Apple announced at its event at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens that its forthcoming update to OS X, Mavericks, will come at no cost to consumers. This is a change for Apple, a company that in the past charged for updates to its desktop operating system.
Those fees were low — less than $50 — but they existed. And by dropping the cost of OS X updates to zero, Apple is following in Microsoft’s footsteps. Microsoft, of course, recently released its Windows 8.1 update to Windows 8 for free to all Windows 8 users.
If Apple were to charge for the update to OS X after Microsoft — a company notorious for high software prices — made its own update free, Apple would appear quite miserly.
Now, there are some small pieces to keep in mind. Given that Apple only sells OS X as a component of its PC line, it therefore only charges for its operating system as part of its hardware. Microsoft sells Windows as a standalone product, given that people still build their own PCs.
So, Apple now won’t charge for OS X directly ever, or at least ever again. This puts Microsoft in a spot somewhat of its own making: It cannot charge for OS updates ever again. Microsoft can keep charging for Windows as a standalone product, both directly to consumers and to its OEM partners, but that’s different.
We’re seeing certain software cost points decline to zero. That will squeeze margins.
Whatever the case, if you Windows, you get an update. If you Mac, you get an update. Everybody gets an update.