WHAT IF: Snow Leopard Were Universal?

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by MysticCow, Apr 1, 2016.

  1. MysticCow macrumors 6502a

    May 27, 2013
    So we all know that Snow Leopard was Intel only, so no going berserk over THOSE CERTAIN PEOPLE that falsely claim they have Snow Leopard running on a PowerPC Mac. We all know that's false.

    But what if it were TRUE? In this post, speculate and ask yourself "What if Snow Leopard were universal?"

    Here's my speculation on it:


    SL would have destroyed G4 support. Much like how Leopard took away all G3's from an upgrade path, Snow Leopard would have done the same with G4 support.

    It would have been a very limited universal build where only the G5's would be officially supported. The last G4's were produced in 2003. The last G5's were produced in 2006. Snow Leopard came out in 2009. So I truly believe those G4's would have had their swan song under 10.5 if SL were universal.


    The Mac App Store would have been a disaster. I fear every single Apple board (official and 3rd party like MacRumors) would have been destroyed with "This won't work on X" posts.

    What would Apple have done? Tell app makers to make all apps universal? If they did that, we'd have the situation above. Make a separate G5 build and Intel build and monitor apps to ensure they stayed true to the processor? What a headache that would have caused.

    So on the App Store front, I fear that would have stayed Intel-only or delayed until 10.7.


    Rosetta would have probably made it to 10.7 and then probably reached end of life there.

    10.7 SUPPORT

    G5 support would have likely reached end of life in 10.7 if they didn't in 10.6. Honestly, I couldn't have seen 10.7 support for the G5's.

    So now it's your turn. Would it be a mess? Would it have worked just fine? What would have been cut from a PowerPC version of Snow Leopard? Let your iMagination run wild here.

    PS--AGAIN, don't be pissy. We all know the truth of the matter here. We all know PPC support died in 10.6. However, we can iMagine what could have been. ;)
  2. bunnspecial macrumors 603


    May 3, 2014
    That's actually not true. Apple produced G4s as some of their higher end products right up until the end.

    If Apple had made it universal, I think there would have been a lot of VERY unhappy people if it couldn't run on a Powerbook they bought in 2005 but could run on a G5 in 2003.

    Aside from that, I agree that the App store likely wouldn't have made it(to be fair, though, it only came VERY late in the SL lifetime).
  3. MysticCow thread starter macrumors 6502a

    May 27, 2013
    Oh I forgot the laptop issue. I was thinking only of the PowerMacs and not the PowerBooks.

    I sense you're right, but it'd wind up being the very high end G4 laptop's only.
  4. eyoungren, Apr 1, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2016

    eyoungren macrumors Core


    Aug 31, 2011
    ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two
    Let's state this a different way…

    Off the top of my head. Had Apple been able to get a PowerBook G5 to market I think your scenario of a Universal build for PowerPC would have been more likely. Requiring a G5 as minspec for SL would have been appropriate. Apple has plenty of examples where they forced customers to a new OS because they made it not run on older hardware. I'm pretty sure too, someone would have found a way to install SL on a G4.

    Perhaps, the App store also would delayed until Lion.

    Doing both would have let Apple cut PowerPC off completely with Lion. No Rosetta, just an end. By July 2011 the last of the 2006 Macs would be hitting the "Vintage" classification where Apple dropped support for them entirely.

    That would have all been a neat and tidy wrapup. And for those bitching about Lion not being supported on PowerPC, well by then it would have been at minimum a 5 year run. Your Mac at this point is vintage with no support. Deal with it.

    Lion would have been the break with the past. To get the App store you'd need Lion, which would have meant a new Intel Mac.

    I'd like to think this might have been Apple's roadmap. Why would they have bothered trying to get a G5 chip to work in a laptop if there wasn't some leaning towards it?

    But with all the problems they had I think Steve just decided to cut his losses and move earlier than planned.

    PS. I'll just add that since a lot of us consider Snow Leopard to be the ultimate culmination of Leopard (what Leopard would have matured into) that PowerPC going out on Snow Leopard would have been one of the best send-offs we could receive.

    Lion was all new, both the GUI and under the hood. It leveraged new hardware on Intel chips and was forward moving. Where Apple has ended up from that we all can argue about, but I do believe Lion was where Apple really made their move to leave PowerPC completely behind.

    Snow Leopard on the other hand was kind of middle ground. One foot in the past with Rosetta and one foot in the future with Intel code. So, you didn't really get the best for Intel Macs and you got nothing for PowerPC Macs.
  5. 666sheep macrumors 68040


    Dec 7, 2009
    I believe (same as few MR members I know) that somewhere on Apple servers exists PowerPC compatible developer version of SL kernel (and possibly the whole working OS).
  6. redheeler macrumors 603


    Oct 17, 2014
    If Snow Leopard had supported PowerPC, there's no doubt Apple would have encouraged developers to keep building universal binaries. Xcode 4 would have kept support for it, and we'd likely have lots of newer apps on PowerPC Macs like Office 2011 and CS5.

