Sometimes people are surprised by the darnedest things. Have you ever seen a kid throw a ball in the air, watch it come down and then cry when it hits them in the face? They had plenty of warning, yet they're still confused. The same could be said for Mac users surprised that Microsoft Word 2011 doesn't work on macOS Catalina. Does it hurt? Maybe! But it's not really a surprise, either.
Here's why Microsoft Word 2011, old versions of Photoshop, and other software doesn't work on macOS Catalina: Apple dropped support for all 32-bit apps (opens in new tab) from the operating system. It seems that some people found out about this when they installed the update on October 8, but starting with macOS High Sierra, people were notified of the upcoming change the first time they launched 32-bit apps.
That started in 2017. Some quick arithmetic tells us that Apple's been warning macOS users about dropping 32-bit app support for the last two years. Even if people often ignore system notifications, that's a long time for a company to broadcast its intentions, only to receive serious backlash for actually sticking to its plans. Wouldn't it have been worse if the company didn't warn its users of the change, or continually said it would drop 32-bit app support but never did?
So now Mac users have three options: they can upgrade to 64-bit versions of the apps they rely on, find alternative software, or continue to use old versions of macOS. The last one might be particularly appealing right now, actually, because macOS Catalina has some actual problems in addition to its abandonment of 32-bit apps. But that's only a temporary solution to the problem, assuming people want to use the new features introduced with macOS Catalina, which are detailed on Apple's site (opens in new tab).
We get it. New software is often expensive, especially as companies shift to subscription-based pricing, so being able to keep using the apps you already own is appealing. Similar arguments could be made for operating system updates themselves as well as the hardware they run on. Nobody wants to be forced to upgrade some aspect of their setup. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
But the reality is that Apple, Microsoft and other companies release regular updates to their products. Eventually they drop support for outdated technologies or make changes that accidentally break things. People shouldn't be surprised when an eight-year-old app stops working on a modern version of their operating system after being warned about that change for over two years. They saw the ball coming.