The Low End Mac Mailbag

The Panther Upgrade Fee Letters and Multiprocesor Kudos

Dan Knight - 2003.03.26 - Tip Jar

You don't pay much attention to history

After reading Jaguar Today, Panther Tomorrow, and Another Slap in the Face?, Doug Petrosky takes me to task:

Ever sense Apple started charging for OS's it has been the same charging pattern, but the numbers have changed.

  • Buy 7.0, get 7.1 free
  • Buy 7.5 get 7.6 free
  • Buy 8.0 get 8.1 free
  • Buy 8.5 get 8.6 free
  • Buy 9.0 get 9.1 free (kind of 9.2 as well but that was mostly for 10)
  • Buy 10.0 get 10.1 free
  • Buy 10.2 get 10.3 free (we just stopped jumping by half numbers because Apple wants to stay in OS X for a while)

Combine this with the incredible value of the family pack (huge volume discount for 5 users? wow) and your comparison to Microsoft is crazy. I agree that Apple should discount if you purchased the last release. This encourages people to buy all of the OS updates and not skip or hold off as you are thinking. They ship coupons in the boxes and used to use them for $30 discounts; they should again.

So, my recommendation to you is . . . buy 10.2! Enjoy 10.3 and start saving your pennies for 10.4 next year.

Sarcasm alert.

No, Doug, we don't seem to pay much attention to history at Low End Mac. Not to older Macs. Not to the course of Apple developments.

C'mon, wake up and smell the coffee. Very few websites are as familiar with Mac history as Low End Mac. I was there when Apple released System 7.0 as the Mac's last free operating system, although those who wanted to do so could buy a copy. I was there when Apple released System 7.1 as the Mac's first non-free operating system. It was the patch update to 7.1.1 that was free.

You are correct that 7.5 cost money, but the 7.5.x updaters that were free. Mac OS 7.6 was not a free update, but the patch to 7.6.1 was.

Versions 8.0, 8.5, and 9.0 of the classic Mac OS were not free, but the updates to 8.1, 8.51, 8.6, and 9.x were free.

For those who owned 10.0, all updates through 10.1.5 could be downloaded for free - or they could order update CDs from Apple for $19.95.

Jaguar, Mac OS X 10.2, was not a free release, nor did Apple offer any kind of discount on it. The "update coupons" Apple ships with the OS weren't worth the paper they were printed on for those who had any prior version of OS X.

As I said in my article, I'm cynical. Apple took away free iTools and made it .mac. Apple took away reduced cost OS upgrades with Jaguar, and despite your conviction that Apple has to follow the historical trend you outline, I don't expect it to do so when Panther ships later this year.

If you're right and it's going to be free, we'll all be thrilled. If I'm right and it's not going to be free, you and a lot of other Mac owners are going to feel as disappointed as you did when Jaguar ("only a 0.1 upgrade") wasn't free. And if it's not going to be discounted either, you'll be even more frustrated with Apple not following a pattern you have attempted to impose upon it.

If history teaches us anything, it's that things change. Patterns that seem to hold up for years, decades, or centuries often break and never show up again. At one time, the whole universe was composed of moons and planets and stars in perfectly circular orbits with the earth at the center. Every observation was made to fit that pattern until someone proposed elliptical orbits where the Earth wasn't a focus.

Likewise, Apple has no stated policy as to which OS updates will be free and which will cost money. I fully expect it to try to milk us for a full OS fee with Panther - and I'd love to be wrong about it.

Further, what in the world does Apple's 5-user family pack have to do with the way Apple sticks it to single license users? And why am I crazy to compare Apple's most recent upgrade policy (and what I suspect will be the ongoing one) with Microsoft's policies? After all, Microsoft is the leading OS vendor on the planet - and it does offer discounts when users upgrade.

Sorry, but I'm not going to take your word for it that Panther will be free. At this point we don't know whether Apple will consider it a major upgrade or an incremental update, and its policy since System 7.1 has been to charge for major upgrades.

