With a notable exception, those days are gone. Microsoft still charges a minor fortune for an upgrade to the latest Windows 8 version. Apple’s OS X Mavericks (10.9) is on the way later this year. Will Mavericks have a price tag? If so, how much? Will Apple do to OS X what they did with iOS? Free updates?
I Pick Door #2
Apple learned something important with iOS. There is tremendous value to the platform to get as many users on the same version of iOS as possible.
For one, that differentiates iOS from Android OS in a major way. Less is more. Developers don’t like developing for multiple hardware devices or multiple versions of an OS.
Most of the recent versions of iOS have been free upgrades to users, and often work well on devices up to four years old. That contrasts sharply with devices running Android where the latest version remains on a small minority of all devices.
Apple’s iOS 6, the most recent, is installed on well over 90-percent of all devices that support iOS 6. Apple charged a nominal $19.95 for OS X Mountain Lion and made it available only from the Mac App Store.
Will OS X Mavericks cost $20 or will it be free?
Obviously, for the benefit of the Mac App Store, where Apple takes a slice of the revenue generated from app sales, the company would prefer as many Mac users as possible upgrade to the latest version of OS X.
However, a new version of OS X which runs well on older Macs with lower amounts of RAM, also means users may not upgrade to new Macs and that presents the company with an upgrade conundrum. Apple has continued to upgrade OS X Snow Leopard, the last OS X to work on PowerPC-based Macs.
A check of the Mac360 server logs indicates that Snow Leopard users are a tiny percentage of visitors, and iOS users now contribute to 20-percent of all visitors to the site.
That leads me to believe that OS X Mavericks will be a free upgrade for all Mac models that support it, and that may go back to some 2008 models. The benefit of a free OS X Mavericks to the user base is huge, and the missing revenue is nominal for Apple (Macs number in the tens of millions while iOS devices number in the hundreds of millions).
A case can be made for a nominal $20 price tag, though. OS X Mountain Lion has nearly 30-million users. At $20 each, that’s $600-million in revenue spread over a couple of years if adoption to Mavericks equals adoption to Mountain Lion. That sounds like a lot of money, but it’s actually a tiny percentage of the $30-billion to $40-billion Apple earns each year. Apple can afford to leave a few hundreds million dollars on the table, which only makes the Mac look even better when compared to Windows.
So, free it is. We’ll see soon enough.