No G5 Owners, Snow Leopard is not a Screw Job

by Chris Seibold Jun 19, 2008


It is a great time to be an Apple fan. The mac is resurgent, the product line is pretty great across the board and the next iPhone will surely be a huge hit. Those who remember the beleagured years are saying "I feel great! iPhones everywhere!"


Well, perhaps there are a few Apple fans, maybe some of the most hardcore, that don't feel so great right now. Specifically, one suspects there is a pretty good percentage of G5 owners, particulalry those who have towers, that aren't feeling very spiffy because of the revelation that the next iteration of OS X will be for Intel Macs only. On the surface this is no big deal. Snow Leopard is more of a developers release (most argue) with little in the way of eye candy and goodies aimed at the average Mac consumer.&n bsp;


Going through and cleaning up the OS is a good idea, cruft has a way of building up in large projects like OSes (ask Microsoft or a take a look at the Classic OS) and if someone doesn't take the time to clean out the gunk things get unweildy. That said Snow Leopard won't be just about optimizing OS X across the board. There will be new features in the realease, stuff you'll want even if it isn't dazzling and stuff PowerPC owners just won't be able to run. 


When Steve Jobs first announced the switch to Intel he that OS X had always been cross platform for the five prior years. Sure, it was a secret but it was running on Intel stuff at Cupertino long before the switch was announced. This revelation meant different things to different people. Some thought that since Steve had stressed that OS X was, at heart, a cross platform OS that installing OS X on generic PCs wouldn't be far off. Others thought that Apple would keep all options available by continuing to support the PowerPC architecture for the foreseeable future. They were right if the foreseeable future was three years! It seems like Apple is abandoning PowerPC support far too soon to many users and that the company is making unfair demands by making MAcs sold as recently as 2006 obsolete.


A little care is required here, some people will say that once a version of OS X exists that won't run on your machine that machine is obsolete. Others will argue that whatever machine you own from the original Mac to the latest Mac Pro isn't obsolete as long as you can still use it for the purpose you purchased it for. That is obviously true but that definition of obsolete varies from individual user to individual user. You can still fix up a nice hard copy resume with a Mac Classic and a Stylewriter but not many would argue that the Mac classic is a viable computer for anything but the most basic of word processing tasks. For the sake of convieinance and objectivity let us stick with the former definition of obsolesance: Once an OS comes out that won't run on your Mac (hacking not included) your computer is obsolete.


With a definition (skewed but usable) in hand it is time to get to the core of the question. Is it too soon to jettison PowerPCs from the supported systems in OS releases? For Apple anything that moves new machines is a great idea, for users who like to run the latest release on their old machines more flexibilty is better. With Mac sales accelerating and all Macs being Intel based since mid 2006 it was inevitable that the OS would head all Intel all the time.


Inevitability is one thing, choosing the moment in time when the PowerPC would no longer be supported is completely different. The people who bought PowerPC Macs, particulalry the high end Power Mac G5 bought the machines with an expectation of being on the cutting edge for several years. Was this perception wishful thinking or had past OS revisions indicated that Apple kept the machines it sold compatible with the latest version of the OS for a good long time? Time for a look at how long it has historically taken Macs to become obsolete. Going through every model would not be repetitive and not very enlightening. It is more informative to look at the OS releases and see what Macs were left out. The place to start is at the beginning and the first OS to leave a mac out of the game was System 7.


System 7 released (1991)

Unsupported Macs: Original Mac (7 years), Mac 512K (5 years)


Mac OS 7.6 (1997)

Unsupported Macs: Mac II (10 years), SE/30 (8 years), PowerBook 100, 140 (5 years)


OS 8 (1997)

Unsupported Macs: Mac IIfx (7 years), Performa 560 (3 years), PowerBook 180c (4 years)


OS 8.5 (1998)

Unsupported Macs: Quadra 840 AV (5 years), Quadra 610 (5 years), PowerBook 550c (3 years)


OS 9 (1999)

No new incompatibilities


OS 9.2 (Late 2001)

Unsupported Macs: Power Mac 9600 (4 years), Power Mac 6100 (7 years), PowerBook 3400 (4 years), PowerBook 1400 (5 years)


OS X (2001)

