Citing the fact that it wants “every Mac user to experience the latest features, the most advanced technologies, and the strongest security“, Apple has announced that it’s decided to make all future OS X updates 100% cost-free. This includes Mavericks (10.9), which just so happens to be available in the App Store right now. For those needing OS X Server, you’ll be happy to note that the price has dropped to $19.99 USD.
For the most part, Apple didn’t mess with the OS X formula too much with Mavericks – not like Microsoft did with Windows 8, anyhow. What you can expect though is an evolution of an already stable product, with many features on the table to check out. Because no one can explain the new features better than Apple, here’s the official features list:
- iBooks, which gives you instant access to your iBooks library, more than two million titles in the iBooks Store, and works seamlessly across your devices;
- Maps, which brings powerful mapping technology to the desktop and lets you plan a trip from your Mac and send it to your iPhone for voice navigation on the road;
- a streamlined Calendar that estimates travel time between appointments, and provides a map with weather forecast;
- a new version of Safari with Shared Links, which helps you find what’s new on the web by consolidating links shared by people you follow on Twitter and LinkedIn;
- iCloud Keychain, which safely stores your website usernames and passwords, credit card numbers and Wi-Fi passwords and pushes them to your trusted devices so you don’t need to remember them;
- enhanced multi-display support, which makes using multiple displays easier and more powerful, with no configuration required;
- interactive Notifications, allowing you to reply to a message, respond to a FaceTime call or even delete an email without leaving the app you’re using;
- Finder Tabs, which help unclutter your desktop by consolidating multiple Finder windows into a single window with multiple tabs; and
- Finder Tags, a powerful new way to organize and find your files located on your Mac or in iCloud.
While Apple is being a little modest about it, the fact that OS X is going to be a free upgrade for Mavericks and future versions is quite a big deal. It’s worth noting though that in recent years, OS X releases haven’t been that expensive to begin with, so in some ways, this isn’t that big of a surprise.
This move shouldn’t affect Linux too much, as the cost of that OS isn’t what has kept it a go-to choice for those that use it. While it’s a definite benefit, the openness of that platform as a whole is what sets it apart from other OSes – including OS X. Apple’s OS remains closed-source for the most part, and you need Mac hardware to run it on (officially). Linux meanwhile supports a bajillion pieces of hardware, and can run on supercomputers and a $40 DIY board just the same.
Like Linux, Windows also offers support for a much greater amount of hardware, and has more flexibility in general given it doesn’t have to be installed on specific hardware. However, there’s something to be said about the fact that Microsoft still charges $119.99 for the standard edition and $199.99 for the Pro. With 8.1, Windows upgrade licenses no longer exist (at least on the consumer side), so those could be the prices for the foreseeable future.
$120 for Windows 8.1 and $0 for OS X 10.9 could make Microsoft look foolish, but the difference here is that Microsoft doesn’t make money off of PC hardware sales – its cash comes from Windows and other software (like Office) that gets bundled on. That said, Microsoft relies heavily on Windows – its entire business model is based around this single OS. While we might not ever see Windows become free, we could see it drop further in price. But given the differences between Apple’s and Microsoft’s business models here, it doesn’t seem logical that Microsoft would need to drop its pricing too much at this point.