evolve it due to dependency of all those old technologies.

Radical new things running fast for Microsoft demands a total new OS. Apple tries not become like that, disposing the garbage out, while evolving the current OS. It’s a trade-off, and I prefer the Apple way.

I even agree with you, but I think a medium would be more appropriate, no slowness in Microsoft and no for Apple radical changes.

On the API world, once guidelines are defined, tend to go left or right, hardly center. It’s like some company defined:

Co. 1: Here we will use cold water, so our drinks will be: soft drinks, juices, and whatever beverages we can do using this guidance.

Co. 2: Here we will use hot water, so our drinks will be coffees, teas, and whatever beverages we can do using this guidance.

Then you say, well, I wished company 1 used “warm water” instead of cold. And I say, good warm beverages are kind of hard to define, and how they will chose and maintain those will be much harder than using the common sense of a hot/cold beverage (add some Ice or boil the water to serve). You probably know the KISS principle. :slight_smile:

[quote=113142:@Eduardo Gutierrez de Oliveira]Is it not amazing to see how Apple promotes some technologies to later cast them to oblivion ?.
Not sure what you mean. Neither is the case here nor do I see Apple doing this any worse than other companies .[/quote]

I did not mean more than that. I was amazed by the state of things. Apple was one of the first proponents of an innovative vector based technology for the general public, and that is good. Is it not amazing to see them several years later with no clear standard for such applications. Not even a recommended file format. For a company that usually sets the standards, it is surprising. They even could have kept PICT and nobody would mind…

Having myself developed a few apps for Metro (Modern API, whatever), I thoroughly enjoyed the link under “any” . Not only Metro user interface is questionable, as they tried to apply to 21" screens a metaphor destined to 4" phone displays, but the API is thoroughly botched, at least from VB .NET point of view. The language was already kind of strange, it took a turn for the worse. And from what I can read on their own form, the C implementation is not better.

You must have indeed been mulling this for a while, given the length of your post. While I am glad to have given you the occasion to formulate your thoughts, I think you infer far too much from a simple remark. I did not say anything about planned obsolescence, which is probably by large more a hardware issue with the iPod dead battery or iPhone broken screen and Apple decision to tell customers to buy a new unit instead of offering repair. I consciously used the expression “cast to oblivion” to picture the possible lack of interest into MacDraw/ClarisDraw family of products that much later conduces us to realize that there is no official vector file format. No more. Interesting situation. Not pleasant, nor absurd. State of fact. Nobody is to blame.

I did enjoy your post, though, and agree with a lot of what you said.

The part of your post about hardware change is indeed interesting in that it shows a fundamental difference between Apple and Microsoft. Both companies are compared a lot, but I think the superficial similarities between Mac OS and Windows tend to mask a drastic dissemblance.

Microsoft provides Windows as OEM to PC manufacturers which never fundamentally changed hardware architecture. 801 and 8088 compatible processors since 1982, and apart from some bus changes with the advent of PS/2 in 1987, the main concern for Microsoft was more to keep compatibility with 3.2 than adapting to new hardware. Which is far easier.

Apple, on the other hand, is mainly a hardware manufacturer, even if its often glitzy software may lead some to believe that is the most important asset of the company. In terms of profit, hardware remains the overwhelming bread earner. The history of Apple is predominantly one of hardware evolution : Apple 2/6502, 68K, PPC and now Intel as well as RISC ARM in phones and tablets. I use to say I buy Apple computers because they are sexy, and indeed, inside polished boxes, they often are at the very forefront of hardware technology, like SSD drives and Retina screen. That modernity comes at a cost : the need to adapt software to these new hardware architectures, and sometimes hardware which being too new can fail earlier than less evolved and less demanding technologies. Hence the most probably unfounded accusation of widespread planned obsolescence. Apple does not need to place a time bomb inside their hardware : quick turnaround and fast evolving processing power make older macs feel obsolete way before they actually break down.