    But it was just easier to drop PowerPC, and encourage developers to do the same.
  7. Hrududu macrumors 68020


    Jul 25, 2008
    Central US
    You could argue there IS a universal version of Snow Leopard and its called Leopard. Yes there are new features in 10.6, but its true purpose was to trim out the PPC code and streamline the existing OS. I often wondered what sort of performance increases we would have seen from our G5 and G4 systems running a "Snow Leopard" that simply eliminated Intel code and brought a more streamlined OS to the PowerPC including an OpenCL graphics ability to higher end G5 systems.
  8. Cory5412 macrumors member

    May 14, 2004
    It would be interesting. Should Apple have kept on with Snow Leopard longer, they may have encouraged UniversalBinary builds longer.

    I think that there's no really good technical reason why a good G4 couldn't have run it, if you were already building it for PowerPC systems. There are documented cases of G4s that are faster than G5s (not that many, it's mostly well equipped MDDs outperforming single and dual 1.6 and 1.8GHz G5s)

    On the other hand, it's reasonably possible that Snow Leopard would have been bad, potentially even disastrously bad on PowerPC Macs. It could be to the point where literally one single system would run it well: the Quad, and only with a lot of RAM.

    I would be totally unsurprised to find that Apple at least builds its stuff on PowerPC. They probably have a few of them around and it helps to maintain portability, should they want to do anything else, such as start porting desktop Mac OS X to ARM chips, which is something that has been tossed around as a possibility since about 2009 or so, at least by certain people. (And, today with the iPad Pro outperforming the "MacBook" in some tests, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility for such a transition to start.)

    I think the real question is whether or not it's worth it for just the PowerPC G5 systems, if we can presume that no or few G4s would be supported. Remember, too, that iMacs are going to be even slower than Power Macintosh G5s, which themselves aren't always actually faster than iMacs, and which are almost never faster than the slowest of the Intel systems, and this is basically true for nearly every single subsystem. (Sort of like "The 101" and 2013-2015 MacBook Airs today, where 15-watt Haswells can now outperform 35-watt Ivy Bridges in short bursts, and Skylakes (even though Apple isn't building any yet) are likely to noticeably open that gap.)

    I honestly don't think so. It's worth remembering that in general, the accepted lifecycle of a professional desktop computer is five years, and that's pretty much exactly what people got out of even the last of the Power Macintosh G5 systems. The last G5s were built and sold in 2006, and Mac OS X 10.7.0, the version that signalled the end of active "support" for Mac OS X 10.5.x, was released in July 2011. By then, the vast majority of the people who had bought the things as professional tools had either already or were getting ready to buy new hardware, and dual core i5 Mac minis from 2011 handily outperformed the Quad at everything except for graphics. A Quad-core Mac mini from 2011 or 2012 was going to be over 200% (probably 260 or so) as fast as the Quad, while a dual was really only 130% as fast as the Quad, at CPU-bound workload tests such as Cinebench R11.5.

    I just don't think that 10.6 was going to be very compelling on PowerPC hardware, unless it brought, say, support for newer graphics cards or OpenCL accelerators or unless Apple did a whole heck of a lot more work optimizing it than they actually did. On the Intel side of things, 10.6 did not backslide very much, but it was the start of a long trend of Mac OS X having big problems with certain things that has only finally started getting better in 10.11. (In particular, every release I've used from 10.7 through to 10.10 has had problems with runaway swap usage, basically getting to the point after a while where your system would not be touching physical RAM at all, and would be running from an ever-burgeoning swap file on your disk. The only mitigation to this issue was daily or weekly restarts, or having the fastest possible SATA or PCIe SSD inside the system.)

    So, maybe it would have been good on the Quad if you had 16 gigs of RAM. If that's the complete extent of the machines that would be able to run it well (it pretty much is) then I'm not convinced it was worth Apple's time to do much more than minimal testing, let alone fully test it and release it.

