Time and again, at everyone keynote and presentation, Tim Cook and his team at Apple stress how they support their customers, how customers drive everything they do, and that’s why everyone has worked so hard to give them the best possible experience. It’s a shame that the recent sledgehammer removing 32-bit support from macOS Catalina has severed that bond of trust for many of Apple’s customers.

Women take photos in front of a large photo displayed of a MacBook computer in a demo room following the announcement of new products at Apple headquarters (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

MacOS Catalina has brought many welcome changes to the Mac platform. It brings a renewed focus with three new media apps to manage music, video, and podcasts; it allows iOS devices to be used as second screens; and it introduces the ability to run the latest iPad apps on your macOS machine.

Apple is right to push forward with these plans. Apple is right to accommodate the new world of online services and changing usage patterns. But is Apple right to focus only on this brave new world and push its draconian view of the older applications and the old ways onto users by removing its support?

Today In: Innovation

Apple CEO Tim Cook, right, looks at MacBook computers shown in a demo room following the announcement of new products at Apple headquarters (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Apple CEO Tim Cook, right, looks at MacBook computers shown in a demo room following the announcement of new products at Apple headquarters (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

While the removal of iTunes is balanced for many by the inclusion of the new Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Podcasts apps, Apple has removed key elements of the underlying code which has rendered many music applications for working creatives uselessApple’s promised XML support in the new apps was never delivered, and while there is an API available to the new Music apps, some developers are struggling to update their apps in time. Others have looked at the cost/benefit of updating and decided that it is cheaper to stop development. In some cases developers are no longer able to maintain code, and users have been reliant on Apple being a good and responsible community manager to maintain code support.

One of the biggest issues is the removal of support for 32-bit based applications – historically a huge part of the macOS software portfolio. Many of these apps are still in active development and have been recoded to 64-bit, but others have either moved on, died, or changed business model. That has left countless people high and dry with no affordable alternatives.

Take Overdrive, a popular eBook and Audiobook digital lending system used by libraries. Overdrive does not have a 64-bit application for macOS and has stated that it will not be supporting Catalina:

Due to upcoming macOS changes, and to simplify the user experience, OverDrive will soon end support for OverDrive for Mac. Effective September 4, 2019, OverDrive for Mac will no longer be available for download and Mac users will no longer see the option to download audiobook titles at your OverDrive website.

While options for mobile devices and web based listening are still available for the OverDrive platform, Apple’s decision to remove 32-bit support has halted native digital reading for many macOS users.

Older applications that are no longer being updated but still functional in macOS Mojave (the previous version) are now lost in Apple’s version of The Good Place. Dragthing may not have been updated for some time (as noted by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber) but it was still vital to many power users. The developers are fully aware of the move to 64-bit, but knowledge is not enough:

DragThing is written using the 32-bit Carbon APIs that Apple have now removed in macOS 10.15 Catalina. It will no longer run if you update to Catalina, and there are no plans to make a new version that will.

We are sorry to say, DragThing has launched its last app.

64-bit support would require completely rewriting the code from the ground up, a process which would take us at least a year to complete, with no guarantees we could re-implement all the existing functionality, or how much of a future it would have if we did.

Apple’s decision has killed an application with a strong and committed community. DragThing is not the only example.

Let’s turn to Microsoft‘s software, specifically Microsoft Office. Many individuals and businesses purchased Microsoft Office and have been running this vital software suite on their Macs with no problem. With the update to Catalina, these 32-bit applications no longer work.

The good news is that Microsoft does have 64-bit versions available for macOS. The bad news is that users will be forced either into buying a new single personal user licence, or move to Microsoft’s ongoing subscription based service.

Apple’s decision to kill 32-bit support will force these users to ‘rent’ Office. For some that will be a convenience, for others (such as small charitable organisations) this will be an undue burden on finances.


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