Upgrading, Why It Hurts To Be A Mac User

by James R. Stoup Jan 23, 2006

I am about to speak on a subject that annoys me greatly. And what is worse, it annoys every veteran Mac user out there as well. What am I referring to of course is upgrades. Though before I get too worked up I should be more specific and say Apple upgrades. You see, most software companies like to reward their loyal customers by knocking off a portion of the price of a current piece of software if they already have an older version of their product. It is really a great system because it not only encourages your customers to stay loyal but also to upgrade in a timely fashion. Everyone seems to be on the same page here, everyone, that is, but Apple.

Allow me to give you an example. If you were to go over to Adobe’s website you might stumble across a rather popular product they sell called Photoshop. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Well, the current version retails for a mere $649. A bargain to be sure. However, let us assume for a moment that you already own the last version of Photoshop. Why, in that case it will only set you back $169. So, Adobe rewards you for sticking with Photoshop by knocking off $480 from its current retail price. That is a savings of slightly under 74%. Not bad for sticking with Adobe is it?

But wait! What if, by some horrible mischance, you actually had a computer running Windows? I know, the very thought of it makes me ill, but some people still do it, despite warnings to the contrary. So, you have this PC running Windows and you decide to upgrade to the latest version. How much will it cost you? Well, $299 will get you a brand new copy of XP Professional. But once again, like Adobe, Microsoft rewards its customers for using their software. Because if you already own a copy of Windows it will only cost you $199 to upgrade. And while this discount isn’t as great as Adobe’s, $100 off is still 33% off its current retail price. That is right, Microsoft, who will do its best to pump the last dime possible out of everyone of their customers, offers a discount if you upgrade their software.

And lastly we have Apple. Walk into an Apple store anywhere in America and you will pay $129 for a copy of OS X Tiger. However, if you already own Panther (or any other version) you can then be expected to pay. . .$129. No discount. No price break. Nothing.

But wait! What if you buy the latest version of iLife? The newest version (iLife ‘06) will run you $79. But for being a loyal Apple customer you also get to pay $79 if you want the newest version. The same is true for iWork as well. No matter how many older versions you might have you always have to pay full price if you want to upgrade.

Now, Apple does offer upgrades in its professional lines. Final Cut, Logic and Shake all have upgrade options, but that doesn’t help your average user very much, does it? So, my question is why? Why doesn’t Apple offer an upgrade path? Any path? The only answer I can come up with is greed. Certainly it wouldn’t break them as a company to cut us a small break, would it?

Here is the upgrade path I would like to see:

OS X 10.4 -> OS X10.5
Full Version $129
Upgrade $99

iLife ‘06 -> iLife ‘07
Full Version $79
Upgrade $49

iWork ‘06 -> iWork ‘07
Full Version $79
Upgrade $49

Maybe one day Apple will finally cut us loyal users a break. Until then I suppose we will just be selling all of our old versions on eBay.


  • Have you considered that Apple is actually making lower prices available to ALL buyers of the product?  Meaning that the new buyer would otherwise be paying $179 to your $129 for Tiger (for example).

    Consider the economics of development and pricing.  Apple is sure selling a lot fewer copies of its OS than Microsoft is selling, but the price is substantially lower, and the quality is at very least comparable, (not to invite zealous tirades).

    I think your complaint is specious.

    Eric had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 4
  • Sorry to take a low apporach, but DUDE! What do they put into your water lately?

    Of course it would be nice if there were upgrade paths for the consumer software & operating systems. But you have to consider that these are already sold at a very low price. You named it, XP retails at what, $299? Why is that? Right, because M$ makes a living selling software (mostly). How does Apple make a living? Or, put differently, how many Macs do you have to buy in order to take full use of say an OS X Family Pack? Right. Why do you think there is sooo much bother with serial numbers on Apple’s consumer software/OSs? Do you think $129 for Tiger cover the full cost of developing & distributing it? Same for iLife / iWork. They come at a more than competitive price already (what, $16 per app?), but mainly - these apps sell Macs.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 371
  • While I would appreciate a price break (especially on ilife and iwork), I can see it from Apple’s point of view.  They could argue that current pricing is the upgrade price (for ilife and os x) b/c the consumer already purchased a copy when they bought a mac.

    To differentiate, I would like to see discounts, but only for those who purchased a previous retail edition (i.e. your computer came with jaguar.  Your purchase of panther would not be reduced, but your purchase of tiger would be).

    sworthy had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 10
  • While it is easy to complain about having to pay $129 for a new version of OS X every year or so consider the alternative - waiting 5 years (or more) for the chance to get a discount on XP’s replacement.

    When you pay out your money for the new Apple app you get a full app and don’t have to “prove” you own a pervious version.  You also get the chance to buy family packs, cutting the price per computer down to a very low number, especially if you qualify for the education discount.

    While PC users laugh at Apple’s tiny market share the Mac users continue to get significant improvements on a continual basis - at a rage that MS can’t even begin to match.  That takes money for R&D and we have been well rewarded for the hard earned dollars we have provided Apple.  Pity that PC users can’t say the same.

