Mac OS X Snow Leopard: What price?

Mac OS X Snow Leopard: What price?

Summary: Behind the scenes at Macworld Expo, developers have mostly good things to say about OS X 10.6, called "Snow Leopard.


Mac OS X Leopard installation as a spiritual practice

Behind the scenes at Macworld Expo, developers have mostly good things to say about OS X 10.6, called "Snow Leopard." While details may emerge during Tuesday's keynote presentation, the biggest question mark is the cost of the update.

One developer wondered about Snow Leopard's marketing: "From a marketing point of view, if you call something 'Leopard' and the next version is 'Snow Leopard,' then that [latter version] has to be free. Maybe [Apple can charge] a slight bump, but not a $99 upgrade."

(All of the developers requested their discussion be without attribution.)

Another developer agreed that Snow Leopard would be a "tough sell" as an update. However, the cost question was important to developers' plans and for customer support.

"Will it be it free,  or a $29 update? That answer will define on our end whether we can use any [new] APIs and how we will continue to support Leopard and Tiger."

A third developer at the table said that Apple's framing of the Snow Leopard update may provide a clue.

Since 2001, Mac OS X has delivered more than a thousand innovative new features. With Snow Leopard, the next major version of the world’s most advanced operating system, Mac OS X changes more than its spots, it changes focus. Taking a break from adding new features, Snow Leopard — scheduled to ship in about a year — builds on Leopard’s enormous innovations by delivering a new generation of core software technologies that will streamline Mac OS X, enhance its performance, and set new standards for quality. Snow Leopard dramatically reduces the footprint of Mac OS X, making it even more efficient for users, and giving them back valuable hard drive space for their music and photos.

The developer suggested that under accounting rules, Apple must charge for adding new features into its OS software. However, if there are few new features, then there will be no obligation for this revenue recognition.

Since the "features" found in the Snow Leopard update won't be directly accessible by end users and will be additions under the hood for third-party developers, Apple may not need to charge for it or charge a lot.

The context for this speculation happened just over a year ago, when iPod Touch users were charged $19.95 for the Mail, Maps, Stocks, Weather, and Notes applications that had been part of the iPhone software update. Since the Touch is a standalone device without a subscription like the iPhone, Apple need to account for the software update differently and charge Touch users for the update.

Some developers have described Snow Leopard to me as just a big batch of bug fixes, and the developers I met with offered examples that could support that hypothesis. For example, one company said that Apple was finally getting around to dealing with some pre-Leopard fixes in Snow Leopard.

However, they were upbeat about this progress, and the reaction of Apple to its developers, especially when compared with the level of communication from Microsoft on Vista bugs. Several developers had Windows products as well as Mac. They said that Microsoft was like a black hole when it came to communication over bug reports.

"Apple wants to get all the stuff sorted out and get us the best OS. This communication [from Apple] is really important to us," one said.

Topics: Software, Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software Development

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  • Why Free? It's Divine Code

    Be lucky that we have the privilege of using Snow
    Kitty. I hope its at least $129 since that was
    Leopard's price and it had over 300 revolutionary
    • envy

      is such an ugly emotion. You'll be a happier person if you jettison it.
      • Envy? Maybe not

        1000 innovations. Trust us, you won't see or access them, but really, there are thousands of innovations in there... ;)
        • LOL

          "Since 2001, Mac OS X has delivered more than a thousand innovative new features."

          Sleeper Service
  • My bet is $129

    With a Family Pack also available for $199.

    That's where Apple has been for a long time
    and it seems to work for them.

    Getting the Family Pack at the education
    price also works for me.
    • $129 is fair

      I agree.

      What you you rather have:

      (1) A smattering of cute new utilities which "add features" to the OS
      (of questionable everyday usefulness)

      (2) An OS performance upgrade across the board, making
      everything run faster, with less crashes and bugs, with a solid
      foundation to enable rapid quality future development.

      I know for a fact I would rather have (2), yet people seem to think
      that only (1) is worth any money.

      Apple aren't going to want to set precedent that new features =
      money and core behind the scenes work = free.

      Of course, if they do reduce the price I won't be complaining :-)
      • Agree but..