No new incompatibilities


OS 10.1 (2001)

No new incompatibilities


OS 10.2 (2002)

No new incompatibilities


OS 10.3 (2003)

Unsupported Macs: Power Mac G3 233 (6 years), Power Mac 333 (5 years), PowerBook g3 266 (4 years)


OS 10.4 (2005)

Unsupported Macs: Original iBook (6 years), Original iMac (7 years)


OS 10.5 (2007)

Unsupported Macs: Original PowerBook G4 (6 years), iMac G4 800 (5 years), Power Mac G4 400 (8 years), Power G4 733, Quicksilver (6 years)


OS 10.6

Unsupported Macs:  Power Mac G4 867, Quicksilver (2001), PowerBook G4 1.67 (2005), iMac G5 (2004), G5 PowerMac Dual Core 2.5 GHz (2005)


The list isn't all inclusive and better examples might exist but the point is clear: a three year gap until obsolescence is nothing new for Mac owners. If you've got to be on the cutting edge, running the latest version of OS X you'll save a lot of money by sticking with the low end. Imagine purchasing the last G5 PowerMac for $3299. On the same day your neighbor buys an Intel powered Mac mini. The mini isn't as fast as the PowerMac but he has $2500 left over. You buy Leopard and the new version of iLife for $229. The mini owner buys a new mini. His mini is rapidly catching up with your G5 and he is still ahead of you by $1030. When Snow Leopard comes out he can buy a new mini which will be faster than your G5 and still have $330 left in his pocket and run the latest software. That G5? Well, it is either time to bite the bullet and buy a new Mac or realize you've been left behind. Either that or bitch a lot and maybe the beneficent Steve will kick a hundred dollar Apple store credit your way.



  • I have a 2 processor G5 (2.5 GHz), and I’m pretty happy with it.  In 2009 when 10.6 rolls out, it’ll have basically the same end-user functionality. 

    If the Intel transition was any indicator, it’ll be 6-9 months until major apps I need start requiring 10.6, with some lagging way behind that.  They have their own release cycles and won’t magically stop producing universal code just because there’s a new OS.

    2010 will roll around and my G5 will be 4.5 years old and I’ll start thinking about an intel box as my main desktop.  Longer than some I’ve owned and shorter than others.

    Michael Croft had this to say on Jun 19, 2008 Posts: 1
  • With your mini vs g5 you missed some big parts.

    1. Your g5 can use better video cards then the mini that uses system ram.

    2. The base mini does not have a dvd/rw

    3. The g5 has firewire 800

    4. The g5 has pci-e / pci /pci-x slots the last ones has pci-e.

    5. The g5 has faster HD’s and more room for disk.

    6. The mini only come with 1gb of ram and the g5 can fit more ram in it.

    7. The mac pro cost more then g5 did.

    Joe The Dragon had this to say on Jun 19, 2008 Posts: 2
  • Some interesting points, but the last G5’s were sold in August 2006. That’s less than two years ago. Three years till obsolescence is not a long time for me, as I paid (even with an educational discount) more like £3,000 (that’s $5,000) for my Mac.

    Now there’s nothing wrong with it at all. It does all I want. The security for me is that the new Creative Suite is written for PPC and Intel, so when that launches I’ll get another 18 months life out of the machine. The day a client sends me a CS5 file I can’t open is the day it’s truly obsolete.

    What will push the rush to obsolescence is not the efforts of the good Mac faithful developers, who will continue building Universal binaries for some time to come, but the developers who joined the Mac following the Intel shift, who don’t ‘get’ the PPC and who have already moved exclusively to Leopard.

