New hardware is a mixed blessing to many Mac admins. Here’s what is going on, if you’ll permit me to put on my analyst hat:
Apple nearly always revises the build of OS X to go with new hardware. They do this to include new drivers for the new hardware itself (video chipsets, thunderbolt, etc.)
If it’s only the bundled OS that’s been revised (from 10.6 to 10.7 for example), and not the hardware inside the box, admins can wipe the drive and ‘roll-back’ the installed OS back to 10.6, to maintain a homogenous installed base. But once Apple releases new hardware, you’re stuck. All new hardware coming in the door is going to require Lion, whether you like it or not.
Admins for schools, and other cash-strapped facilities who can’t buy an extra machines sometimes get caught out if they haven’t adopted the new OS (Lion, in this case) yet.
This is a unique problem for Mac Admins, compounded by Apple’s secrecy. You never really *know* when a new Mac will be released, you have to go on the age of the existing product line and posts from the rumor websites. The Windows guys don’t have this problem since the hardware/drivers and OS are de-coupled.
The solutions are:
- As soon as system requirements are released for a new OS, plan to sunset any hardware that doesn’t make the cut. (This should dovetail with an existing hardware management strategy that keeps machines around for 3-4 years.)
- Manage software and make sure it’ll run under the new OS too. Update or replace as needed, or find an emulation alternative.
- Vet new OSs quickly and often. (This is easier said than done. Most admins like to wait until X.y.2 or X.y.3 updates are ready in order to shake out the bugs.)
The MacEnterprise mailing list has been blowing up today with the MBP news. It caught a few admins off-guard, since Apple rarely changes the line-up of their products in the last 60 days or so of the calendar year and Lion is only 90 days old or so.