As I watched the Apple keynote live last night, there was only one thing that I was interested in. It was the new operating system for the Mac hardware, OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Introduced during the summer with a Fall release schedule, the keynote highlighted some of the neat features that comes with Mavericks. Towards the the end of the presentation, the price of the OS software was announced. The OS will be made available FREE for everyone. I nearly fell off my chair. Free? This is impossible. It goes against the normal conventions on how Apple would price their OS. In recent years, Apple has gone to develop and release new OS with improvements on a yearly basis. Such a cycle would mean smaller and incremental upgrades that would slowly but surely improve the OS as a whole. With that in mind, Apple has also decided to reduce the price of OS upgrades to as little as $25 in recent upgrade to Mountain Lion. $25 for a whole new OS is a steal. Yes, it is incremental and nothing earth shattering, but the improvements are important and useful in bringing the entire desktop and notebook OS ecosystem forward in a timely basis and in tangent with its flagship OS, the iOS for its iPhones.
Why free? What’s the reasoning behind it? Looking back, there may be several reasons why Apple decided to go in that direction. And it isn’t new, traditionally, back in the early 90s, Apple did indeed distributed their OSes for free. Now, for the first time in more than a decade and a half, Apple is embracing it again. One reason could be that Apple simply wanted the latest OS to be made available to as wide an audience as possible. Whether or not Mac users will eventually upgrade them is another story. But perhaps when it is dangled in front of them as a free upgrade is highly tantalizing. A free OS. I doubt many would pass up the opportunity to experience the latest OS that Apple has to offer by clicking the “download” button. This reason has several cascade effects. For one, by making the latest OS the dominant OS being used by Mac users, it brings benefits for developers. Now, they can focus on developing software and applications that takes advantages of the latest features the OS has to offer. They no longer have to worry too much about legacy apps and programs and ensuring that their programs can run smoothly on older OSes. The ease in which developers can develop their software would in turn bring benefits to the user. This ensures that the softwares and applications they use are robust, smooth and efficient.
Apple is well known for delivering excellent software and hardware products and by combining them together, users get a very unique experience in using them that is quite difficult to replicate elsewhere. By selling an integrated product experience, where hardware and software work hand in hand, you are adding value to the products Apple sell. Eventually, it is all about the experience, and to do that, the software and hardware have to be seamless. This way, it would seem that Apple wants you to see that the software side of things are just by by products of great hardware a bonus for users who uses Apple hardware. If the experience is amazing, people will pay a premium for it. In small ways, it is Apple’s way of saying “I know we sell premium products at premium prices, but here is a free software to go along with it to make your experience magical.”
The iOS updates have already been free. And everytime a major iOS version is released, a ton of changes are accompanied by it, to the point where you feel like you just got a new phone, with an all new experience. I think that is where Apple is heading for the OS X as well. I can now buy a new piece of Apple hardware, like a MacBook Air or iMac, knowing full well that future OS releases would be free. This would give the perception that the value of Apple’s hardware do not depreciate quickly and that your hardware stays relevant, software wise. This gives you the feeling that you have a brand new hardware, despite only the OS being new. This is how I felt when I upgraded my 2012 MBA to Mavericks. The upgrades are incremental. But some of the new features that upgrades accompanied by the OS are important and very useful for a MBA user like me.
There are a lot of information on what Mavericks brings to the table for Mac users online. Better energy and memory managements are some of many internal improvements that bring tangible benefits for Mac users who are power users, running multiple applications at once. Performance improvements now focuses in maintaining a consistent and smooth operation of the OS with the hardware resources given to them. Now you can extend the battery life and overall performance of your Mac further, just by implementing a new smart features and options.