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Budgeting for new Mac computers? You may want to buy now…

Thinking of buying a new Mac computer in the next few months? You might want to seriously consider purchasing now in order to avoid being stuck between the soon-to-be-released macOS 11, Big Sur, and the need for your business applications to catch up.

Our short-version reasoning: Big Sur will likely be released by the end of the month. Applications you use need time after the macOS release to make updates to support it. Add to the mix that later on this fall, Apple Silicon chips will replace Intel Chips, thus adding another layer of potential compatibility issues. The takeaway? Purchase a new computer now, or hold off until after the macOS kinks are worked out towards the end this year, and stick with Intel chip models for the immediate future.

Our detailed-version reasoning (for those with an extra two minutes and IT-leaning curiosity):

Sometime this fall, most likely between the last week of September and the first week of October, Apple will be releasing macOS 11 Big Sur. This is a major transition in macOS, and most businesses will need to wait until the applications they run every day have released updates, or new versions, to officially support macOS 11. As we remind our clients each year around this time, the latest macOS needs to be officially supported by all of the applications on which your business runs, or you may run into stability issues and end-user downtime. Sometimes a key application won’t even run at all.

Buying computers in the first few weeks after the latest version of macOS has been released can often push clients into unfortunate timing. The result is brand new computers sitting on shelves for 6-10 weeks waiting for applications such as Adobe CC or Microsoft Office for Mac to release updates so they will run in a predictable and stable fashion on the latest version of macOS and the latest hardware.

Over the past few years and versions of macOS X, Apple’s computer lineup gradually starts shipping with the latest version of macOS in the weeks following the release. And whether you’re looking to purchase off-the-shelf computers, preconfigured models, or are in need of a custom configuration makes a difference. Pre-configured models may have been sitting on a shelf in a warehouse since a few weeks before the new macOS started shipping, and thus may come to you with the previous version of macOS installed. Custom configurations of hardware options typically ship with the latest version of macOS immediately following the release. In a few cases, we’ve even seen it happen for orders placed a couple of days before the release date.

This can cause a domino effect: you purchase a new computer because you need the hardware; however, it only runs on the latest version of macOS, which you can’t run because some of the applications your team relies on are not yet compatible. Luckily, this sequence of headaches only tends to last for 8-12 weeks in most cases.

The other reason to wait is to avoid the new Apple Silicon, for now: Apple announced in June that they were making the change from Intel chips to their own silicon chips, as they have already done with iPhones, iPads, etc. This switch to Apple Silicon will take place over the next two years, which means you can also purchase Macs with the same Intel chips that have been inside Macs since 2006, for a while longer. However, it’s not entirely clear how this transition will take place. Will all models be available in both Intel and Apple Silicon versions? Will only one option per hardware type (e.g. one configuration of the MacBook Pro) be available with an Intel chip once the rest of the line-up starts shipping with Apple Silicon? Apple did confirm they still had some “exciting, new Intel-based Macs in development,” but the details remain a mystery.

While our recommendations err on the side of caution, we are also very excited for all the advantages that will come with the tight control and integration of the hardware and chip design, and the new features in macOS 11. It is vital that your business has predictability when it comes to your technology, and that translates to simply letting other folks play with the new hardware and new OS, with all the bumps and hiccups that come along with the excitement. But we’ll talk more about that in another post coming soon . . .

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