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Apple OS X Mavericks Sees Fast Adoption

Apple declares end to expensive operating system upgrades; OS X users appear to appreciate the free software.

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Apple's decision to give away its latest operating system update for free appears to be having the desired effect: Customer adoption of OS X Mavericks has been four times greater in the first 24 hours than it was for OS X Mountain Lion, released in July last year.

Approximately 5.5% of OS X users downloaded and installed OS X Mavericks during the first day of its availability, according to Chitika, an online ad network. As a comparison, only 1.6% of OS X users installed OS X Mountain Lion during the first 24 hours of its release.

Price, or more accurately, the absence of it, clearly played a role in accelerating the installation of OS X Mavericks. OS X Mountain Lion sold for $20. But for Apple, the relevant comparison is the price of Windows.

At the media event in San Francisco, Calif., where OS X Mavericks was introduced on Tuesday, Craig Federighi, Apple senior VP of software engineering, stood in front of a projection screen showing an image of Windows 8 Pro for $199 and declared an end to expensive operating system upgrades.

[ Want more on Apple's new pricing strategy? Read Apple Embraces Free: 5 Reasons Why. ]

Citing the view that Apple offered OS X Mavericks for free because it now sees its operating system as a service delivery mechanism rather than a product, Chitika said the rapid uptake of the update vindicates Apple's pricing strategy.

As Chitika measures it, Apple saw even more rapid adoption of iOS 7, at least initially. Last month, the firm reported that 18% of iOS users installed iOS 7 in the first 24 hours.

However, other advertising firms that publish metrics see things differently. Mobile ad network Millennial Media last week said iOS 7 adoption was slower than iOS 6 adoption. After being available for a week, iOS 7 accounted for 16% of ad impressions tracked by the ad firm.

Apple's figures suggest Millennial Media's measurements are too conservative. On Sept. 23, five days after iOS 7 was made available for download and three days after the iPhone 5S and 5C were released, Apple reported that 200 million iOS devices were running iOS 7, a bit less than a third of the total number of iOS devices that have been sold to date. Apple in June said it had sold 600 million iOS devices and in September said it expected to reach 700 million by the end of October.

Software adoption matters to Apple because it makes the company's latest technologies and services available to consumers and developers as soon as possible. It also illustrates the difference between Apple and Google, whose Android operating system has a far more fragmented user base than Apple. According to Google, over 28% of Android users are running devices with software from 2010, Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

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