OS upgrades are a right, not a privilege

Mobile has transformed everything. Disruption is deep: in technology expectations have changed and OS upgrades are becoming a right, not a privilege.

In the new mobile order OS upgrades are rights, not privileges

Future upgrades included

You can thank Apple for this. The decision to distribute free iOS and OS X upgrades put the nail in the coffin of what we expected until now. Today's customers expect OS upgrades to be included within product purchase price.

This change has already forced Microsoft to cut Windows prices. It also runs counter to Google's fuzzy OS upgrade model in which no one really knows if they'll get major OS upgrades when they buy Android devices.

Is Apple's approach to OS upgrades working? Judge for yourself:

  • iOS 7 has now been adopted by 85 percent of Apple devices, up from 52 percent in the week following its release.
  • OS X Mavericks already generates 40 percent of all Mac Web traffic, according to Chitika Insights -- six percentage points higher than OS X Mountain Lion achieved in its first 14 months.

Microsoft already knows the value of a wide OS deployment -- it was one of its key advantages in the age of Windows dominance. That’s why it has introduced the freemium Office for iPad app and moved to a platform-agnostic space.

A new product spec

Of course I recognize Apple's free upgrades aren't really free -- the cost is included within the initial product purchase price. The provision of them means that when you pop down the shops to get a new PC or mobile device you should consider the added cost of future software upgrades (or the lack of access to them) when assessing what seem to be similarly specified products.

Tech reporters who offer buying advice must recognize this. It seems utterly irresponsible for them to ignore the importance of a clear, free and defined upgrade path for the products they get paid to talk about.

In the changing technology landscape the price of OS upgrades and the accessibility of those upgrades is as important as the specifications of the device, because software and cloud services will define the future of the industry. People who use devices to do things will want to do the latest things, and for this they will need the latest software.

Active users will demand this.

Where two similar products exist, the one that promises you'll still be able to use it effectively in three years time is surely a better choice than one promising only a "what you see is what you get" type deal.

Development heaven

Developers will embrace freemium business models because they work -- but they work even better if developers know they can develop on the cutting edge of an OS ecosystem. This enables them to develop more interesting apps, rather than being limited to offer solutions compatible with older OS versions. Customers benefit almost immediately from easy access to increasingly sophisticated apps.

Chitika Insights think free OS upgrades for Macs means: "developers can count on Mavericks users representing the most active group in the Mac OS ecosystem." It's the same on iOS, of course.

Apple's decision to make OS X a free upgrade; "Has helped substantially improve adoption rates as compared to previous Mac OS X versions," Chitika Insights added.

This is just one symptom of the many changing paradigms of computing in the mobile age. There will be more as this disruption intensifies.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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