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Apple’s WWDC announcements should worry anyone with an Intel Mac

If WWDC 2021 was any indication, Apple is now ready to cut off increasing Intel Mac users. As it gears up to transition the rest of its lineup to Apple Silicon, it’s already dropping features even for -new machines. The company is deprecating machines on seemingly arbitrary lines rather than technical limitations. Several devices supported with last year’s Big Sur could now not upgrade to macOS Monterey. Shortly after Wednesday’s keynote, the company outlined which desktops and laptops could install the new macOS version. That included iMac models made before 2014, pre-late-2014 Mac Minis, and MacBook Airs and Pro models made before early 2015.

Intel Mac

Here’s where it gets interesting. Apple withdrew support from the MacBook Air in early 2014, which runs a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-4260U (Haswell) CPU with 4GB of RAM and Intel HD Graphics 5000. When asked, Apple said it has to deprecate older hardware when those machines no longer support the experience its users have come to expect from macOS. That’s notable because macOS Monterey does support the late 2014 Mac Mini, the base model of which… packs a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-4260U (Haswell) CPU with 4GB of RAM and Intel HD Graphics 5000. The mid-2014, 15-inch MacBook Pro owners are in a similar situation, as the mid-2015 model that’s still supported has almost the same internals at the base spec.

One of the likely reasons Apple has to make decisions like this is the unique way it updates its computers. That same i5-4260U Mac Mini was on sale at Apple until the 2018 refresh, and four years is a long time for any chip to be on sale. It means that with Monterey, Apple would have to abandon models that customers could have bought just three years ago. Similarly, the base model 21.5-inch iMac, refreshed in early 2019, was powered by Intel’s i3-8100, a CPU from late 2017. And that’s the model that has just been replaced by the new, ultra-slim M1 edition that has garnered so much plaudit in recent months. By dragging its feet with chip refreshes over the last few years (not helped by Intel’s woes), Apple makes it harder to convincingly make a technical argument for withdrawing support for some models and not others.

Similarly, even new Intel Macs running macOS Monterey will find their experience limited in some ways. 9to5Mac noted that Apple had listed a series of features in Monterey that any Intel Mac would not support. That includes blurting backgrounds in FaceTime Videos, copying live text from within images, and utilizing the new, more detailed maps. In these cases, the new features are likely coded to take advantage of the M1’s Neural Engine. But that’s not to say that some of these features couldn’t run on Intel machines if Apple were willing to do the work. When even affordable Windows laptops with integrated graphics can blur backgrounds inside a Zoom call, is it fair to deny a similar FaceTime feature to someone spending $2,800 on an Intel MacBook Pro today?

The only thing the company risks with this is some goodwill with users persisting with their older Macs. Apple’s priority is understandably to look toward its future, but the decision to perhaps arbitrarily pull support for some machines isn’t ideal. Regarding desktops and laptops, Apple should strive for even greater support. Compare this to smartphones, where Apple runs ring around its competitors for OS support with older devices. The iPhone 6S, from September 2015, will be able to upgrade to iOS 15 this fall, in a world where competing manufacturers have only recently designed to start offering three years of OS support for an equivalent Android device.

Ning thNingo Apple’s last transition, the first Intel Macs arrived in January 2006, and Apple’s first Intel-only OS update came in the summer of 2009. Apple will likely continue to offer security and usability updates for older models, but the writing’s on the wall for any Intel-running Mac currently on sale. If you’re looking to buy one of those machines today, you should know that you could be boxed out of using all those exciting new features announced at future WWDCs. You might even run out of new OSes to install in the not-too-distant future. Independent of our parent company, our editorial team selects all the products Engadget recommends. Some of our stories include affiliate links. We may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through one of these links.


I have always enjoyed writing and reading other people's blogs. I started writing a journal as a teenager and have since written numerous books and articles. My blog is a place where I can write freely about my personal interests and those of others.

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