Apple OS Support Cycles

Apple recently announced iOS 6, an awesome upgrade to their mobile operating system. But the WWDC ’12 announcement also revealed that iOS 6 would not be supported on the original iPad, which came out in 2010. The original iPad has significant technical limitations, and it is quite reasonable that Apple no longer wants to support the device. But two years is a terrible support cycle, and it was Apple’s decision to only put 256 MB of RAM in the thing, not the customer’s.

 

Since this news, I have been grumbling quite a bit about Apple’s hardware support. It didn’t help that a few weeks later, MobileMe shut down, and my mom could no longer sync her contacts and calendars between her Core Duo iMac and her iPhone 4. Her iMac still runs surprisingly well for an older computer – it’s actually quite fast and capable for all that she needs. But it can only run Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and is therefore incompatible with iCloud. At first, I was quite frustrated. I felt like Apple’s support cycles were getting worse and worse. But I later found out that her Mac is from 2006, and decided that a six-year support cycle actually isn’t so bad, after all. Curious about the history of Apple’s support cycle, I decided to do some research.

 

I focused my investigation on the recent stuff, but I did notice that the Macintosh Plus, released in 1986, could run the latest system software until 1997 (!) when Mac OS 7.6 (the first version branded as “Mac OS”) was released. That’s 11 years of support. The original iMac G3 could run the latest OS from its release in 1998 to the debut of Tiger in 2005 (7 years), and Mac desktops/higher end laptops are currently on a pretty good run.
iMac:
Year Released
Last OS Supported
Years of Support
1998
Panther
7
1999
Panther
6
2000
Tiger
7
2001
Tiger
6
2002
Tiger
5
2003
Leopard
6
2004
Leopard
5
2005
Leopard
4
2006
Snow Leopard
5
2007
?
6+
2008
?
5+
2009
?
?

 

iBook/MacBook (low end laptops):

 

Year Released
Last OS Supported (Laptop)
Years of Support
1998
Jaguar
5
1999
Panther
6
2000
Tiger
7
2001
Tiger
6
2002
Tiger
5
2003
Tiger
4
2004
Leopard
5
2005
Leopard
4
2006
Snow Leopard
5
2007
Lion
5
2008
Lion
4
2009
?
4+

 

iPhone/iPad:
Year Released
Device
Last OS Supported
Years of Support
2007
iPhone
3.x
3
2008
iPhone 3G
4.2.1
3.5
2009
iPhone 3GS
?
3+
2010
iPhone 4
?
?
2010
iPad
5.x
2
2011
iPad 2
?
?
2011
iPhone 4S
?
?

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