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Is macOS Catalina stable enough for enterprise use?

Apple released macOS Catalina in October 2019, but it has some issues. Here are some factors to consider before deciding to implement the OS in an organization.

Apple released its newest macOS, Catalina, in October 2019 -- but before organizations install it, they should ask themselves, "Is macOS Catalina stable enough for the enterprise?"

Catalina presents several challenges for the enterprise. Organizations determining whether to implement the new OS depends on how their employees use macOS desktops.

Is macOS Catalina stable?

One of the most important changes in Catalina is its lack of support for 32-bit applications. Not only does this affect commercial products, such as older versions of 1Password, VMware Fusion, Microsoft Office, Parallels and QuickBooks, but also 32-bit business-to-business applications the organization might use.

If IT admins install Catalina on a system that includes 32-bit applications, those applications will no longer work. Users will have to do without them, or the organization will have to replace them. For some legacy applications, however, replacing them isn't an option because updates are not available.

Any of these issues can affect both productivity and the bottom line. If an organization's only viable option is to continue using the 32-bit applications, it should not upgrade to Catalina until it is ready to replace them or do without them.

Adobe products have been one of the most visible casualties of Catalina. Some older versions of Photoshop, for example, still use 32-bit licensing components and installers. Even Creative Cloud 2018 applications contain some of these components. Other issues related to Adobe products have been reported as well. Adobe recommends that organizations fully test these products on Catalina in a nonproduction environment to ensure everything will work as expected.

Catalina can also affect security products. To properly run Symantec Endpoint Protection, for example, IT admins can use only version 14.2 RU2, and to run Sophos Endpoint, they must use version 9.9.4 or later. Catalina's structure can also impact Sophos services that require system-level access. Because of the new permission structure, the OS will not notify users of threat-related issues at the system level. Organizations that want to upgrade to Catalina should first ensure that their security tools are fully compatible with the OS.

The new permission structure can also result in other issues. One concern is how Catalina inundates users with permission-related prompts by requiring them to accept or deny permissions to numerous applications. This can easily lead to dialog fatigue, in which users simply accept everything because of the ridiculous number of prompts. This issue can also result in users inadvertently denying permissions to certain applications, preventing those apps from working properly.

In addition, the new permission structure can break automation scripts or other existing scripts such as Python or AppleScript, affecting both user and administrator productivity. Even the savviest users could find themselves running in circles trying to address permission-related issues.

Plenty of other concerns have been raised with Catalina, such as hanging installations, login errors, poor performance, cloning problems and shorter battery life. The days of relying on Apple to provide a smooth upgrade transition are long gone. IT teams might want to wait until macOS Catalina is more stable before making their move. Even then, they should fully test the OS to make certain it will support all the applications that they use to conduct business.

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