With the Intel switch finished, Apple no longer sells a machine capable of running pre-2001 Mac software. 17 years of executable Mac history gone. Does anyone care?
We’ve read of the efforts that Windows employs to maintain backwards-compatibility with ancient software (check out the SimCity anecdote in Joel on Software’s How Microsoft Lost the API War), yet on the Mac, anything that didn’t get Carbonized is now a museum piece.
Granted, how much software do you have and actively use that hasn’t been touched in the last five years? Probably not much. Sure, I’d like to run Connectix Virtual Game Station, Battle-Girl, or the very nice graphic Turing Machine emulator that some Stanford grad students whipped up for my CS/Phil 160A class back in 1987. But then again, if it mattered that much… wouldn’t these apps have been maintained and carbonized? Of these examples, the Turing Machine was presumably an in-the-moment one-off that’s probably already been re-done in Java, Flash, or Ajax, Ultra-United (makers of BG) are long gone, and Sony bought the CVGS and killed it after failing it sue it out of existence, because quality, legal emulation is a Very Bad Thing for console makers and they do not want it to gain a foothold.
Of the really important apps I used in Classic, most have been Carbonized (Graphic Converter, Quicken, Mariner Write, etc.), so even if they’re not Universal Binaries, Rosetta can do an on-the-fly recompile into x86 and they run. And a few others got Carbonized, but I moved on (goodbye, Internet Explorer, hello Safari and later Shiira).
And if it were really important to run Classic-only software, wouldn’t we hear more news about emulating old Macs on the new ones? It wasn’t worth Apple’s time, but just as there were Mac Plus emulators for the PPC, it’s got to be worth someone’s time to write a PPC emulator for the Intel Mac… right?
You know, I’m not using that much of the same software that I used five years ago, and that’s interesting when you think about Apple’s struggle to attract switchers. Part of the inertia against switching is how much users have invested in their Windows software collection. But in practice, are they really using all of it? Don’t these would-be switchers have stacks of dusty CD’s that haven’t been used in years, some probably still in their shrink wrap, that are therefore irrelevant from the point of view of switching? What does it matter if the Mac can’t run them, when you already don’t run them? Consider also the substantial pack of software the Mac comes with — real apps, not the trialware/adware that clutters the typical out-of-box Windows desktop — and ask if switchers aren’t getting a great deal by trading incompatible-but-unused coasters for great stuff like iLife.
If Classic-to-MacIntel switchers aren’t kicking up a fuss, why should Windows-to-Mac switchers have anything to worry about?