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How does the support of older operating systems on a new software release affect the user experience of a product?

I'm working on a Mac OSX application. Should I support snow leopard? If I do support it, I have to have a ton of extra code and special cases. This introduces more bugs and multiple experience of a single app (10.6 and earlier doesn't have popover views and things).

This is the first version of a piece of software ever released. Should I introduce that legacy code for snow leopard?


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closed as not a real question by Vitaly Mijiritsky Oct 11 '11 at 21:51

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

belongs on Quora or something.. really a marketing question – Assaf Lavie Oct 11 '11 at 5:49
We don't know your user base or project budgets/timelines/resources. It's impossible for us to answer this. – DA01 Oct 11 '11 at 13:55

(I am not sure a user experience forum is the best place to ask this question.)

The importance of supporting older operating systems will vary depending on your circumstances. Here are come considerations:

  1. Is this software open source? If so, you may be able to find help porting to older operating systems.
  2. Do you plan to sell the software? If so, do you think most of your customers will be early adopters? Early adopters tend to use the latest, newest technology -- including the latest version of an operating system.
  3. Does this software interact with other software that is more frequently used on older versions of the operation system?
  4. Will you provide your own customer support? The customer support cost will rise as the number of supported operating systems rises.

As your circumstances change, the importance may change too. You may choose to support only one version of one operating system now and then, as your business grows, begin to support other operating systems in proportion to their perceived demand.

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Great answer; I'll support point #2: know your customer base. You might be able to get a feel for how cutting-edge they are by looking at analytics for a Website relevant to the product... maybe see what browser versions your potential customers use? – Evan Oct 11 '11 at 13:18

From a UX perspective - make it clear in big letters on the download page what it does (and does not) work on...

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Absolutely, you should support even Leopard (10.5). Leopard came out 4 years ago, but is still a very prominent version of OS X. Think of it as Mac's own version of Windows XP, which was the popular OS for Windows for about 10 years.

10.5 came out with the new Intel based Macs, which was a major landmark and a lot of people purchased new Macs at this time. I am biased as I am one of those, but I haven't felt absolutely compelled to upgrade and in the nicest way possible, I doubt your software will push me hard enough to upgrade. I recently purchased a version of Airfoil, which offers legacy versions, although you have to dig on the site a little bit.

To add some perspective, I develop for the Windows platform, and we still support XP, and plan to for some time. The shift away from XP will be (unfortunately) slow and painful.

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