While many had speculated that Apple’s free upgrade to Mavericks, the latest version of the company’s operating system for Macs, spelled the end of paid operating system upgrades for Mac users, today brought the final nail in the coffin. The move is notable because it applies to Mac users running versions dating back to Snow Leopard, released in 2009.
Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said that the company is now changing the way it is accounting for revenue from the Mac to include providing free operating system upgrades over the life of the device, not just for Mavericks but for the future.
When asked why Apple decided to make Mac OS updates free, and make its iWork suite complimentary with new Macs, CEO Tim Cook said it was just what Apple wanted to do.
“Our primary reason for doing it … is we wanted it to become part of what it meant to own a Mac and to own an iOS device,” he said.
For Microsoft, which builds part of its business model on selling upgrades to Windows, the change could be problematic for the company’s business. While Windows 8.1 was a free upgrade for everyone who owns Windows 8, Microsoft charges $120 to $200 for people upgrading to Windows 8.1 from older versions, including the popular Windows 7.
Microsoft’s head of communications offered a spirited response to Apple’s product announcement last week, but didn’t mention how Microsoft plans to respond to Apple’s decision to make the operating system update free.
Cook told analysts, “I think it’s a very strong offer. I think it’s just another reason for everyone to buy a Mac.”
Blair Hanley Frank is GeekWire’s Bay Area Correspondent. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.