Mac Musings

Jaguar Today, Panther Tomorrow, and Another Slap in the Face?

Daniel Knight - 2003.03.24 -

I've been thinking about buying a full retail copy of Jaguar, maybe even the 5-user family pack. I have 10.0 and the 10.1 and 10.2 updaters, but I can't do a clean install.

Installing Jaguar on our poky old beige G3 through one OS installation and three major updaters takes a long time. Having a full clean Jaguar installer would be so nice; then I'd only need to apply one major update to get to 10.2.4.

As we've learned since Apple first announced Jaguar, there is no more free ride on OS updates. Shoot, there wasn't even a discounted way to buy a single copy of Mac OS X v.10.2 for those who already had an earlier version installed on their computers.

How much you wanna bet Apple's gonna do that to us again with Panther, Mac OS X 10.3 which is widely anticipated for release at Macworld Expo in July. (Assuming Apple actually shows up for the East Coast's biggest computing trade show.)

That raises the question: Three or four more months with Jaguar the way I have it now and then buy 10.3 when it ships, or buy a single copy of Jaguar now (there's no way I'll buy the 5-pack with Panther this close) and hope Apple offers a discounted upgrade in July.

Buy Now

I really could use the full Jaguar installer now. I've heard time and again that it's especially helpful to do a clean install of 10.2, something that's impossible to do with the update package. (Why Apple creates this dilemma is beyond me, but there is no way to do a clean install from the updater CD regardless of whether you have an earlier version of OS X installed.)

Fortunately there are a lot of places offering for around US$90. Just among businesses that support Low End Mac, I've found such deals from Hard Core Mac and Other World Computing. That's $30 off if you're willing to forgo the fancy box. And if Wegener Media has any stock left, you can grab Jaguar for $69.99.

For those able to buy via Apple's education program, Jaguar is available from the Apple Store for Education at $69. (While you're at it, consider picking up a copy of AppleWorks 6.2.4 for $39 if you're still using version 5.0 or earlier.)

For those who need multiple licensed copies at home, Apple's OS X family pack is often available for $189 and allows installation on up to 5 different Macs in the same household.

In my case, the benefits of buying a single copy now include one more OS X 10.2 license (we already have two earlier copies of OS X plus updaters), which means I can try Jaguar on another one of our Macs - probably the 333 MHz iMac.

I had considered the family pack, which would cover my TiBook, the beige G3, my wife's iBook, an iMac, and maybe my son's WallStreet PowerBook G3/266. But my cynical side says that's throwing money out the window, since Apple won't offer any kind of discount on 10.3.

Buy Later

Although it's inconvenient and time consuming, I could continue to live with Jaguar as a cascading series of updates. It may not offer the same performance as a clean install, but Apple evidently doesn't want to provide upgraders with the same experience as those who buy the whole package. (See, I really am cynical about the whole OS X upgrade experience.)

I could wait until July, anticipating that Panther will be available then. At that point I can hope Apple will continue to offer a family pack and find the best price on that. This saves me $80 right now, but it also means living with what is apparently a suboptimal installation of Jaguar on my 'Book until then.

Apple Attitude

I'll admit to being very cynical about the odds of Apple offering users any kind of discount on Panther. I'm also cynical about the odds of Apple not charging the same $129 for a single copy of OS X 10.3.

Hey Steve Jobs, even Microsoft uses discounted upgrades as a reward and incentive for existing Windows users. Current Windows users upgrading to Windows XP Pro get one-third off the retail price, and they aren't subjected to a new revision every year at $129.

Why do you treat your customers worse than that?

When Apple released Jaguar, they made it very clear that this was the version of Mac OS X they wanted as the new baseline. A lot of new programs and capabilities (such as USB Printer Sharing with the AirPort Extreme hub) require OS X 10.2 or a later revision of it.

On the one hand, they want us using Jaguar. On the other, they offer no reward or incentive for those using earlier versions of OS X to upgrade. None. And then, like Microsoft with Office v.X, they wonder why so many don't make the switch.

Earth to Steve Jobs, it's the way you treat your customers. Tell us that you appreciate our support in the past, offer us a token discount, reward our loyalty in some way, and we'll be more likely to upgrade to OS X from the classic Mac OS or from an earlier version of OS X to Jaguar.

Count on this: Apple is going to state that Panther is enough of an improvement over Jaguar that it's the new baseline version of the Mac OS that we should all endeavor to adopt. New versions of software will require 10.3. Some new piece of hardware will also require 10.3.

And count on this: Without some sort of loyalty reward (that means a discount on OS X), a lot of us will stick with what we have. Apple will further fragment the market between classic Mac OS users, those with versions of OS X prior to Jaguar, 10.2 users, and Panther adopters.

As small as the Mac market it, and as important as it should be for Apple to get us all pulling together, the cynic in me says Apple would rather sell a million 10.3 packages at $129 than two million at $99. And then, like Microsoft with Office v.X, they'll complain that we're not getting with their program.

A Solution

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.

For an additional $9.99, subscribers could order a quarterly update CD from Apple, which would be really great for the two-thirds of users who are still using dialup connections and have a hard time with 80 MB downloads.

Maybe Apple could also offer a family plan bundle for $279 with five OS X licenses, a .mac account, and four additional email addresses.

If that were available today, I'd seriously consider spending the money (when I have it) and advocate others do the same thing. Instead of buying a copy of 10.2, installing it, and then having to download and install the 10.2.4 updater, Apple would send me everything on CD. And when Jaguar makes way for Panther, I'd get that in the mail without having to place an order.

This is a way Apple could reward current Mac users, whether they currently have Mac OS X, a .mac account, or are still getting by with some version of the classic Mac OS on their older G3 or G4 hardware. It would really benefit Mac users.

It would also benefit Apple a great deal, and I don't just mean the positive PR that comes from rewarding loyal customers. It would create additional .mac users. It would create a larger base of users who automatically upgrade to the latest version of OS X. And it would put money in Apple's pockets now, not in July (or whenever Panther ships).

Apple, it's time to stop leaving your cash-strapped low-end loyalists behind. Get proactive about offering us a tangible reason to buy Jaguar now, especially when we know the next great revision will probably ship in July. And once we've signed up for a program like this, I'm betting the vast majority will continue to renew their subscription year after year.

Think about it, Apple. This could benefit all of us.

Or you could slap us in the face with another full price upgrade this summer, which the cynical side expects. We'll only take so much abuse before we stop upgrading and stick with low-end operating systems on our low-end Macs. A lot of Mac users are already doing that, and if we won't switch, why should Windows users?

Surprise the cynics, Apple.