Apple update program

In response to the same column, Darren Varner comments:

What would be Apple's incentive to put out any updates if you paid in advance for them? This isn't working so well for corporate citizens that paid for the M$ licensing scheme.

No, I would rather pay for them as I need and want them.

You have an older Mac, and what does Apple get from you anyway? Updating your machine every so often and Apple charging you to do this doesn't seem so bad.

I had an old car that was all paid for. Damn thing made me add gas and oil and brakes every so often. Why couldn't I just get a plan that I could prepay and when the brakes go out or I need gas I can just go get it. Yeah, like anyone would do that....

Update to Jaguar. Then update to Panther. Somehow I doubt you will be updating to Panther that soon anyway. Jaguar has been out for a year now. If you would have sunk in then, it would seem okay now. I understand not wanting to pay for 2 updates so soon together, but this is your fault, not Apples.

I do like your columns. This one just didn't sit right.

I never suggested that Apple stop selling OS upgrades so that those who want to choose if and when they upgrade can do so. I simply suggested that with Apple's pattern of a big upgrade to OS X about once a year, they might benefit and their customers might benefit if they offered an OS update subscription.

My PowerBook is two years old. Among Mac users, that's fairly new, since we tend to hold onto and productively use our Macs for more years than Windows users. But what the heck does that have to do with the cost of OS updates?

What does Apple get from me? Since the start of 2001, there's a $2,600 PowerBook G4, a copy of OS X 10.1, my .mac subscription, and the 14" iBook my wife's business bought on my recommendation. And I do plan on updating my machinery every so often - but not until my TiBook is three years old.

I have a car that's all paid for, and I don't have to go back to my dealer for gas, oil, and brakes every so often. I don't have to pay an annual update fee to GM so my vehicle can keep up with the newer cars on the road. I have to pay for gas, just as I have to pay for electricity and an Internet connection on my Mac - this neither benefits GM nor Apple. Your analogy is flawed.

I have updated to Jaguar, and for the first time my investment in OS X 10.0 paid off with a version of OS X that I could actually live with as my primary operating system. It's rock solid, but it has also reduced my efficiency compared with OS 9. I guess that's the price of a fully modern OS with a bloated GUI.

But I take the low end seriously. As regular LEM visitors know, the dot-com collapse has been very tough on us. I've taken two cuts in salary since I started managing the site full-time, followed by a part-time 20 hour a week job to help make up for the lost income. I only have Jaguar because a reader donated it; I don't have the luxury of spending much money without making sure it's a wise investment.

So it's entirely my fault that I'm earning one-third as much as I did two years ago and can't afford the luxury of upgrading OS X and all my other software as soon as new versions are released. Unlike some people, I live in the real world of tight budgets, limited income, and being three months behind on payroll. (Unlike some people who have been "let go" over the past couple years and are still searching for employment, at least I have a job. These are tough economic times.)

I really would like a full copy of Jaguar so I can do a clean install and find out if it makes my poky (under OS X) 400 MHz PowerBook G4 work more efficiently. But with Panther maybe four months away, I have to question the wisdom of investing in Jaguar today when Panther might be yet another full cost OS upgrade.

Panther will not be out in July

Paul Lee writes:

I just want to point out that Apple just reschedule the WWDC from May to June, and that in the press release, announced that Panther will be "demonstrated" at the developers' conference. Given the wording of that statement, there is almost no chance Panther will be ready by July. A more optimistic time frame would be fall at the earliest, and more likely by January 2004.

Secondly, if the tidbits of news and rumors concerning Panther are true, I think we need to look beyond the "Apple is going to rip us off again" line being touted by the disgruntled (with all due apologies to the disgruntled). The word is, Panther will introduce 64-bit support, and if it does nothing else, this is hugely significant.

