Google gives a lot of software away for free. At least, there’s no price, but there is a cost. Apple has just joined the free gift parade. What’s it really going to cost us?
Hardware? Or, Software?
There has long been a debate about whether Apple is a hardware company or a software company. Until recently, it was easy to argue either one. Those days are over.
Apple is a hardware company. Yes, Apple is a world class software developer, but the company’s bread and butter and profits come from hardware.
There once was a time when Mac users would stand in line at the Apple Store to pay over $100 for the latest version of OS X.
Today, we simply need to click a button in the Mac App Store to get the latest, OS X 10.9 Mavericks. It’s free and runs well on more older Macs than expected.
Why did Apple decide to give away OS X Mavericks instead of selling it for the bargain basement price of, say, $20? Customer loyalty, and a sign of the times.
We’re moving quickly into the post-PC era where Windows PCs and Macs are less relevant than in years past. Steve Jobs described PCs as trucks, compared to the cars of iPhone and iPad– mobile computing.
Stop Sales Slide
Apple would prefer to stem the tide of dropping Mac sales and one way to do that is to further differentiate the Mac with lower prices (on new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac models), and give away apps for free.
No, I’m not talking about Safari or Mail or Calendar or Contacts. Apple is making free that which once had a price tag. For Mac and iPhone and iPad, almost everything but the Pro apps are now free.
Free iWork– Numbers, Pages, Keynote (and free to use online in iCloud). Free iLife– iMovie, iPhoto, Garageband. Plus, there’s all the free basic apps Apple distributes– Mail, Safari, Calendar, Contacts, Apple Maps, iBooks, iBooks Author, and many others.
Again, it’s a sign of the times. Free apps for the Mac differentiate Apple’s former breadwinner from Windows PCs, where Windows costs $199, and Office has a price tag. Buy a Mac, get the same thing for free.
What about iPhone and iPad?
Hidden Software Costs
Google is the anti-Christ when it comes to free apps with a hidden cost. At least with Apple, you know the higher hardware prices subsidize the cost of software development. Google provides many free apps– ranging from Android OS for smartphone and tablet makers, to Chrome and Chrome OS, to Maps, Docs, YouTube and much more.
Users pay by viewing advertisements, and by giving up information to Google which then monetizes the data to the tune of billions in profits. Google and Amazon are known for selling hardware at near the cost of manufacturing– with free apps– in the hopes of making a profit on content and data. That model hasn’t worked out well so far, but neither has Microsoft’s desire to license Windows Phone.
Apple can afford to give away iOS and OS X and a host of popular and much beloved applications because the company has admitted it’s a hardware company. Software is there to help sell the hardware. Just like Google.