    MacKen had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 88
  • James, I have to agree with the other comments. While it might be nice to see an upgrade price in some cases (I vaguely remember a story about a guy buying iLife ‘05 in December 2005 onlyto see Apple release iLife ‘06 this month), what we pay for software is nothing compared to what other companies charge. M$, Sun, even Adobe on occasion charges an arm and a leg. Like sworthy says we’re paying for the original when we buy a brand new Mac. If you buy used equipment (like I do) be thankful that one doesn’t have to shell out damn near $400.00 just to get the computer to work. And remember that some Apps Apple doesn’t even charge for like iTunes, Quicktime or Xcode. Imagine what life would be like for Windows developers if they gave away Visual Studio for free…..

    Frank 'viperteq' Young had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 32
  • Just a quick glance at the prices you list should make it obvious why there’s no upgrade price: you’re already getting it. Upgrading your M$ OS costs nearly twice what it costs to upgrade your Mac, and that’s the upgrade price. Isn’t there something better to write about?

    jeremey had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 1
  • OK, so you are saying that it would be better to pay $199 for Windows because it is a discounted price, than to pay $129 for the far superior Mac OS X because it’s regular price. It is amazing to me that you think it’s a better deal to pay $70 more crap because it’s discounted. Honestly, I agree with you about iLife and iWork; but your examples don’t actually help your argument. You wuld have done better to have just said, “I wish Apple would offer upgrade prices for some of their consumer products, like iLife and iWork, the way they do for their Pro Line of products.” I think everyone would have agreed and supported you with that. However, you lost us by comparing Apples (pun intended) to Oranges…

    brainsan had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 2
  • I partially agree with the comments regarding the prices for Mac OSes being lower all around, so there is no need for a special discounted upgrade price.

    But I disagree with the statement that MS charges $299 for XP and then you wait 5 years for the next version, whereas apple only charges $129.  Looking at it that way, and not getting into the which OS is better debate, $300 for a product for 5 years comes to $60/year.  Compared to $129/year.  Twice as much for the same type of product.  They are both OSes, so shouldn’t they be the same price? 

    And like someone else said, MS is a software company.  Apple is a hardware company.  Apple charges an arm and a leg for hardware.  That’s how they fund their R&D.

    That aside, I partially agree, they should offer some form of a discount to keep users upgrading to their latest OS especially considering it took them 3 versions to get OS X useable (that’s $129 * 3).

    whodisbe had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 6
  • Also note that Apple doesn’t make their installers seek out previous versions of Mac OS or iLife/iWork. No one is making you upgrade man, and you know the pattern Apple has. So save your cash and upgrade every other year if it’s a problem. I’m very happy with their products and somehow they convince me to buy every year just because it keeps getting better and better. That’s my choice, if you’re not keen on that idea then don’t buy it this time around; wait until next year.

    toadkicker had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 10
  • What a whiner! Apple’s prices are already lower, relative to what you get, than the upgrade prices of Microsoft and Adobe. The real complaint here is that Apple is giving new users too good a deal. I think I can live with that, especially since it seems like a good strategy to get users to switch to Apple products from other operating systems.

    Nick Wagner had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 1
  • #1 A Windows upgrade is $99, typically, and includes restrictions about installation.

    #2 A full version of OS X is $129 (not much more than the windows upgrade), is developed and upgraded substantially every 1 to 1.5 years (not every 6-7 years), and gets more than just bug fixes between versions.  Plus there is no need for antivirus software.  So, TCO:

    7 years of windows:
    $299 initial purchase
    $210 7 yrs of antivirus
    $099 upgrade to next version
    $608 TCO (plus pro system cleanups)

    7 years of MacOS
    $129 initial purchase
    $516 4 substantial upgrades
    $645 for 7 years of “just works”

    Pretty comparable, huh?

    elempoimen had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I agree with those who don’t understand the concern. The software is priced at upgrade levels for everyone.

    As a long-time user of a particular Apple application, does it really cause you great harm if Apple attempts to build a user base by giving everyone a break? The only solution is to raise prices for first-time buyers. Would that make you feel better? I hope not.

    Aside from some hurt feelings (and, really, get over it), you have nothing to complain about. I’ll assume you didn’t complain about the low prices for your initial purchases of these products.

    GoCatGo had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 5
  • Maybe they make up for it with the educational discounts - the prices you proposed for upgrades are about what I end up paying.

    stellertony had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 1
  • It is really a great system because it not only encourages your customers to stay loyal but also to upgrade in a timely fashion. Everyone seems to be on the same page here, everyone, that is, but Apple.

    Apple isn’t on the same page because they don’t have to be.  As we see in these comments to your post, not only is Apple in no fear of losing their loyal user base, their loyal user base takes great pains to justify and apologize for every Apple gouging policy.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • I totally agree. Apple should offer a price break, it’s expected with software. I bet more people would upgrade, like my sister and friends. I think they should give an Adobe style price break around the 75% mark.

    One way you can get them to do it is encourage people not to purchase the next update. I’m not sure if I’ll update iLife. I can do without most of the new features for a few years when I buy a new machine.

    peter Walsh had this to say on Jan 23, 2006 Posts: 5
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