Mavericks? Free? What is Apple Doing?

OS Tentative

I have my own ideas as to why Apple is releasing the ridiculously-named “Mavericks” operating system update for free. While my favorite proposed reason, that they are the same stupid people who named the thing, just doesn’t withstand scrutiny, I have a couple more ideas.

1. Stick it to legacy. Adoption of the last two upgrades has been poor. Now I haven’t done a shred of research on this and I don’t have any facts to back this up. I can speak only from my own experience and those of people I know, what I read in magazines, on blogs, and so forth. I can’t understand what Apple is doing these days, and I don’t like it. I’m still on 10.6.8 on my MBP and on whatever my original MBA came with. I hardly use either. I can’t stand the new iTunes interface, and I’m still not going to move to iOS 7 any time soon. It’s ugly and flimsy-looking, and I don’t want its “features”. Nobody I know thinks these things are improvements, and while I’m the most curmudgeonly of the bunch, when I mention this Mavericks thing, nobody is interested in “upgrading”.

Now operating system upgrades accomplish more than eye-candy. They make security improvements and bring the system into better interoperability with other components of the ecosystem, and of other systems. Like the web, and the NSA. So there are many reasons that Apple wants us to upgrade without even wanting us to pay for it. It makes their jobs easier, and the NSA’s job easier/harder, depending on what’s under the hood.

For all I know, the recent cosmetic changes to iOS and OS X have just been window-dressing for urgent security changes, and slow adoption has been more than annoying, perhaps even critical for system integrity. I don’t know; I don’t follow Apple tech anymore. It would explain the apparent rudderlessness of the whole thing, which leaves me cold.

2. Stick it to Microsoft. If Apple can sell a prettier (ahem) interface to their hardware for nothing, while Microsoft must charge because that’s all they have, then Apple may be seen as solving on the side what Microsoft struggles to do as a main dish. For various reasons there are fewer problematic virii on the Macintosh side of things, and heaven knows that great creative and industrial things can be accomplished on Apple’s hardware, with Apple’s operating system. So it seems a tremendous thumb in Microsoft’s eye to unilaterally declare war on the notion of selling an operating system. You bought the computer, it should run, right? And not just this quarter, but next quarter as well, after the next upgrade.

3. Stick it to you. Yeah, you knew this was coming. I don’t know the real angle here, but it would have to be something in the license. If they charge you for the OS, then you have rights, however fleeting they may be. But if the OS is just another component, like the space bar, then it really belongs to them and their willingness or unwillingness to fix or replace parts. It’s their operating system, not yours, and you don’t need to know how it works. Say good-bye to some preferences, utilities, applications?

4. Stick it to application developers. I don’t know why they would do this, but assume they need to. This would be facilitated by making the OS a part of the computer as sold as mentioned above, so that when like Microsoft they wish to claim that the browser is an integrated part of the OS, they can make it stick. If the OS is free and merely a component of the system, and security updates are likewise free, then the browser is easily seen as just one more component with a particularly high need for more of these free security updates.

They wouldn’t even be wrong in this. Microsoft in-housed much of the system protection ecosystem by issuing Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), and I’m glad they did. Once I changed from various products to MSE, I stopped having malware issues on XP and later on 7. Been running it for years, I let it do what it wants, and I just don’t have trouble. So there’s much to commend a monolithic approach to the stack, right up to the applications. Until it breaks, of course, but this is the big gamble they would be taking. Like a jumbo jet with only one gigantic engine, they would be wagering increased reliability against the relentless arithmetic of parts count in complex systems. What’s the right answer? Time will tell.

For now, Apple can get bent. I don’t like the stuff they make these days, I can’t figure it out and I think it looks like washed-out crap. And apple’s thumb in my own eye is getting a bit much — I can’t imagine why they think I want to buy music from somebody called GORILLAZ with crude, hostile cover art, but they’ve been pounding me over the head with it for years.

So Apple can take their monolith and polish it on their own time. Now, I could be wrong. Maybe the whole thing is great. But I’ve been burned by allowing Apple updates to run free, and wound up with systems that chew on battery and wade through processor like Godzilla through the suburbs. So I’ll sit this one out, trying to figure out why this thing is free. Not because free is bad, but because I have resisted recent “improvements” from Apple at any price.

Free is no bargain when I don’t want it to begin with.

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