Feature

Computers: Is free software the future?

Apple announced that it would “give away key software for free.”

Even the computing giants are now embracing freeware, said Sam Grobart in Businessweek.com. Apple announced last week that it would “give away key software for free,” including its latest Mac OS X upgrade, Mavericks, and its iWork and iLife suites. By doing so, “Apple has acknowledged something that’s been true in the industry for years: Software is a means to sell hardware.” Consumers these days don’t want to shell out for fancy software to get a seamless online experience. “Just as there’s been a shift in interest to well-designed devices,” users today expect systems that work right out of the box. Specialized software can still “command a hefty profit margin, but bread-and-butter applications used in the mainstream are not things you sell.”

It’s about time, said Eric Limer in Gizmodo.com. “The paid OS update has been dying for years,” and as Microsoft and Apple started merging their respective tablet and desktop systems, doing away with paid updates “was inevitable.” It’s all part of a shift toward greater integration of desktop, mobile, and cloud computing. Before too long, everything will just “work together, play together, and upgrade together. For free.”

Though it’s become more prevalent, “there’s nothing profoundly new” about giving software away, said Harry McCracken in Time.com. Bundling essential software with hardware is not only a solid way to draw in customers but also results “in a much higher percentage of users being on the most current, complete possible version of the platform.” That makes good business sense for software developers. “The more up-to-date and homogenous the user base,” the easier it is to build software that supports the latest features and the less companies have to support “people who are a version or three behind.”

Apple is just getting back to its roots, said Ellis Hamburger in TheVerge.com. Selling hardware with software used to be a key part of Apple’s “it just works” marketing mantra. By returning to that approach, the company is taking aim at rivals Microsoft and Google, which already ship their machines with productivity-enhancing software like Microsoft Office and Google Docs. The difference is that “now, the key battleground is the iPad, not the Mac.” As iPads, Surfaces, and Android tablets become more powerful and ubiquitous, it’s no surprise that these companies are duking it out. And “debates about the relative merits of each software suite aside,” one thing is clear: In the tablet wars, everyone expects productivity to be built in.

Recommended

Biden has 'every intention' of discussing Alexei Navalny during meeting with Putin
Alexei Navalny.
Biden's trip abroad

Biden has 'every intention' of discussing Alexei Navalny during meeting with Putin

The story behind the 'Boris Bike,' Biden's gift to Boris Johnson
The Boris bike.
Gift exchange

The story behind the 'Boris Bike,' Biden's gift to Boris Johnson

The Week contest: Unseen art
An empty art gallery.
Feature

The Week contest: Unseen art

Boris Johnson tries to make 'indestructible relationship' happen
Joe Biden and Boris Johnson
Well Isn't that special?

Boris Johnson tries to make 'indestructible relationship' happen

Most Popular

7 toons about the Dems' Joe Manchin problem
Political Cartoon.
Feature

7 toons about the Dems' Joe Manchin problem

Biden has an insurmountable challenge in Europe
President Biden.
Picture of Damon LinkerDamon Linker

Biden has an insurmountable challenge in Europe

Harry and Meghan insist they asked queen about daughter's name
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
royal drama

Harry and Meghan insist they asked queen about daughter's name