Some People just LOVE to Complain…

Apple updated their Safari web browser to version 1.2 on Monday, pleasing many, while ticking off some. According to Apple’s rather sparse knowledge base article, v1.2 includes:

  • improved support for web standards
  • support for personal certificate authentication
  • support for Java 1.4.2
  • full keyboard access
  • resumable downloads through the download manager
  • improved stability
  • faster page rendering

I promptly downloaded the new versions of Safari and Java for both my G4 at work and Casey’s PowerBook, and have been impressed. Stability hasn’t been much of an issue for me (I can’t remember the last time Safari crashed on me), but the faster page rendering is noticeable, and quite an improvement. A nice update overall, but nothing Earth shattering.

This leads me to my main point: as soon as the update was announced on the many Macintosh sites, people started to complain. You see, Safari 1.2 is only available for Mac OS 10.3, AKA Panther. Users of OS 10.2 (Jaguar) are stuck at version 1.0 (I believe 1.1 was only available with the Panther installation). This has created some bitterness among those who are still using Jaguar, as some are wondering what technical reason prevents Safari 1.2 from working with their OS. Several people have gone as far as forcing v1.2 to install in OS 10.2, leaving them with a dead OS after rebooting.

This sort of thing happens almost every time after Apple releases a major OS update (10.1 -> 10.2 -> 10.3). Some people feel entitled to any new feature/update Apple provides, and complain everytime things don’t go their way, saying that Apple is forcing them to buy the latest and greatest version of the Mac OS. To which I say: Does Steve Jobs come to your home and threaten to break your thumbs if you refuse to upgrade? Jaguar is a completely usable operating system, which I would take over Windows XP any day. Safari 1.0 is a good browser as well, working fine with most web sites. Apple doesn’t have to support Jaguar in any way if they don’t want to. They have been nice enough to provide security patches in the last few months, and iLife 04 will run just fine under 10.2.

There even does appear to be technical reasons why Safari 1.2 only works on Panther. Safari makes heavy use of the WebCore library, which is part of the OS and was updated with OS 10.3. Another component heavily used and modified with Panther is the Quartz drawing engine that is responsible for all of the pretty graphics in OS X.

It all really boils down to this: Apple’s yearly point updates to the Mac OS are basically the closest they can get to a software subscription model without facing a major consumer backlash. Microsoft briefly piloted a program in 2002 which allowed people in Australia, France, and New Zealand to rent Office XP for a montly/yearly subscription fee. The price point looked nice, but many people didn’t realize that the product expired at the end of the subscription. No pay, no play. Microsoft determined that the consumer market just wasn’t ready for this sort of model.

Apple’s model is a nice mix of old and new: yearly software upgrades with many cool new features for about $100. If you want the new software tools, you pay your money and you and Apple are both happy. If you decide that you are happy with what you currently have, no problem. You can forgo the latest version of OS X (and its new features) and keep using your current version without any problems. There probably won’t be any updates to it beyond security fixes, but it will still keep working as well as ever. Apple gives you many reasons and incentives to pay for the upgrade, such as Expose, better Windows compatibility, and new versions of Safari, but you don’t have to comply if you don’t want to. Missing from this, however, is that you should shut-up and stop complaining if you go this route: Apple doesn’t owe you anything.

UPDATE (02/08/04): Apple has responded to complaints of the Safari 1.2 update mini-scandal. As I stated above, Apple’s choice to only provide the update to owners of OS 10.3 was primarily do to technical reasons:

“Safari 1.2 has been designed to leverage advances in Panther not present in the Jaguar release of Mac OS X. These Panther technologies are needed to deliver Safari v1.2’s most significant improvements. For example, personal certificate support is made possible by Panther-specific security technologies that are simply not available on Jaguar.”

Will this statement quiet the complainers? I’m going with a big fat “no” on that one.

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