Apple makes OS X Mavericks free: The implications

Apple's move to make its latest OS update free brings it up to speed with other developments. The lesson: The OS is less of a product and more of a jump-off point for other services.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Apple on Tuesday said that its Mavericks OS X update will be free for all Mac users, including those laggards running Snow Leopard.

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At Apple's iPad powwow in San Francisco, Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, said that Mavericks will be free. "And we're doing free in not a small way," said Federighi.

The move is notable because Apple is now on the same bandwagon as Microsoft, which is offering Windows 8.1 free as an update, and Google Chrome OS, which updates continually.

CNET's live blog | Apple stream | Apple's OS X Mavericks hands-on, in pictures

Apple's real message is that if it can get all customers on the latest software — a model that has worked for iOS since two-thirds of users have iOS 7 now — the company gets more customer loyalty. In addition, hardware will seem old with the latest operating system for laggards. As a result, it's possible that handing out the latest OS X for free will mean more MacBook upgrades.

A few implications on the Mavericks freebie move:

  • Apple gets its latest software and technology in the field
  • Mavericks is likely to be tied into Apple TV better. Apple TV is a precursor to an eventual iTV
  • Hardware upgrades are likely to follow
  • Apple is betting that the OS sales are a thing of the past. The real money revolves around services like app sales, subscriptions, e-books and iTunes Radio.
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