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Is Apple’s Software Hurting its Hardware?

WWDC 2014

Count me among the many excited by Apple’s WWDC keynote on Monday. A bunch of the new iOS features seemed great, I love getting free OS X updates for my MacBook and the developers’ reactions to the dev stuff Apple showed off left me looking forward to apps that’ll launch in the near future.

Even though Apple didn’t show off any new hardware (and they weren’t expected to), it was still on my mind. I wondered, “Is now the time to upgrade?” That led me into a big question: Is Apple cutting into its hardware sales by making its software so accessible?

Think about it. Any iPhone newer than the iPhone 4 (that means just about any iPhone you’ve bought in the last three years) will be able to support iOS 8, and any MacBook that can run OS X Mavericks (that’s any new MacBook from mid-2008 on, with some even earlier than that) will also be able to run OS X Yosemite. That’s a lot of devices.

Apple spent time early in its presentation (rightfully) knocking the fragmentation on Android and Windows. iOS 7 and Mavericks are on far, far more devices (percentage-wise) than Android KitKat or Windows 8.1. For that, Apple should be commended. They’ve made their operating systems (both mobile and desktop) accessible for anyone who has an even relatively new device.

But that also means that anyone with a relatively new device can sit on their heels and wait to upgrade. Sure, bumping your iPhone 4S up to a 5S will bring a bunch of hardware advantages, but at their core, both phones will run the same software. That’s also true of a MacBook Air you got for Christmas in 2008 and one you could go spend $2,000+ on today; the new one will be way more powerful, but both will run Yosemite.

With iDevice sales losing ground to the competition (and computer sales slipping across the board, for both Mac and PC), should Apple be more restrictive with what devices can run its latest software? I don’t know. I know that I’m glad my phone will run iOS 8 and my MacBook Air will run Yosemite. Sure, I’d like to have the latest and greatest, but I don’t need to; going out and spending hundreds of dollars won’t make the core experience that much different.

There are plenty of advantages to having everyone run the same software, and the people in charge at Apple are far smarter than I am. But imagine a (really, really) extreme scenario: imagine Apple unveils a new iPhone and iPad this fall – then announces that these are the ONLY devices that can run iOS 8. There’d be outrage, and people would be upset … but a whole lot of people would suck it up and pony up the cash for new hardware. I know I probably would.

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More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of NBC Universal’s Live Digital with Shelly Palmer, a weekly half-hour television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.