OS X Maintenance Program Falls Short

Dan Knight - 2002.07.31

While Mac users and Mac websites bemoan the fact that Apple seems unwilling to offer a reduced cost upgrade path for current OS X users, Apple is pushing their Mac OS X Maintenance Program to schools and other institutions.

The details in brief:

Up-front cost ranges from $207 per copy per year for smaller businesses to $87 per copy per year for huge education institutions.

But there's a catch, as noted on MacMinute: You have to have an existing Apple Volume License for the current version of the Mac OS X.

Read it again. You don't just have to have X up and running on 10 or more Macs; you also have to have an existing Volume License agreement. If you've simply acquired Macs with OS X a few at a time, you don't qualify.

Shades of Microsoft?

Is this beginning to sound a bit like Microsoft's new licensing scheme, where businesses have to decide no later than today whether to sign up for automatic software updates at a fixed annual price - or buy new software later on, since Microsoft will no longer offer traditional upgrades?

There are similarities. If Jaguar (OS X v10.2) is any indication, Apple will follow Microsoft in not offering upgrades. But wait a minute - Microsoft does offer Windows upgrades to individual users, something Apple is forgoing with Jaguar.

Further, Apple isn't requiring Mac usings schools and institutions to use new versions of software during the period of the contract. Apple is only making it available, something a bit less draconian than Microsoft's "your computer will be assimilated" approach with mandatory updates. (My big question for Microsoft: If a business terminates the contract, do they get to keep the software on their PCs?)

Another Apple Misstep

For huge organizations, the OS X Maintenance Program probably makes sense, but for small businesses (under 100 Macs), it probably makes more sense to buy a copy of Jaguar from, get a $50 rebate, and have a net one-time cost of $79.

And organizations with less then 10 OS X users don't have any choice but to buy a retail copy of Jaguar. At least educators can buy Jaguar direct from Apple for $69 - just a bit more than a 10 seat license, and no need to pay for three years of "OS maintenance."

By refusing to offer a reduced cost upgrade for existing OS X users, Apple is alienating a vocal portion of their loyal customer base. Offering substantial discounts to huge organizations while offering none to individual users is just another slap in the face.

One of two things is going to happen. Mac users will stick with OS X 10.1.5 to avoid paying $129, thus fragmenting the OS X market, or a lot of copies of Jaguar are going to be shared, reducing Apple's revenue stream and turning Mac users into software pirates.

While the Mac OS X Maintenance Program is a commendable step in making the Jaguar upgrade affordable for larger installations, it does nothing for individual users or organizations with less than 10 Macs.

Has "the computer for the rest of us" turned into the one that sticks it to the little guy?

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