Wow, I think my heart actually fluttered

I was starting to believe that nothing about consumer technology could really excite me anymore.  New smartphones and wearable computers just don’t excite me like they used to.  I’ve started to think it may be my age.  I know that as you get older, things just don’t work like they used to, at least not without pharmaceutical help.  Today was different.  My interest was piqued.  I was sitting up straight.  Paying attention to every little detail.  My age did not feel like a factor anymore.

So what captured my attention so vigorously?  It wasn’t a new computer, or a world changing killer application.  No, it was something as old as time.

I was sitting at my desk, working on an assignment, and had the Apple press event streaming in the background.  I didn’t feel it needed my full attention since these gatherings have become very boring and predictable.  Gone are the days of Steve Jobs saying “just one more thing!”  There are no more surprises, no more gasps from the audience, until this day.

Tim Cook and colleagues had run through the gamut of refreshed hardware and software lines including their workhorse operating system OS X.  Mavericks, the newest operating systems nom de plume, was being given its normal run through, with discussion of specs and performance enhancements, and I was listening out of one ear until Mr. Cook said the one thing that always makes me sit up and take notice.  “Mavericks will be FREE!”  I was gobsmacked.

To be fair, Apple hadn’t been charging large sums of money for the past three updates, but to offer a full operating system that can be installed on many legacy models for free is quite a business feat.  Not only will it allow people who have been financially unable to update their computer, schools and large business facilities that have been holding off because of cost, will be able to get their workstations up-to-date for the cost of labour alone.  It may look like financial suicide on the surface, but I truly believe there is a monetary brilliance to it.

I am going to assume that Apple makes a hefty amount of money annually from commissions on all the apps sold through either the Mac App Store, the Mac OS application purchasing portal, or the iOS AppStore found on all iOS devices.  Those commissions could offset the OS purchasing loss alone.  This wasn’t what I felt was the most interesting part of the Mavericks scheme.

If Apple can update all, or most of the still-operating Macs in the world, they will give every machine on the Internet access to the Mac App store.  Viola! In the blink of an eye, if you have a really fast Internet connection and you only blink once in the time it takes to download 5 gigabytes, Apple can vastly increase its purchasing base.  What an economic coup.  I do wonder what the Apple software developers’ thought of this move.

They no doubt put a lot of effort into this new OS.  Suffered, sacrificed, gave all of themselves to only have their bosses give this effort away for free.  I’d find this very disheartening.  Although I am sure they are telling themselves that it’s much better than working behind the Genius Bar at their local Apple retailer.

This event has left me wondering who Apple feels they are in competition with to take such a measure as to give away their operating system for free.  In a tuaw.com article I read later on that week, Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux, said that even though Mavericks is free, it’s not open source and very strongly tied to Apple specific hardware.  He’s right; the OS isn’t going to take over all of the PCs in the world.  Still has me wondering what the next step will be for Apple.

Until next week,
A Clockwork Techie