As you've noticed, Apple has been carefully and quietly planting the seeds for a revolution. We saw that first with Jaguar, which greatly enhanced compatibility with Windows-based networks and even traditional Unix-based systems. We saw that with the introduction of the Xserve - a seemingly crazy attempt to penetrate the enterprise. We see that now as Apple releases beta after beta of the X11 windowing system. All these things point to Panther.

How? Because Panther is likely the first and only workstation 64-bit OS that is also a consumer OS. Coupled with IBM PowerPC 970 chip, this will make for a powerful attack that Microsoft will not be able to answer until 2005 with Longhorn. While people debate how much performance can be gained from going 64-bit, one huge advantage remains largely unaddressed: A Panther-system running on a PPC 970 system will be able to address more than 4 GB of RAM.

No matter what kind of engineering Dell or any of the Wintel PC manufacturers put into any of their systems, until Microsoft introduces Longhorn with 64-bit support, a PC will be limited to 4 GB of RAM. When Apple introduces a dual-970 Panther-based system with 8 or 16 or even 32 GB of RAM, won't a Dell workstation look rather rather pitiful with a mere 4 GB?

Furthermore, Intel has thus far no credible strategy of moving the x86 line to 64-bits. They have a 64-bit chip called Itanium, but it does a horrible job of emulating x86 code. In fact, Intel came out a while ago claiming 64-bit isn't all that important for consumers. Sure, AMD will have the 64-bit Hammer, but without Windows support, a Hammer system will be consigned to running Linux or some variant of Unix.

With graphics and video professional regularly manipulating files that are several gigabytes in size today, a system that can support more than 4 GB of RAM will be a huge boon. And I suspect there are a legion of scientists and engineers who could use a system with 8 or 16 GB of RAM. The processor will become secondary when comparing two systems with such a huge gap in available memory.

Certainly, no consumer will need that much RAM for quite a number of years, but when looking at Panther, ask not what Panther can do for consumers, but what Panther can do for Apple.

Sorry for the long email, but thanks for listening.

Apple has sometimes demonstrated products and then made them available immediately. I suspect that Apple moved the WWDC back so that Panther will be closer to golden master status and IBM will be that much closer to having the PowerPC 970 ready for market.

As I understand it, with Panther Apple will be migrating to the Mach 5.0 BSD kernel, which should bring with it several improvements. Like you, I strongly suspect that 10.3 will offer full support for the PowerPC 970, quite possibly including a 64-bit mode that would be a real boon for next generation servers.

I don't anticipate Apple waiting until January to release PowerPC 970 hardware, and that means they won't wait that long to release 10.3. I expect that Apple will announce the availability of Panther at the same time as the PPC 970-based Power Macs - if not earlier.

I don't have a crystal ball, but my guess is that Apple will announce Panther at Macworld Expo in July, assuming they have a presence at the show. I also expect that they will be showing next generation Power Macs based on the PPC 970 processor, either as early production machines or behind closed doors prototypes. Power Mac sales are hurting, and Apple needs to address that.

Regardless of the release dates for new hardware, by making Panther such an important topic on the Mac Web last week, Apple has built the kind of anticipation that shouldn't be left hanging until next January. I don't anticipate Panther coming out any later than the end of July, although there may be a later revised version when the PPC 970 machines are ready to ship.

Just an educated guess, but it seems sensible.

OS X Subscriptions a Great Idea

Antti Vahtera

"I've suggested it before. I'm suggesting it again. Apple needs to offer some kind of software licensing and upgrade package. Maybe for $149 per year a subscriber would have a basic .mac account, one full installer for the current version of OS X and all of Apple's free applications, and one additional CD (or set of CDs) for the next major Mac OS revision released during the year."

I've not seen you comment on this before, so this is my first time reading this, and I must say I agree one hundred percent. This is the single best idea I have heard in a long time concerning Apple. (One other was a .mac account lite version, with only about 20 MB iDisk space for Backup & iSync for about $25 a year, but this is even better.)

