Nearly 80 per cent of Macs will be able to run OS X Yosemite

iPhone 4 won't be able to handle iOS 8

OS X Yosemite will run on about eight out of every ten Macs, a boon for customers who want to upgrade this fall, but also another proof point that "good enough" has contributed to the personal computer business's stagnation.

Keeping with tradition, Apple dumped support for iOS 8 on the iPhone 4, leaving the four-year-old flagship stuck on iOS 7.

OS X 10.10, aka Yosemite -- named after the California national park -- will support the same Macs as 2012's Mountain Lion and 2013's Mavericks, according to accounts of the Yosemite preview's system requirements.

Computerworld confirmed the supported-Macs accounts with developers, who asked not to be named because they weren't authorized to disclose information about the pre-release software.

Yosemite's list was identical to Mavericks' of last year, which had been nearly the same as Mountain Lion's the year before.

OS X 10.10 will run on iMacs from the mid-2007 model on; on 13-in. MacBooks from late 2008 (aluminum case) and early 2009 (plastic case) forward; MacBook Pro notebooks from mid-2009 and later (13-in.) and late-2007 and after (15-in., discontinued 17-in.) and on; MacBook Air ultra-light laptops from late 2008 and later; Mac Mini desktops from early 2009 and after; and the much beefier Mac Pro desktops from early 2008 and forward.

Mac owners can determine the age of their machine by selecting "About This Mac" from the Apple menu at the far left of the menu bar, then choosing "More Info..." from the ensuing window. The Mac's age will appear under the name of the model, as something like "Retina, 13-inch, Late 2012" for a MacBook Pro laptop.

Until 2012's Mountain Lion, Apple regularly trimmed its supported hardware list, dumping what it considered old as it added features to the operating system that either would not run on the aging machines, or would run poorly.

But like Microsoft -- whose Windows 8 and 8.1 runs on the same hardware as the five-year-old Windows 7, which in turn runs on the same hardware as 2007's Windows Vista -- Apple has lately acknowledged that older Macs are good enough for its upgrades.

According to Internet metrics company Net Applications, 69% of all Macs that went online in May ran Mountain Lion or Mavericks, and will definitely handle Yosemite. A portion of the systems still on 2011's Lion will also be able to run OS X 10.10.

If Mountain Lion and Mavericks sustain their 90-day average losses and gains through September, the month before Yosemite is expected to launch, the two editions will be on 78% of all Macs as Yosemite reaches its release date.

Industry analysts have cited "good enough" as one reason why personal computer sales have shrunk in the last two years. Where once users believed each new generation of hardware -- particular the microprocessor -- provided a discernible benefit, and that OS upgrades were worthwhile because they took advantage of those more powerful machines, now they see little reason to upgrade hardware because the tasks they conduct are capably handled even by aged systems.

Windows PC sales in particular have been affected by the phenomenon, as buyers have rationalized that their Windows 7 systems, in some cases even those still running 2001's Windows XP, do everything that they ask of them, and so see little reason for plunking down money for a new Windows 8 machine, that OS's emphasis on touch notwithstanding.

While Mac sales growth has usually outpaced that of PCs overall, "good enough" has not been without its impact there, either: Where Mac sales gains were once in double digits, more recently they have either contracted or increased by small amounts.

Operating system makers like Microsoft and Apple have conceded the point, if only implicitly, by releasing upgrades that run just fine, thank you, on older hardware.

But while OS X system requirements will stay stable, those for the iOS 8 continued Apple's habit of dropping the oldest still-supported devices from the next edition's list.

Apple said iOS 8 will run on the iPhone 4S, 5, 5C and 5S; the iPad 2, iPad with Retina, iPad Air, iPad Mini with and without Retina; and the fifth-generation iPod Touch. Only 2010's iPhone 4, which has continued to sell well in the last year, especially in developing markets like China and India, has been dropped from 2013's list.

The iPhone 4 is powered by the Apple-designed A4 SoC (system on a chip); all newer iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches rely on the A5 or later SoCs.

Previews of OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 were made available to developers on Monday, with final versions slated to ship this fall, Apple said. The public will be able to obtain previews of Yosemite this summer through Apple's new beta test program.

OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 will be provided free of charge to eligible Macs, iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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