    Though perhaps if they'd done that, they could have done more optimization and the whole story may have been a little different.
  9. roadbloc macrumors G3


    Aug 24, 2009
    Wasn't the point of Snow Leopard and it's boasting of 0 new features because they were ditching the PPC code off the OS and making the Intel code better?
  10. bobesch macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2015
    Kiel, Germany
    Yeah, I guess, that's the point. I remember they advertised the -6GB lower footprint due to removal of drivers and PPC-code.
    My entry to Macs had been a MacBookPro late 2009 which had Leopard preinstalled. When I upgrades to SL I had a lot of trouble, since the drivers of my Fujitsu ScanSnap1500m had been universal and didn't run on SL. I didn't really had the feeling of much benefit - just the hassle with those drivers being outdated and updated pretty late.
    When it comes to the AppStore, there wouldn't be any benefit for PPC at all. Even on the white intel c2d iMacs with Lion there are pretty much Apps that leave Lion behind and require full 64bit/10.8.
    So why bother about SL.
    Reading about "Mozilla is done with Snow Leopard" shows, that even SL will be left behind with browser-updates - but in comparison to Leopard and the huge living PPC community it's more likely to get any updates for Leopard/PPC than for SL/Intel.
    I only feel sorry about loosing the cloud-options step-by-step.
    SohoOrganzier (iCal/Contacts), Mail (iCloud-IMAP), webDAV(GMX/Box/T-Online) and DrpBx will hopefully last for longer...
    And I am not looking forward to the date, when my white iMacs with Lion will be let down by the Cloud.
  11. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    My feeling was that the only reason the App Store made into SL at all was to give an upgrade path to Lion using Apple's new distribution method, which eschewed physical media.
  12. tdbmoss macrumors 6502


    Dec 4, 2011
    The removal of the ability to run on PPC didn't reduce the size of Snow Leopard by a significant amount, this was just a lie to justify the dropping of PPC support... A lot of the saving was actually that they bothered to compile SL properly rather than including all of the useless designable.nib files that they shipped with Leopard (you can run a Terminal script to delete all of these unnecessary debug files from a Leopard system and save a decent amount of space). Intel-only binaries aren't that much smaller than Universal binaries when that is the only thing removed, and a lot of the core files in SL is still Universal anyway (check them with Get Info), presumably for Rosetta to function.

    This article discusses it in more detail: http://appleinsider.com/articles/08/06/27/solving_the_mystery_of_snow_leopards_shrinking_apps

    Back in the day you could choose whether to install a 68k, PPC or Universal version of the Mac OS and some of the contemporary applications, I still think that approach would have been nice for the PPC/Intel Universal software, to save the additional space that multi-architecture binaries do take up.
  13. iModFrenzy macrumors 6502a


    Jan 15, 2015
    Our actions define our legacy
    It would suffer/or be suffering the same fate Leopard did/is.

    Support would be gone.
    Compatibility is slowly fading.
    You get the point :p.
  14. throAU macrumors 601


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    it would never have happened because there was no new powerpc processor that will work well in mobile (due to power consumption), or the tiny form factor iMacs that Apple want.

    And yes, apple killed PPC after a couple of years quite deliberately, they don't want to be carrying dead platforms forever because they have a small focused development team as it is - maintaining another branch of OS X for people who haven't upgraded in several years is a waste of resources.
  15. bobesch macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2015
    Kiel, Germany
    Back in 2009 SL-Update had to be purchased. So basic maintainance-upgrades for Leopard (iCloud, Safari, FaceTime, Security, other Cloud-related services) certainly would have encountered a PPC-community willing to pay for these xtras.
    Finally it's all about cloud and services that did put the old PPC-machines onto their way to obsolescence ... (even if Browsing the web on an iBook/PBG4 is often painingly slow...)
  16. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    Not sure if that would have been worth Apple's time. SL was sold for a nominal fee compared with Leopard and its predecessors in order to encourage/lessen the blow of moving from PPC to Intel, which involved spending on hardware - Apple's real cash cow. If Apple were to keep support for PPC through SL without the benefit of hardware sales to soak up the development and testing costs, it would have had to have had differential pricing to make any economic sense. That would have gone down like a cup of cold sick.
  17. bobesch, Apr 4, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016

    bobesch macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2015
    Kiel, Germany
    Think about the situation back in 2009 when SL had been released for about 30$.
    If there had been a significant update for those core functions, I've mentioned above, 40$ would be a price, a lot of people would have been willing to pay to keep their PPC hardware up2date.
    If 100.000 PPC-User would have purchased an update for 40$ then 20 developers could have spend 2,5y (40$/h at 8h/d at 230d/y) to apply basic/core updates to Leopard/PPC. That time wouldn't have been "Apple's Time" - it's time paid by customers...
    Yeah, that's planned obsolescence (in a really pleasant wrapping...) and we are no customers of the "Salvation Army".
    I like to spent money at Apple's hardware and it's nice to be an early adopter.
    The hardware is great, compared to other stuff on the market and there are plenty of people (like me) who are also keen to stick with that old hardware. But it's a pity to see that valuable "old" stuff cut off further enhanced usability even if those core-security/functionality-functions are easy to add.
    Buying new stuff isn't much of a pleasure anymore, when it comes to that "nach mir die Sintflut..." attitude.
  18. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    Yes but Apple's mantra was that Leopard was feature-laden and Snow Leopard was an attempt to make sense of those features, cleaning up code and introducing under the hood improvements like Grand Central Dispatch - stuff that wasn't overtly sexy but would lead to an improved user experience. Patching Leopard under those circumstances would be encouraging people to stick with second rate.

