Reasons Why Apple Made OS X Mavericks Free



Some voices had already whispered that Apple was preparing some pricing changes on its desktop operating system, but Craig Federighi surprised many of us yesterday – I think – when he announced that Mavericks will be available as a free upgrade. The news that the iLife and iWork suites are going free just topped yesterday’s announcement, although there are certain conditions for getting those free productivity apps.

Apple’s move to make the aforementioned software free is interesting, and obviously prompts the question why? The company was charging $29.99 for its previous versions of Mac OS X such as Mountain Lion, and another $15 for each iWork app for Macs, and $10 for iOS. iPhoto, GarageBand, and iMovie are another story: they cost only $5.

So, what happened? Why did the company choose to provide freemiums, while Microsoft still requires you to pay $200 for Windows 8.1 Pro?

BusinessWeek speculates that by going free Apple has acknowledged something that’s been true in the tech industry for years: software is a means to sell hardware. By allowing anyone with a Mavericks-compatible Mac to run the latest desktop operating system, it opens the door to a painless and free upgrade, because they want you to run their latest software. Tim Cook emphasized during the WWDC 2013 keynote that only a small fraction of iOS users run pre-iOS 6 versions.

Apple wants to achieve the success it had with its iOS 6 adoption in the Mac OS X field, and by making iLife and iWork free of charge, Apple’s goal of the perfect integration of software and hardware can be achieved even faster.

Of course, offering iWork, iLife suites, and Mavericks as free upgrades will shake Microsoft’s business model, which is interesting from both the consumer and enterprise perspectives. The purchasing price of a Windows PC can’t be compared to that of a Mac: A laptop running Windows can be yours for only a fraction of the $1000 entry-level price of a Mac laptop. From this perspective, Microsoft has no reason to fear Apple’s move.

However, the picture looks different in the long run: While five-year-old PCs struggle to meet the performance requirements needed to accomplish everyday tasks, Macs still perform well even in their later years. And secondly, both the consumer and corporation won’t need to invest a dime into new software during this timeframe, because it can always get the latest and greatest software without any hassle.

Still, Apple has a long way to go to, because Microsoft has a strong grip on both the consumer and enterprise markets, through Office. But, by deciding to drop the iWork, iLife, and Mac OS X revenue stream and make all of them available for all eligible users, Apple will certainly cause a headache for Microsoft.


  • websnap

    I disagree. I think this will be the last version of OS X. This was a version that had a wide range coverage for older machines – and I think that’s it. I think the next Mac OS will be a BIG departure from the OS X line and this update was to make sure older machines are covered because they won’t get the next one. It will make it easier to have a separation when the next one has a cost again.

  • crosseyed_mofo

    im not so sure, its hard to go to from free software to pay for again… they crossed a rubicon imo

  • websnap

    Not unless they can justify it. again… If this was going to be 10.10, that’s one thing… But if it is OS XI… That kind of resets the trend.

  • websnap

    Scratch that:

    Said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice-president of Software Engineering in a statement “We believe the best way to do this is to begin a new era of personal computing software where OS upgrades are free.”

    I still think this is the last OS X we will see, though.

  • But Federighi also said that this naming scheme (based on places in California) is planned to last for the next 10 years or more. Why would they start a new naming scheme with the last version of OS X, and then continue that naming scheme with a different OS? Doesn’t make sense.

  • websnap

    Next ten years doesn’t mean they will be OS X. All the change in naming scheme means is that they aren’t naming after cats anymore. Things don’t always make sense if you don’t have the inside track. Then when we learn more, it makes sense.

  • magaleng

    I think this is good for business! We buy the machine and they give us free updates on operating system and apps! WIN-WIN Situation!!!!!

  • From a branding point of view that doesn’t make sense though. If you’re planning on ending a product’s lifecycle you don’t give it the first name of the next product series. You also don’t re-write your product to be 64-bit on the last revision of it before you move on to something else.

  • websnap

    So you are thinking that it will go 10.10, 10.11, 10.12… The name is a barely elevated code name. The “series” is unimportant.

  • Yes, I think it will go 10.11, 10.12, etc. Apple cares much more about branding (which they’ve turned those code names into) and that big X than they do about proper versioning, as is evidenced by Quicktime’s shift from version 7 to version 10, and the similar shift with iTunes.

  • websnap

    that makes my argument more than yours, lol… no worries, I guess we’ll see in a year or two.

  • What I meant is that they’ll ignore proper versioning in order to get the version numbers to match the branding they want. They’re really committed to the “X” brand, as is evidenced by Quicktime and FCP. If they were willing to jump three version numbers to get those products in line with the X brand, they’re surely willing to go to 10.11, 10.12, etc. to keep it. They’re not going to move to different branding just because they’ve reached the logical end of a version cycle. You’re right though, I guess we’ll see over the next few years.

  • websnap

    I don’t know what’s more odd about this, the number versioning or that this is happening two weeks after the last one’s release.

  • Yeah, this does seem really early for this to start popping up. I mean, I’m sure they start working on the next version right away, but to have something already being tested at this stage seems strange. You’d think they’d be focusing mostly on bug fixes for Mavericks at this point. But I guess they have multiple divisions working on different things at the same time?

  • websnap

    Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking…