Apple shakes it up again

The latest player to shake up the world of software licensing is Apple.

They have released their latest OSX version, Mavericks and have decided to make the upgrade free.  And it means no more having to pay to upgrade to the latest features on your MacBook.

But then Apple have always been different

Apple always had a different approach to licensing their software and upgrades:

  • Making it affordable ($25 a pop vs a couple of hundred for Microsoft Windows).
  • Allowing you to use family packs so you could install it on multiple devices in the house.
  • Providing incremental upgrades, often, rather than massive ones once every couple of years. And actually enabling an easy upgrade in place.
  • Being able to back up, install the new operating system on another machine, restore and have all your content and settings appear, but with the new version (wow!)

And Apple has so many other revenue streams connected with your device (not to mention the device itself) that they probably aren’t bothered about the operating system revenue anyway.

But then how different is it really

We have had free upgrades to iOS on our iPhones, and free upgrades to a lot of apps for a while (apart from those companies that come out with version 2,3,4 of their apps/games so they can charge again!)

And what about the others

Well with the growth of Open Source software is one area encroaching on the old model of massive upfront license fees.

And Software as a Service is making people more comfortable with paying a monthly fee that covers the software (as well as everything else)

And freemium options allow us to to use software by paying with things other than money (i.e our email content, our surfing behaviours, a list of people we know)

And the other big players are slowly getting there, Oracles licensing deal for Oracle Database (standard) on AWS, Microsoft Azure and their AWS SQL Server and Windows Server options.

But most of the big vendors are not making the move, no doubt due to the massive cannibalisation of their current profitable revenue steams that will happen.

Happy Ending?

So for us as consumers it will be a semi happy ending as things we used to pay for with money become free. But the companies have to still make money, so we will still end up paying eventually, just in different ways.

It will also mean that the big companies with cash to burn will be able to out-free the startups, which can only effect the level of innovation we will see.

And for the big boys who are still based on a model of massive upfront fees, it’s going to be an ending but it’s not going to be happy!  (Movie and Music publishing deja-vu anyone?)