Apple Starts a New Era of Free Software

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In addition to launching the new iPad Air and iPad Mini with retina display a few weeks back, Apple also launched their latest desktop operating system – OS X Mavericks. What was interesting to note is the fact that Apple is distributing the software for free to all the users who have compatible hardware and required pre-requisite software (you can even update from Snow Leopard).

Furthermore, Apple announced that all of its apps will be free to download from the App Stores on any new devices purchased. This includes latest versions of all their iLife and iWork apps on the Mac App Store and the iOS App Store. They also seem to be giving away full version of any app for which you might have a trial version or a pirated version!

This move by Apple is surprising to a certain extent given that their apps have been on the top of the leaderboards across all the App Stores. Giving up a steady and predictable source of income is never easy and must have took a good amount of time to convince the board of directors to approve the same.

However, the move is not totally unfathomable, given that all the tech companies around the world are beginning to understand that consumers generally aren’t ready to pay for software as much as they are ready to pay for hardware. Even people who buy the latest & highest capacity iPhones, iPads & Mac without a blink act thrifty when buying Apps from the App Stores. And there is nothing wrong in that. When you buy hardware, you buy something physical which you can hold and admire. You can’t do that with Software. Apple’s hardware is uniquely of superb quality. They pay a lot of attention to detail and spend a lot of time researching the best possible way of making anything. The result is that every time they exceed their customers’ expectation.

Software from Apple follows the same design philosophy and is usually minimalistic. It just works and hides any unnecessary controls or interface from the user unless absolutely required. When the iOS was first revealed in 2007, the utter simplicity & intuitiveness of the operating system awed everyone and it sold like anything. 6 years down the line, both simplicity and intuitiveness are now ubiquitous in whatever Apple does.

Until a few years back, the norm was that you buy hardware and add software to it to be able to do stuff. That scene is changing. With tablets and smartphone which are pre loaded with powerful operating systems, people expect their devices to be able to do certain things out of the box when they buy them. And the list of those things keeps growing.

While others fail to understand this, Apple is probably betting on the fact that bundling free apps with their hardware is going to attract more customers. And they are not wrong. Whenever I recommend a mac to anyone looking to buy a new laptop, the first question they ask is “Will it open my office documents?”. Well, with a free copy of Pages, Numbers & Keynote, you bet it will!

So any loss of revenue due to giving away these apps for free will be easily compensated by increased sales of their hardware. Its simple math! Its a new era of free software and it does look good for anyone sitting in front of a Mac, iPhone or an iPad.

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