TechnologyTell

Mountain Lion kills OS X support for a lot of (not so) old Macs

Sections: Desktop Macs, iMac, Laptops, Lion, Mac mini, Mac OS X, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Macintosh/Apple Hardware, Operating Systems

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Mountain LionAccording to the French language Apple blogsite MacGeneration (Google translation), if you’re still using a Mac with Intel GMA950 or GMAX3100 integrated graphics, which includes a passel of MacBooks sold from 2006 to 2008, you’re out of luck when it comes to installing and using OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. While the minimum hardware specs for Mountain Lion presumably have yet to be finalized, several lists of what likely won’t miss the cut have been floated in various reports.

Possible hardware to be left behind according to various reports would include:

  • 17″ 1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo iMac (Late 2006) – discontinued 8/7/07
  • Mid 2007 Mac mini – discontinued 3/3/09
  • Late 2006 MacBook
  • Mid 2007 MacBook
  • Late 2007 MacBook
  • Early 2008 MacBook
  • Late 2008 MacBook White – discontinued 1/20/09
  • Early 2008 MacBook Air – discontinued June 2009

One list even suggests that late 2008 Aluminum unibody MacBooks, which were sold until late spring 2009 and have Nvidia Integrated GPUs, could be on the bubble.

Reportedly, basic system requirements for the first OS X Mountain Lion Developer Preview are:

  • 64-Bit Intel Core 2 Duo processor or better required
  • Ability to boot into OS X 64-bit kernel
  • Advanced GPU chipset required
  • Internet connection required to download and install OS X 10.8

As best I’ve been able to discern, my 2.0 GHz late 2008 unibody MacBook—which has 4 GB of RAM installed and a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M integrated graphics processor unit—should (just) make the cut, but any MacBooks released prior to late (ie: mid-October) 2008 probably won’t, along with Late 2006 iMacs, MacBook Pros released prior to June 2007, the Mid-2007 Mac mini, the original Mac Pro and its 8-core 2007 refresh, and late 2006 and early 2008 Xserves.

If this pessimistic assessment is correct, the MacBook model that was discontinued in January 2009 won’t be supported by Mountain Lion. By the time OS X v10.8 goes public, that would amount to 3-1/2 years to obsolescence for those machines, including five revisions of the MacBook that can run OS X v10.7 Lion being thrown under the bus, more like just three years for the original MacBook Air that was sold until June 2009. However, MacBooks which still feature the last refresh of the original, pre-unibody plastic MacBook form factor that was manufactured in early-to mid-2009 and was upgraded to an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M IGPU should be able to run v10.8.

MacFixIt’s Topher Kessler notes that developer release being seeded to Apple’s Mac developer community contains a provisional list of supported devices that will be able to run Mountain Lion:

  • iMac (mid-2007 or later)
  • MacBook (13-inch Aluminum, 2008), (13-inch, early 2009 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, mid-2009 or later), (15-inch, 2.4/2.2 GHz, mid-2007 or later), (17-inch, late 2007 or later)
  • MacBook Air (late 2008 or later)
  • Mac Mini (early 2009 or later)
  • Mac Pro (early 2008 or later)
  • Xserve (early 2009)

However, for folks who run (relatively) older Mac hardware, it’s generally not happy news. “Legacy” support seems to have gone by the wayside in the Apple world, even though roughly half the personal computers on the planet are still running Windows XP. It’s also ironic that some Mac users left out in the cold by Mountain Lion may well be able to run Windows 8  in Boot Camp or Parallels emulation.

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  • Hm

    While I’m disappointed that my 2006 Macbook Pro won’t even run Lion, let alone Mountain Lion, I’m quite happy for Apple to leave the past behind when necessary, in order to push forward in ways that maintaining legacy compatibility limits. Maintaining backwards compatibility of around three years seems like a fair amount to me. Beyond that, I want them innovating and streamlining in new ways without having to worry about the past. Never let your past hold you back.