        I think you mean "fewer" crashes & bugs which I would like to see for even "less" money.

        I know some people think that it's pedantic, but these are the same people who use exacting programming languages every day.

        So to recap: "Fewer" for a quantity, and "Less" for an amount. And yes, I know that the opposite of both words is "more" but the language wasn't developed by a programmer you know!
  • RE: Mac OS X Snow Leopard: What price?

    Some people upgrade the CPU, the RAM, or the hard drive
    in their computer. That doesn't add any features, but they
    happily pay for the up grade. I am willing to pay for a
    hardware upgrade, and I'm also willing to pay for an OS
    upgrade, even though in both cases, I don't get any
    additional features on the surface.

    I don't see the sense in expecting Apple to give Snow
    Leopard away for free. I don't work for free, and I don't
    expect them to, either.
    Harvey the Rabbit
    • Free stuff

      Well, Harvey, I agree with you. But then I'm not part of the new, entitlement generation...the one which thinks that everything they want should be 'free' or provided to them by the government. (Gee, who pays for that?) You're obviously right. People (unless they're doing charity work) don't work for free. The truth is that Snow Leopard is probably worth ten times more than its predecessor. As someone else offered earlier, "What's of more value...cute features you might use every once in a while, or a significantly faster, more stable operating system that enhances the user experience with every single thing you do?" And, the volume of code is going to be reduced at the same time. All of that has less value than the 'oodles' of new features in Leopard? Open CL, Grand Central and an all-new native Finder are HUGE improvements to the OS. If you took your car to a tuner, and they increased your engine's horsepower by 50%, and at the same time reduced your fuel consumption by 25%, do you think they'd do it for free? If you know of such a place, please respond to this message. I want to make an appointment for my M.
  • Mac OS X sucks!!

    Mac OS X sucks
    • Mac OS X sucks

      That's one feature I'm sure that Apple is not going to add. It
      would be embarrassing to use at work, anyway.
      Harvey the Rabbit
      • Now THAT was...

        ...seriously funny!

        And if you did use it at work, someone would doubtless give a blow-by-blow account to management...
    • Another Wintard

      That's a useful comment. And I'm guessing that your precious Windows is a leader in usability and stability (not to mention security)?

      Go back to your e-Machine.
    • yes, it does...

      it sucks so bad its almost as bad as most Linux Distros, and if not updated soon will get down into the suckage range of MS Windows
  • Accounting rules

    It's always funny to see the ubiquitous "accounting rules" used as the justification for setting a price.
    • They are a Public Company

      They have to adhere to "ubiquitous "accounting rules"" in
      order to keep out of trouble... How many "accounting irregularities" have we read about over the past several
      From what I have read, I don't see this as a large jump (like
      form Tiger to Leopard), so I don't think it should be a full-
      price upgrade, but I DO expect to have to pay for it.
      • Why does MS not "need" to charge for updates?

        Why does MS not have to charge for "enhanced"
        functionality as Apple does? They are also a public
        company. While we can debate on the fundamentals of
        how much is enhancing vs. fixing, MS has released
        multiple software updated that enhanced or provided
        additional functionality without being required to
        charge for the updates by their accountants (e.g. Zune
        FW, Xbox Dashboard, etc.).
        • Because they aren't...

          Because they aren't charging for a mere update. This is a
          new release of OS X. Updates are free.
          • Yes they are

            Upon reading the synopsis of the "changes" in the next
            version most of the bloggers cite feature enhancements
            and fixes not a new OS. I can call XP SP2 a new
            operating system as well. Anyway, not to belabor this
            point, I was making the correlation between Ipod Touch
            and the dreaded "accountant" fee. Call it what it is,
            an upgrade fee not a mandatory charge. If you want to
            just satisfy the accountants make it the much loved
            price of $0.99.
          • The entire kernel is being moved to 64-bit...

            The entire kernel is being moved to 64-bit only and they've
            completely revamped the windowing system and application
            support for the new OpenCL feature.

            This is not a mere update. SP2 didn't radically change the NT
            Kernel or introduce a revamped windowing system. You had
            to wait until Vista.