I was pleasantly surprised when I realized Apple is releasing Mac OS 10.9 Mavericks for free. That is not the only good news, Apple will be releasing iLife and iWork for free for people buying new systems.
As I see it, Apple wants all it’s customers to use the latest version of the OS. I can break down the advantages into 3 categories.
Apple is diverging into different product markets. I don’t think Apple has the manpower at its disposal to work on all the products. This year there were news around, that Apple had moved developers from OS X team to work on iOS, so that iOS releases on time.
If all or most users migrated to a fixed version of OS Apple can reduce the size of development team needed to work on support activities for older version of OS like Snow Leopard (10.6), Lion (10.7) and Mountain Lion (10.8). This would free up developers to work on development of newer products.
Apple plans to use free OS updates to coax people to upgrade to newer version of the OS.
How will it affect Apple’s bottom-line?
It will end up working out well for an Apple. Apple is a unique PC maker in that they make both software and hardware. Apple is already releasing iOS updates for free and I think there are more benefits providing free updates and Apple can manage it.
How often have you written a piece of code in ifdef‘s because your application was meant to run multiple versions of the OS. At least I have had to write it quite frequently. Cocoa is a dynamically growing Framework. Every year a new version of Mac OS or Xcode releases new API’s are added and some older ones are deprecated. More often than not most companies prefer having single code base for an application for ease of development and support. This just leaves developers without much of an option, ifdef is the only option.
Just take look at the number of people using Windows XP (release date: August 24, 2001). There have been three major OS release since Windows XP and most companies still provide support for Windows XP.
Both Windows XP and Snow Leopard have sizable market share and any developer would not want to ignore the market.
Real winner is the end-user. Imagine getting new version of the OS every other year for free!
All in all I think it is a great move. Similar to Kid Rock charging 20$ for concert tickets.
Now the pressure will be on Microsoft and other proprietary OS maker to provide free upgrades to the user! But I don’t expect them to follow suite. Microsoft is not a hardware manufacturer and cannot afford to release either MS Office suite or Windows OS for free. Personally I believe, I deserved a free upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7.