OS as a Subscription Service


That's such a fantastic pic I have to include it, (thanks Matt!). I laughed out loud at that one for a few minutes... "mad weed" hehehehe, I love it.

Anyways, Apple is going to launch Panther soon and it's going to be another for-pay upgrade to the current OS, even though it's only a "point release". Everyone's grumbling about it (but no one is saying they won't upgrade). What doesn't seem to get mentioned anywhere is that Apple has once again done what no other company has done on such a large scale, make their operating system into a seamless subscription service.

Or actually, maybe there's lots of talk about this on all those Mac boards that I can't stand to read because of seething jealousy, but here's my observation from PC land: Cool. Apple is funding their development of a next generation OS with yearly pay-for updates, and doing a kick-ass job of it. Everyone sorta bitches about the price of the new OS, but then shells out the cash (either now, or when they have a few extra bucks). From what I understand, Apple has made it just a check-box install as well. Pull up a menu in the current OS, enter in your credit card and away your install goes. Poof, new OS.

Can anyone tell me if they have any problems with this system? It's great! Finally we're all getting the idea that software is a process, not a product. It can't just work out of the box perfectly because it's just too damn complex. And it costs real time and cash to do constant development and bug fixing. Obviously there's a minimum level of bug fixing you expect for free (your OS should work at a minimum level) but it's real work getting a lot of other stuff worked out. Lots of man hours, lots of coding, testing, etc. and there's no reason on earth why software companies shouldn't be compensated for this.

The pace of Apple's upgrades is just great as well. Microsoft goes off into a corner for a couple years at a time and produces an upgrade just for upgrade's sake (Windows ME?) and every 4 years produces something worthwhile. The Linux community has so many fucking versions of that OS that it's impossible to figure out what, where and how. My server's still on RH 7.2 for god's sake. I haven't a clue how to safely upgrade it remotely without screwing my system up. But the Apple guys are styling. Quick yearly updates at a reasonable price. Have you seen how much Windows XP Pro costs?

The coolest thing about this is that Apple slipstreamed this into common use. They didn't make a big announcement about how they're moving to a subscription model or some other hype. They just started *doing* it. Like clockwork, just about the period of time as Moore's law, they produe another rev and charge a basic amount to everybody. The first couple of times everyone was a bit surprised, but now it's just part of how Apple operates. And like most things Apple, it *just works*. Unlike Microsoft where you feel like you're getting ripped off, somehow with Apple, that $129 feels like you're supporting a common cause. It's your yearly tithe to the Church of User Friendliness.

So, going back to Sun's announcements from a couple weeks ago, you can see that their Java System strategy is the same sort of thing, but on a corporate level. You pay for the OS and support, at a reasonable rate and year after year you get upgrades as the software improves. This is how software works. We've seen what happens when you sell operating systems as some sort of finished product... you just get lots of pissed off customers. As a consultant I learned years ago that setting expectations is 90% of what makes a client happy. Apple has done this perfectly and I think Sun has gotten a clue as well. Here's a service and here's a reasonable price for it: I think most customers will be more than happy to get that for once. As opposed to: Here's our crappy upgrade and here's our stringent blackmail-like terms that you'll accept or else.

Still dreamin' about that 15" AlBook.


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