The Leopard Report: Apple Needs to Add Lots of Extras

June 29th, 2006

Over the next few weeks, lots of tech people will vie for your attention with their grab bags of wish lists for the next Mac OS X upgrade. Some suggest that Apple might even ditch the feline code-name, and use something with greater marketing potential. On the other hand, they’ve made a big deal of this naming convention, so this seems rather doubtful at this stage.

There will be plenty of talk about fixing the Finder, smoothing Spotlight’s interface, revising the Dashboard metaphor, and other issues. But I have another matter to talk about on this occasion, that of the software bundling. You see, there’s this company in Redmond, Washington that’s struggling hard to deliver a long-delayed operating system, and they’re going to include lots and lots of stuff. Apple is going to have to pull out all stops to compete.

Sure, Apple has some neat extras with Mac OS X, such as iChat, Mail and Safari, but a lot of what they do is focused on that collection of digital lifestyle applications that must, like batteries in some electronic appliances, be purchased separately. This isn’t to say that paying $79 for the latest annual update of iLife is a bad deal. As more and more applications are added to the suite, and features expanded, it’s actually quite a bargain.

On the other hand, this is war. Apple has its first opportunity in years to really boost market share. The holiday season is theirs, and it’s quite probable that Leopard might even beat Windows Vista to the starting gate, even though Microsoft protests it’s still on schedule for a January 2007 consumer release.

So here’s a game plan: Make all subsequent iLife upgrades free, tethered to the operating system. That way everyone who uses Leopard and its successors will be on an equal playing field. You won’t have to buy a new Mac to get them free, nor buy an annual revision to stay up to date with the latest and greatest. Sure, Apple might be losing a potential income source, but hear me out! I think more copies of Leopard will be sold as a result, and I suspect a lot of you wouldn’t object to paying, say, $159 for the privilege if it included more goodies as part of the package. And, yes, this should be a Universal installer, so you won’t have to buy a separate upgrade kit, or use a different DVD, depending on whether you have a PowerPC or Intel-based Mac.

Another significant change would be the policy to change you extra for QuickTime Pro. How many times do you want to access a feature, only to see that annoying item in the menu indicating you have to spend $29.95 for the upgrade to make it work? Here Apple is acting like the troubled Detroit auto makers who used to list everything, including air conditioning and even a decent radio, as optional equipment. It seems petty to cripple QuickTime unless you have the activation code. That sounds like something you expect from Windows, and I really wonder whether this is much of an income source for Apple.

As far as I’m concerned, you ought to be able to enjoy all the features without this nickel and dime policy.

So there you go. Mac OS 10.5 Leopard, with a $30 price increase, but adding iLife and QuickTime Pro as part of the deal. When you consider the possible upgrade costs of Windows Vista, and the amount of time you spend looking over the various versions to see which one is right for you, this will seem like an incredible bargain.

But there is one more thing: Those maintenance updates, such as 10.4.7, have become much too large for many to handle in a convenient way. Even though Apple, by losing the built-in modem on its computers, wants us to believe that broadband is simply everywhere, you and I know this just isn’t true. Tens of millions of Internet surfers in the U.S. alone are still using dial-up connections. In some rural areas, broadband is an unfulfilled dream, unless you want to pay extra for a satellite Internet hookup.

So how do you resolve the problem? One way would be to offer free quarterly update DVDs for the life of the operating system; that is, until the next version comes out. Another would be to offer an optional subscription program that could, perhaps, include your .Mac subscription. That would be yet another reason to sign up for some extra services.

Yes, there are indeed lots of things that ought to be fixed and improved for Mac OS 10.5 Leopard. You know there will be lots of eye-candy too, so Apple can tout its standard repertoire of 150 or 200 new features. But this proposed package of extras may be the most compelling of all.

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6 Responses to “The Leopard Report: Apple Needs to Add Lots of Extras”

  1. Steven says:

    There is a precedent for this Apple gave QT pro away with 8.5 a few years back.

  2. Terry says:

    The Quicktime license fee is a sham. However, every other player out there wants you to upgrade to their best for a fee.

    iLife is reasonably priced at $79. It would be nice to see even a token discount for upgrades (maybe a coupon for other items).

  3. David says:

    I’ve worked in retail. When a new OS version comes out a lot of people come in to check it out and buy. When they learn that iLife is not included the enthusiasm drops substantially. I’ve watched people come in ready to drop the $149 (CAD) for Tiger, get told iLife is an extra $89 (CAD) and walk out buying neither. This does Apple and the greater Mac community no good at all.

    What’s even worse, when parents refuse to pay for the upgrade their kids often “obtain” them at school. I think the problem is that Apple doesn’t understand one of their largest customer bases. Parents believe that a $2000 computer should last at least 5 years and that software upgrades should be free. Usually only once in that 5 year period they can be convinced to upgrade their software, but only when a vast number of new features are included. They may not have Windows, but they believe having a “version” last for many years is the way things should be.

    I’m a geek. I have a virtual museum of Macs at home and keep my OS up to date, but even I didn’t bother with iLife 05. There just wasn’t enough in the annual iLife upgrade to justify the cost. To be honest I’m not any more productive with Tiger than I was with Panther. Spotlight can’t find the second word of my file nams so it’s actually slower than searching in Panther. Call me jaded, but I honestly think Gene is right. MacOS X should include iLife and major new versions should be released no more frequently than every 18-24 months.

  4. Alvin says:

    It’s my first time here. Nice website.

    Actually, I’m one of the few who really don’t mind paying a few bucks here and there for good software; in fact, I actually pay shareware fees if the software is good and I use it (it’s the least I can do since these guys work so hard and hey, it’s just a few loose bucks for me!).

    But I admit I was really irked when Apple charged me 29.95 + Tax for quicktime 6.0, and then less than a year later, had me pay another 29.95 for quicktime 7.0! I did it, because I really love full screen at times (depending on the video) and also because we do a bit of video editing for our friends and business, but it hurt.

    I think that paying these fee’s should entitle one to at least 2 major revisions. Not sure I like your idea about increasing the rate for the OS.

    Something I could really use? How about a good Apple-studded spreadsheet editor to replace Excel? I’m an Engineer and really would love to have a no-holds-barred, all-out, any-number-of-rows/columns-you-can-imagine Apple spread sheet editor!

    Thanks Again 🙂

    Alvin K.

  5. Poster says:

    I’m concerned about going down the route of software subscriptions. M$ has done that and the feeling I’m left with is being led around in a very tight collar. I don’t want Apple to do that to me. But bundling iLife and an OS together as a package purchase deal sounds like good marketing to me. I’d probably go for that. QT as nagware simply sucks. Either make the basic player nag-free or make the Pro version free. Either one would be better than the current situation (which isn’t a huge deal, but it is annoying from time to time).

  6. Andrew says:

    Its 30 bucks, and nobody is forcing you to buy it. I’ve upgraded both QT6 and 7 to Pro because I wanted full screen on MP4 video without moving them into iTunes. If you want to save some cash, just import videos into iTunes, it plays many formats as its based on QuickTime anyway, and of course it plays full screen.

    QT Pro adds other features, some of which like saving QT movies on websites I actually use. For me its worth the cost, for others its not. You decide.

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