The Takeaway: With iOS 9 and El Capitan, Apple embraces hardware compatibility

Apple clearly embraced backward compatibility with the hardware requirements for the next version of OS X and iOS 9 for mobile devices.

el capitan

Rolling out a new operating system -- whether for the desktop or mobile devices -- can be dicey. Flashy new features often mean that old hardware gets left behind.

But Apple's announcement on Monday of the next version of OS X and iOS 9 -- they were unveiled at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) -- will leave few Apple users out in the cold. Both OSes -- the former for desktops and laptops, the latter for iPhones and iPads -- have the same hardware requirements as their respective predecessors.

The move reflects Apple's decision to pull back on new features this year and instead work to refine the software users already have in hand. Both OSes will be available as public betas later this summer -- a first for the initial release of iOS -- and are slated to arrive fully baked, and free, this fall.

In terms of hardware requirements:

  • El Capitan will work on Macs that now run last year's Yosemite and/or its three predecessors: Mavericks, Mountain Lion and Lion. Specifically, that means OS X 10.11 will work on iMacs built after mid-2007; on 13-in. MacBooks from late 2008 (aluminum case) and early 2009 (plastic case); MacBook Pro laptops from mid-2009 and later (13-in.) and late-2007 and after (the 15-in. model and the now-discontinued 17-in.); MacBook Air laptops from late 2008 and later; Mac Mini desktops from mid-2009 and after; and Mac Pro desktops built since early 2008.
  • Mac owners can figure out how oild their hardware is by selecting "About This Mac" from the Apple menu and choosing "More Info..." from the ensuing window for Mavericks and earlier. The Mac's age will appear under the name of the model. (In Yosemite, that information appears in the pop-up itself.)
  • iOS 9 will work on the iPhone 4S, 5, 5S, 5C, and the current iPhone 6 and 6 Plus; on the iPad 2, third- and fourth-generation iPad, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, and iPad Mini 3; and the fifth-generation iPod Touch. That covers iPads and iPhones made in the last three years, although the new split-screen feature Apple execs touted Monday only works on the iPad Air 2.

Together, Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks and Yosemite powered 89.7% of all Macs in May, according to analytics company Net Applications. And, according to Apple, 83% of all iPhones are running iOS 8.

With reports from Gregg Keizer of Computerworld.

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