Like you said, most likely many (even most?) users would just renew the subscription year after year even if there wasn't a big update on the line

This could get Apple just what they want: Old Mac OS out of the user base and most of The Mac People to always upgrade to the latest version. I'd fork out the cash the minute this option would be available, and I know a couple others who'd do the same thing. And this wouldn't just benefit the random Mac users - consider the options for large corporations, just subscribe year after year to the update-thingy (without a yearly crazy paper war to fork the dough from the yearly budget, it could always stay in with the initial establishment). That's what I'd call a "cash flow".

It was last summer that I suggested in Apple Services: OS X and .mac for One Fair Price that Apple bundle .mac and OS X updates at a reasonable discount. Imagine how a half million subscribers at $149 a year would help Apple's bottom line. And then add in schools and businesses that prefer fixed costs they can budget to unplanned expenses.

I think it would be a huge plus for Apple, but the ball is in their court.

OS X 10.3 price

Roger Harris writes:

Apple has weak hardware sales and are lowering markup. They are spending a lot on OS and software R&D. They have to get money somewhere. I can find a lot in Apple Land to whine about besides the OS cost.

  1. Printers don't work with full features.
  2. Scanners hardly work at all.
  3. Macs that are almost a year old can't boot to repair CDs.
  4. My year-and-a-half-old $1,500 Epson printer and $1,200 scanner require me to keep an old Mac around just to use the hardware.
  5. Latest OS X update has made networking with OS 9 Macs a hit and miss affair. Is that just chance? Apple doesn't seem to be in a rush to remedy.

I would pay the $129 if some of this stuff would work.

Don't get me started on printer drivers. My wonderful LaserJet 2100TN, which has been serving the needs of Low End Mac, Family Matchmakers, and my kids for years still prints just fine, but I can't access all of the paper trays from OS X. Companies like HP and Epson need to offer much better support for their legacy products under OS X if they want to keep Mac users loyal.

For that matter, so does Apple, as your note about networking reminds us. Sometimes it seems that Apple wants to bask in the glow of their traditional long product life, low cost of ownership history, and sometimes it seems that they want us to ditch that all and embrace OS X completely.

Apple needs to keep old Macs and new working well together to keep the next switcher from moving from the classic Mac OS to Windows XP.

Complaining About the Price

Richard Clayton writes:

Here's a hint originally posted on MacFixit (until Apple's lawyers sent the usual cease-and-desist letter) that you may find helpful:

Apple's free updater CD for Mac OS X 10.1 is actually a full version of the operating system (which helps explain why it's so large) but it adds an extra little package called "CheckForOSX." Remove that and you can install 10.1 on any disk. [Remainder of article deleted to avoid yet another letter from Apple 's lawyers. dk]

This may work with your 10.2 update CD as well. Of course, Toast Titanium can be used in place of Disk Copy - you have to make sure the CD image file is of the entire device (boot sectors and all) and not just the partition.

One comment: While I agree with you that Apple shouldn't charge full price for Panther so soon after the release of Jaguar (August 23, 2003 - only ten months!), I do think it's a little premature to be complaining about pricing that hasn't even been announced yet. I understand that you are writing about this now in hopes that Apple will listen and do the right thing when Panther is released, but I believe the best way to vote on this matter is with our wallets. Just my 2 cents.

Some of our wallets aren't as thick as they used to be. I did attempt to use the procedure listed on MacFixIt, but I never quite got it to work. I hadn't thought to try it with the Jaguar disks - worth investigating.

As you surmise, the point of the article is to nudge Apple into thinking things through before announcing yet another $129 upgrade. I don't know if they plan on making Panther a major, full-cost upgrade or not, but a lot of us saw the no discount policy for single copies of Jaguar as a slap in the face. It was not a good PR move for Apple; I hope they can avoid a similar fiasco with 10.3.

Good Grief

Genevieve Shirk writes:

Good Grief Dan, why go into a tirade rant before Apple has even announced any policy.

I read recently on another board that Apple's history shows charging only for the .EvenNumbered versions - 8.0, 8.6, 9.0, 10.0, 10.2. .OddNumbered versions were free. If history holds 10.3 will be a free upgrade unless you want Apple to send you a version on CD.