    While potential sales might have paid the way for life support for Leopard, it was also keeping developers away from the Next Best Thing. Apple has never been sentimental about cutting ties with the past. There is more money in shiny new products than in keeping Last Year's Thing ticking over.
  19. bobesch macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2015
    Kiel, Germany
    The intention to leave old stuff behind is quite obvious ...
    No one would expect Apple to spent the same huge effort of under-the-hood improvements it did with SL.
    But offering payed service&security-updates plus cloud-enhancements wouldn't have been alien-technologie:
    If 50.000 PPC-users would have payed 20$/y for basic upgrades of Leopard a team of 20 developers could have spend half a year to implement those basic features... (loan 40$/h at 8h/d and 230d/y).
    That's kind of environmental care... plus gain new customers by low-level entry to Apple eco-system.
  20. Anonymous Freak macrumors 603

    Anonymous Freak

    Dec 12, 2002
    As others have said, the G4 survived in half their products that shipped at the time of the Intel transition! In fact, the G4 continued shipping months *AFTER* the Intel transition in the iBook G4 and Mac Mini G4. (Until they were replaced with the MacBook and Mac Mini Intel, respectively.) I would say that the likely cutoff would have been 1 GHz, and in all likelihood only models where the *LOWEST* speed version was 1 GHz would have been supported. Actually, now that I think about it that way, there is an easy differentiator - like how Tiger required Firewire (for no good reason,) Snow Leopard could have required USB 2.0 natively. That would be a good cutoff to include only newer machines. There was only one sub-1 GHz USB 2.0-equipped machine, an iBook G4 where one was available in 933 MHz, and another in 1 GHz.

    Well, the App Store didn't arrive until a later update in Snow Leopard (10.6.6) - they could have just said "App Store is Intel only" and not even have it appear on PPC systems.
  21. rawweb macrumors 6502a


    Aug 7, 2015
    Looking back it seems odd that just 3-4 years into the life of 2005 PPC computers that future OS support ended. If that happened now-a-days the backlash would be supreme. That's the equivalent of the 2012 Mac Pro no longer receiving OS X upgrades (computers that may still be supported by AppleCare no less) today. Granted the chipsets haven't changed hands.

    Amusingly, in 2009, I was never more ready to jettison my G5 in exchange for a shiny new 27" iMac.
  22. Dronecatcher macrumors 68020


    Jun 17, 2014
    Lincolnshire, UK
    I think what helped was pro users knowing that PowerPC architecture was getting left behind and Powermacs were no longer head and shoulders above Intel workstations.
  23. rawweb macrumors 6502a


    Aug 7, 2015
    Yes, I know that was my reasoning. The 2009 unveil of iMac was really impressive. That screen was/is incredible. A design they're more or less still using today.
  24. Anonymous Freak macrumors 603

    Anonymous Freak

    Dec 12, 2002
    Well, there was an Intel Xserve "Early 2008," and available until April 2009. OS support was dropped with 10.8, which came out in June 2012. So only 3 years of OS support. If you bought an Early 2008 Xserve right at the end of its new-release cycle (buying spares to keep uniformity, for example,) and bought AppleCare on them, the AppleCare would have expired only two months before you could no longer get OS updates.

    10.8 also did away with support for a few other models from 2008, with the Mac Mini and polycarbonate MacBook both requiring the "Early 2009" model or newer. Note that every machine that was supported in 10.8 is still supported today, though. So waiting one month to upgrade in early 2009 would have bought you four more years (at least!) of OS support.
  25. oi! Suspended

    Jan 10, 2016
    I have to admit that I am still surprised there hasn't been a patch to run SL on a PPC. Mind you, I'm also still surprised there isn't a patch to run OS 9 on a G5.
    I've long suspected that secretly it was originally intended to run the 3.0Ghz G5 machines which they didn't build, based on the 970GX chip, which they canceled. The final retail version, simply a rushed hatchet job to ditch PPC support purely out of embarrassment that the G5 failed to live up to the speed promises.

    IBM still makes PowerPC chips (Power 8 being the current product, IIRC). in theory, Apple could have stayed with PPC architecture to this day!

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