Apple Makes OS X Mavericks Free

Apple is offering software at no charge to make its new iPads, MacBook Pro and Mac Pro more appealing.
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Apple has dropped the price of its desktop operating system to nothing. The company on Tuesday said OS X Mavericks is available as a free download from the Mac App Store.

"The days of spending hundreds of dollars to get the most out of your computer are gone," said Craig Federighi, Apple senior VP of software engineering, at a media event held in San Francisco, Calif.

Apple also introduced an improved iPad, dubbed iPad Air, along with a revised iPad mini and MacBook Pro. It debuted new versions of its iLife creative apps and iWork productivity apps for both iOS and OS X. Like OS X Mavericks, the iLife and iWork apps are offered for free, with the purchase of a Mac, iPad or iPhone or as updates for existing customers.

The company also provided more detail about its redesigned Mac Pro desktop workstation, which will be made in the U.S. and is scheduled to ship in December, starting at $2,999.

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CEO Tim Cook opened the event by reviewing the company's successful iPhone 5S and 5C launch last month. He said that more than 60 billion apps have been downloaded from the iTunes App Store, resulting in more than $13 billion in revenue for developers.

Federighi presented an overview of OS X Mavericks, an update that he characterized as a release that extends battery life and accelerates your system. Beyond technical enhancements like Timer Coalescing, App Nap, Compressed Memory and OpenCL support, the operating system update adds some 200 new features, including iBooks and Maps, borrowed from iOS, an updated Safari browser, iCloud Keychain, better multi-display support and improved Notifications.

It may be tempting to see Apple's decision to offer OS X Mavericks for free as a consequence of the apparent lack of must-have features -- the operating system's major improvements deal with memory, performance and battery life. But the move should be viewed as a strategic decision to defend against Google's growing line of popular free apps, to make its hardware more appealing, to encourage adoption of its iCloud-iOS-OS X ecosystem and to build customer loyalty. Apple dramatically altered the pricing of software several years ago when it introduced its iTunes App Store and Mac App Store and dropped the price of pro-oriented apps like Final Cut Pro from $999 to $299. Then the target was Adobe. Today, it's Microsoft, and Google, which also offers most of its software and services for free.

"Others would have you spend as small fortune every year just to get their apps," said Eddy Cue, senior VP of Internet software and services, while Microsoft Office 365 with a $99 price tag was displayed on a screen behind him.

"We are turning the industry on its ear," said Cook. "But this is not why we're doing it." Apple is offering its software for free, said Cook, "because we want our customers to have the latest software."

In other words, Apple wants its customers to use Apple software on Apple hardware and not software from a competitor. Apple has an advantage here because its control of the software update process tends to push its customers to install updates faster than those using Microsoft or Google software. As a result, its customers tend to be ready to use its innovations sooner than those using software offered by its competitors.

Apple's hardware, as with every generation, is thinner, lighter, faster and more energy efficient. The iPad Air is 20% thinner and 28% lighter than the fourth generation iPad. The iPad mini gains a high-resolution Retina display. Both boast an Apple-designed A7 64-bit processor and Multiple-In-Multiple-Out (MIMO) technology for improved Wi-Fi performance. iPad Air pricing ranges from $499 (16 GB) to $799 (128 GB). The iPad mini is priced from $399 (16 GB) to $699 (128 GB). Cellular support adds $30. The iPad Air is scheduled to ship November 1, and the iPad mini will be available later that month.

The updated 13-inch MacBook Pro, available now, features a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor running at up to 2.6 GHz (3.1 GHz using Turbo Boost) or a dual-core Intel Core i7 processor running at up to 2.8 GHz (3.3 GHZ using Turbo Boost). The 15-inch model comes with quad-core Intel Core i7 processors rated at 2.3 GHz (3.5 GHz) or 2.6 GHz (3.8 GHz). Prices range from $1,299 to $2,599, or more with custom configurations.

The forthcoming Mac Pro will be available with either a 4-core, 6-core, 8-core or 12-core Intel Xeon E5 processor running at speeds up to 3.9 GHz. It comes with two AMD FirePro GPUs that can have up to 12 GB of video memory. Apple claims the Mac Pro offers up to seven teraflops of computing power and up to eight times the performance of the previous generation Mac Pro.

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