As noted in my response to Doug Petrosky (above), there is no pattern based on odd numbers vs. even numbers. There is a pattern of major upgrades costing money, minor updates being free. At this point we don't know that Apple will consider Panther a minor update.

Apple Alienation

Ken Cavaliere-Klick writes:

I agree with your article completely. I bought 10.1.3 and just missed the Jaguar cut off. I don't want to drift into the "sour grapes" I'm sure you've heard many times over.

I'm adding Yellow Dog Linux 3.0 in the next few months, along side my trusty 9.2.2, on my ancient, reliable, but upgraded, Bondi. Once burned, twice shy. It's not that my decision is retaliatory; it's a matter of practicality. Apple will never support older iMacs and Macs fully, and I'm not all that willing to buy a new Apple computer to run a not quite finished OS. (Mandrake is also releasing an updated PPC Linux any time now.)

Apple is perilously close to alienating a lot of old followers. Now here's the kicker: I'm an Apple "helper," and I'm heading to Linux.

Alienation. That's an appropriate label. Sometimes we feel alienated inadvertently (like all the foreign-born kids being reminded of their difference while singing "land of my birth" in school), and sometimes it's very deliberate (like the descendants of white immigrants telling the descendants of black slaves to "go home to Africa").

Apple should understand alienation. The Macintosh alienated both Apple II and Lisa users. Apple alienated Newton users when they abandoned the best midsized PDA in history. They alienated people who bought pre-G3 Power Macs based on the promise that the next great Mac OS would run on any Power Mac - and then created OS X specifically for G3 and later hardware.

Sometimes you have to leave the past behind in order to move forward. The question is how you do it - do you run roughshod over users or go out of your way to avoid deliberately alienating them? After the mock funeral for OS 9, I think we have a pretty good idea how Steve Jobs feels about things. The classic Mac OS is alive and well, but Apple would rather alienate older Mac users with an "in your face" funeral than simply let OS X move forward on its own.

On the other hand, unless you're running System 6.0.8. or 9.2.2, you'll probably always be using a "not quite finished OS." Unix has been around for decades, and it keeps evolving. Yellow Dog Linux 3.0 will give way to 3.1 and 4.0 and who knows what else in the future. The same is true of Mac OS X; it will never be quite finished. That's the nature of current operating systems.

I'm not opposed to Apple making things better, and Jaguar was a huge improvement over 10.1, which was a big step up from 10.0. I'm frustrated by the way Apple stuck it to loyal users by offering no discount on single copies of Jaguar - and I hope they learn a lesson from it before their next major OS release.

Really Good Article on Dual Processors

Responding to my other article from Monday, Are Two Brains Better Than One?, Graeme Bennett of Mac Buyer's Guide writes:

Your "two brains" article is a concise confirmation of what I've been telling people for some time. It's well-written; I'll link to it in my dual CPU article the next time I update it.

Thanks for the kind words. There's a lot of misunderstanding about dual processors. Some people think it always means twice the power, when that's rarely the case. Others think its just a gimmick, which it can be when the OS and applications don't support it. And that was generally the case until two years ago, when OS X finally shipped.

Today we need to help OS X users understand that a dual 1.25 GHz Power Mac G4 won't generally offer 2.5x the power of the single CPU 1 GHz machine - and also that it will generally offer more than the 25% improvement predicted by clock speed. Unfortunately, it's one of those "your mileage may vary" things that depends a great deal on what programs the end users has, so we can't predict how much better two CPUs will be than one, only that they will be better under OS X.

I've sent a note to Rob Art Morgan of Bare Feats and suggested he investigate, but I don't know how much access he has to hardware since relocating from Hawaii to the mainland. If he does have the opportunity to run some comparisons, I know he'll do a bang up job.

I've got plenty more email on the Jaguar/Panther article, but enough for one day. Look for more in tomorrow's mailbag.

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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