Will Apple's New Annual Upgrade Cycle Cause Problems?

By Richard Mallion
When Apple announced the developer preview of Mount Lion, Mac OS X 10.8, one of the changes that has kind of gone unnoticed was that OS X  was moving to a yearly release cycle like iOS. This is great way to introduce new features for consumers, but will it cause problems for organizations that have a large number of Macs such as businesses and education?
If you take Microsoft Windows as an example, businesses typically take 2 or 3 years to fully transition to a major new release. Not only has it not been 3 years since Lion shipped, but it has not yet been 3 years since the release of Snow Leopard, Lion’s predecessor.
For each OS X release, businesses and schools have to test all their apps for compatibility, both commercial and bespoke in house apps, no easy task considering I know of one company who has over 200 different applications deployed to their Mac suite.  If 10.5, 10.6 and 10.7 are any indication we can alway expect issues with the new release,  Active Directory integration being a great example.
But saying that iOS has proved an annual release schedule can work.
So going forward IT departments will have to embrace this change. More planning will be required. For example you may have to buy extra spare machines to deploy if the apps you rely on  require an older legacy system. Having sophisticated deployment solutions , such as Casper from JAMF, to help you manage the upgrade process would always help as well as having procedures to test the next OS in your environment.
When it comes to actual testing then you don’t need to wait until Apple release the OS to the public. Anyone can sign up to the Mac OS X developer program and grab the betas that Apple will release. Not only will this give you a head start in your preparations but you can also send feedback to Apple based on bugs and features requests which can only help in the long term.
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