In the relatively short history of the personal computer, Apple is more an anker of stability than most PC manufacturers. Who remembers Compaq as the industry leader ? IBM PC branch sold to Lenovo and the plant where the original PC was created closed down less than 5 years later. Try to get a keyboard for a 2 years old Vaio, and you will see what planned obsolescence is all about :wink: PCs may not die of planned hardware failure (although I could speck about power units going south), they plan of planned spare parts disappearance.

To be honest, the reply wasn’t strictly to you. I just took the opportunity to write something I had been thinking for a while. Your reply just put the subject in my head but I didn’t mean to single you out nor was the whole post a response to your one-line reply. That would’ve been a bit overkill on my part. :slight_smile:

This is the reason I decided to open a new thread. I kept the quote and the link to the other thread so as to provide a bit of background but I didn’t mean to point at you specifically.

As a side note: I’ve had iphone screens and batteries go bad on me. Apple doesn’t refuse to fix them, but they charge a lot to do it themselves. I took my G1 iPod Touch for fixing this year (it’s 7 years old and hasn’t been sold for 6) and they were happy to fix it for me, but it would’ve been 150€. They didn’t tell me to trash it and buy a new one but I’ll admit spending that much money would’ve been silly.

I fixed it by buying an aftermarket battery and changing it myself. I had already fixed an iPhone 3GS I dropped from a third floor this way.

The actual complaint, I think, is that since the equipment is not user-serviceable, maintaining it oneself is risky and paying others is expensive. Apple is the most expensive one, of course. But it’s possible (and common) to buy the parts and fix the things yourself. It’s just not as easy as opening a cover and swapping a piece (I won’t argue if it should be, since I’d have to extend that to other things currently following the same philosophy like cars and kitchen appliances).

Apple, on the other hand, is mainly a hardware manufacturer

It’s been a discussion for a long time that, to me, has never actually hit the target. People argue if Apple is a hardware company with great software or the other way around. In a podcast episode I recently heard (not sure if Debug, The Talk Show or Vector, but it was last week’s) it was mentioned (and I agree with this) that in reality Apple isn’t either and is both. Apple’s hardware wouldn’t sell as well if it ran a different OS and Apple’s OS wouldn’t be given a second look if it didn’t ran on Apple’s Hardware. Also that it may be one or the other what brings people to the platform but it’s the union of both what keeps them in it.

Back around the years 2000 Apple simply did not want to repair iPods at all. Forums where full of horror stories and only after being repeatedly being publicly exposed for that and sued by consumers did they change their mind.

So is a Rolex watch or other luxury items. Nobody ever accused them of planned obsolescence. But never did they tell a consumer to buy a new one rather than having it repaired.

Fact is what drives the company is hardware innovation. Not only technical, but also in terms of design. Would it be the Acqua look years ago or today’s all in the screen iMac. Then they fit it with the best software possible, which happens to be proprietary. But intrinsically, hardware comes first. I doubt Apple started by OS X and then proceeded to build hardware that can run it best. In that respect, their logic is not unlike what other PC manufacturers do : build the best hardware they know of, and then have it run the best software available. For regular PC manufacturers, they have to turn to Microsoft. Apple has an in-house system development division.

Based on this kind of logic… I should be royally upset with Ford Motor Company because they no longer support the Model “A”?

Are you driving one ? :wink:

No… because they deprecated the darn thing … along with my Edsel

Planned obsolescence is an outrage :confused:

I want my horse & buggy too !

Not necessarily “planned obsolesence”…(not that there is not some of that involved)… but “progress”

While in fact a Model “A” got you from point-A to point-B it did so slowly, in a minimum of comfort and without the benefit of Sirius Radio … Same as an original Mac or PC did…

Todays cars are faster, easier to drive, better gas mileage and can come equipped with Sirius Radio… but due to those advancements, the older models lost any compatiblity.

a PPC Mac is perhaps not a Model “T”, but maybe more of a VW bug… compared to a modern iMac which is you more advance SUV, and the new MacPro your F1 racecar.

But in any case, you won’t be having a street cleaner following you to clean up the “exhaust” from your Horse and Buggy :slight_smile:

I’m still waiting for my liquid-cooled PowerBook G5. Pretty sure it’s going to be announced this Tuesday.

This one looks like a Quadrocopter with display :slight_smile: