While the discussion of free software is often met with skepticism, Apple is in a great position to set fire to the assumptions regarding the company’s focus. If they are truly focused on hardware differentiation, they need more free and exclusive software that other companies can’t match. With the iWork applications moving to iCloud and the forthcoming Mavericks release, Apple could be poised to set its software free.
iWork for iCloud
When iWork for iCloud was announced, I immediately took to the web to figure out whether the feature was going to be free to all iCloud members or, like the iWork online beta of old, only available to those who use both versions of the software, Mac and iOS. Since I was unable to find any information, I let the notion go, figuring that the information would come in due time. Recently, I received an email from Apple to developers that invited them to try the new web applications. I logged in and sure enough was able to create new documents and use the apps to my hearts content; awesome! The apps look great and seem to work well, so I will definitely be using these more as time goes on. I assume this access means that the final products will be free to use, especially given the fact that Apple is in direct competition with other free services, such as Google Docs.
iWork for iOS
Then, today, I saw a post on Macrumors that stated that the iWork and iLife Apps may go free as soon as this fall with the release of iOS 7. While I had not expected this, the information would not surprise me, as Apple wants people to use iWork in all of its incarnations and the cost is a barrier to entry that they cannot afford if they want iWork to be a true competitor with Google Docs and, for some, Microsoft Office. While I have paid for many of the iWork and iLife apps over the years, I would love to see these software titles get better and with more attention from the public, maybe Apple will give them the attention in development they deserve.
In addition, a conversation has sparked recently regarding Apple’s ability to make its OS software free moving forward, so it is apropos that we should be seeing these mentions of free across many of Apple’s software environments. This week’s Accidental Technology Podcast and Thomas Brand’s Egg Freckles Website each have discussions about the possibilities and feasibilities of Mavericks going free. I, too, have thought about this possibility, given the exceedingly low prices of Mac OS software leading up to now, as well as the fact that iOS software has been free almost since its inception. I think that ideally, Apple would like every iOS device user and every Mac user to be on the most up-to-date software, so there are major advantages that Apple can’t ignore when deciding how to price future upgrades.
Finally, I thought Jordan Golson of Macrumors took the following words right out of my mouth, so I will leave you with this thought:
The launch of iWork for iCloud at WWDC in June suggested that iWork could become free, as no pricing was mentioned at the show. Offering Apple’s polished iWork and iLife applications for free – much like iLife apps have always been free with the purchase of a new Mac – would be a strong differentiator for the iPhone and iPad.
-Jordan Golson, Macrumors
If nothing else, Apple already has many strong differentiators, but, to me, the move to make all Apple software titles free would simply add more fuel to an already incorrigible blaze.