    evilcat had this to say on Jun 19, 2008 Posts: 66
  • @applewatchdog
    Obviously the Mac mini and the PowerMac have a world of difference. For example, the Mac mini can do one thing the G5 can’t (at least) and that is the moving background in pohto booth. On the other hand the PowerMac can do a lot a mini can’t. Like run final cut pro. So this isn’t an article really aimed at pro users, those guys don’t care about the OS as much as they care about what programs the machine runs, they define obsolescence in a more sensible way (see evilcat’s excellent, spot on comment). This is for those folks who think they have to run the latest and greatest.
    As for the list, those are all intro dates. The G5 was introed in 2005 late. There is a good chance that by the time Snow Leopard comes out it will be four years old. Really not such a big deal.
    And even then it will be a really nice computer. I’m seriously considering picking up a used G5 and buying 30” monitor (I’ve got a G5 now but it won’t run a 30”). Since all my software is either power pc or universal it is a lot cheaper than shelling out for a Mac Pro and having to upgrade all the programs. But that analysis is for a different day.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Jun 19, 2008 Posts: 354
  • Of all the rumoured “features” of OSX 10.6 is to be believed, then my present Leopard 10.5.3 running on a G5 Dual 2GHz will be fine for the long haul until 10.7 is out around 2011 (if MTBE for the other critical parts last that long, of course).

    Apple is entitled to move forward with new technologies, etc. But they have to be mindful of those folks that “believed” Steve when he was pitching the Intel switch - that OSX can be run on PPC and Intel. No problem. No worries. And we believed and kept buying iMac G5s and PowerMac G5s. Don’t we feel like fools, ehhh? Bad, bad, bad, Stevie! Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! What’s next? OSX 10.7 won’t support single Core or Core2 that you have to have a Core3???

    Apple is walking on slippery slopes here. Trust is very key and shoving my expected 2-3 OS cycles down the chute is not the way to treat your most loyal customers. You want repeat customers? Then you have to keep your end of the “trust” bargain, Steve.

    I understand there are hw features that are non-existent in these old G5 geezers but we are talking G5 towers here. They can be GPU upgraded to the latest and greatest. G5’s are 64-bit natively, too! 2GHz is plenty of speed for any sw-based improvements in the OS.

    Oh, Rosetta can go. Most apps available now are universal binaries so there is no need for Intel-based Mac to perform emulation of PPC hw. Isn’t that the original idea of UB anyway?

    Just my chump change…

    Robomac had this to say on Jun 19, 2008 Posts: 846
  • You might want to recheck your OS release dates.  Mac OS 7.6 was closer to 1996, maybe 1997, not 1991.

    Homeworld had this to say on Jun 19, 2008 Posts: 3
  • absolutely correct homeworld, thanks

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Jun 19, 2008 Posts: 354
  • I don’t own a PowerMac, but to me the big issue would be the inevitable abandonement by developers.

    simo66 had this to say on Jun 19, 2008 Posts: 78
  • Where is the confirmation of 10.6 being Intel only? The link in the article leads to an ad for NutriGrain on YouTube. Either there is a subtext to that ad that is beyond me, or the link is wrong.

    I’ve heard plenty of rumours that PPC will not be supported but, since we’re talking about Apple here, I take all rumours with more than a pinch of salt…

    oz-nom had this to say on Jun 19, 2008 Posts: 13
  • If it’s true, then so what! I am running Tiger without any problems on my G5 iMac because my kids still play games that require the Classic mode.

    Each of them has an iMac 600 Mhz gum drop computer running 10.2 with no problems. One is even connected to my network through an ethernet bridge. They all have iTunes, Safari, Firefox, and AppleWorks along with a host of other software. If the operating system you are running is meeting all of your needs, then why spend the money to get a few eye candy features. I have owned Macs since 1986 and I have only bought one system update, I bought System 8.0 when it came out.

    flyboy had this to say on Jun 19, 2008 Posts: 30
  • I bought a G5 iMac in June 2005 and I knew that with the Intels coming out, my computer might not be upgradable for very long. I’m surprised my computer works with Leopard as well as it does and there’s no way I’d want to do another upgrade on top of that. I will still be able to keep and install 99% of Mac software out there, so I don’t think it’ll be a big deal for me to wait for a new computer before I have Snow Leopard. It’s not like Apple’s going to stop you from using your computer when the new OS comes out. You just won’t be able to get the new version optimized for newer computers. People who want to buy a new version of Windows get screwed over a lot more easily and a lot less justifiably.

    Bart had this to say on Jun 26, 2008 Posts: 23
  • I think Apple will continue to support Leopard for longer than its other OSs. After all, “Snow Leopard” says it all; it’s just an extension of intel Leopard. Jonathan Berkowitz

    berkowitzjonathan05 had this to say on Aug 17, 2011 Posts: 8
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