Why Mac users still use OS X Snow Leopard

March 06, 2014 9:22 AM EST

Apple's decision to end support for OS X Snow Leopard (OS X 10..6) is reasonable -- but it's the kiss of death for a large segment of the Mac resale market.

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You see, Snow Leopard was the last version of OS X that ran on early edition Intel Macs. It was introduced in August 2009 four years after Apple announced the transition to Intel processors in Macs.

Macs running Snow Leopard still account for around 25 percent of active Macs. The implication is that these users are still using older Macs, and are on Snow Leopard to run OS X on them.

Why?

Two reasons: one is Apple; another is Adobe.

Apple

Bargain-conscious Mac users know pre-Intel systems are available for a song on eBay and elsewhere. They know there's life in these Macs, Apple had worked very hard to make these machines as high performing as possible.

The company had also worked hard to ensure these beautifully designed computers were built to last.

There's a preconception that Mac users have deep pockets, but that's just an ignorant prejudice. The heartland of the Mac lies in the creative industries, and creative professionals want to get as much working life from their computers as they can get. These are business tools.

Many creative users prefer to purchase second-hand Macs. They also like to stick with older architecture in order to avoid the need to upgrade their peripheral devices. Drives, disk burners, art tablets, printers, scanners and more -- the replacement costs are non-trivial.

Adobe

Then there's software. Adobe owns the graphics and design markets. Photoshop is synonymous with image editing -- but Adobe's software is expensive.

Adobe's business is to sell users new versions of its creative applications every year or two, introducing new features to convince users to upgrade.

Hard-working creative professionals make their money using Macs and Adobe software -- but will avoid upgrading software or equipment until there's a pressing need to do so.

Creative pros may like the sound of a new feature, but they won't invest in it until they have a paying project that requires they use it. Each new software upgrade also requires they spend time they don’t have learning their way around the new release. When it comes to image editing, older versions of Photoshop (or whatever) already do what most creative users most frequently need.

The effect

Something happened when Apple migrated to Intel, many Mac users who may have acquired an Adobe product upgraded to new Macs. Some also eventually have upgraded their Adobe software, others perhaps sold that software to finance a new Mac.

This created an opportunity for graphics pros. Not only were older Macs suddenly available to them for little money, but they could also pick up Adobe software that ran on these Macs for a fraction of the software's normal eye-watering retail price. (Adobe taxes its users). It's about control of the means of production, and as a result of the Intel transition, such access became more affordable.

This is part of the dynamic that drives the still enduring Snow Leopard Mac market.

That's annoying for Apple, but there is a positive side: it underlines the build quality and long working life you get when you buy a Mac. Some of these Snow Leopard Macs will be around a decade old, and yet they are still productive. You don't get a product lifecycle like that from Windows PCs. Indeed, if you want to be productive, you might as well buy a Mac.

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