quinta-feira, agosto 27, 2009

500) Apple Snow Leopard: sorry non-Apple people

Este post é absolutamente egocêntrico, destinado apenas aos que, como eu, usam computadores Apple e sistemas operacionais MacOS. Sorry, rest of the people...

Snow Leopard Takes a Page From the App Store Playbook
The New York Times Circuit, June 11, 2009

Apple announced and demonstrated all kinds of things this past Monday at its developers' conference: upgraded laptops, a new iPhone, a new iPhone software suite for all iPhone owners, its new Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" operating system, and so on. Lots of goodness, for sure. But to me, one of the most mind-blowing revelations was a single statistic: 29.

That's dollars, and it's how much Apple intends to charge current Leopard owners for the Snow Leopard version when it goes on sale in September. That's $29, rather than the $130 Apple traditionally charges for new Mac OS X versions.

Apple sells millions of copies of Mac OS X. So why on earth would it leave so much money on the table? There are two official reasons, one semi-official reason--and one that may be the real reason.

Official Reason 1: Snow Leopard wasn't intended to be a huge upgrade. From the beginning, it was meant to be an optimization of the existing Mac OS X: cleaned up, faster, smaller, more polished.

Which I think is an outstanding goal; who can sustain "200 new features!!!!" forever?

Besides, come on--think of your current computer or phone. Which, really, would you prefer: more features, or better speed and reliability?

Microsoft is essentially pursuing the same mission with its new Windows 7. It's basically "Windows Vista, refined." The beta versions are so much better than Vista, it's not even funny.

Celebrate this trend, people. It won't last.

And sure enough, Snow Leopard really is faster--and smaller. Yes, smaller: The OS occupies only half the disk space of the previous version, saving you a cool 6 gigabytes. That's a first in the history of OS upgrades.

Apple says that everything is faster, too: Snow Leopard installation is 45 percent faster, shutting down is 75 percent faster, waking up 50 percent faster, 55 percent faster joining Wi-Fi networks, and so on. (These are all Apple's measurements, and they're all "up to," but still.)

Truth is, though, Apple's programmers couldn't just sit by and leave their ideas on the table; a healthy number of new features did, in fact, sneak into Snow Leopard. You can edit videos (without having to buy the $30 QuickTime Pro package, as before) right at the desktop, then upload them directly to YouTube or MobileMe. Video chats require only a third as much bandwidth, so even DSL people can get in on the act. You can copy a single column of text out of a PDF without including the columns on either side. And on and on.

So much for Reason #1.

Reason #2 is something like, "Well, we wanted Mac OS X to be affordable, so we can bring its goodness to as many people as possible."

Well, sure, but didn't you want your OTHER Mac OS X versions to reach as many people as possible?

So much for Reason #2.

When pressed, an Apple product manager admitted that there might be a third reason for the pricing: "Well, we wanted to put a little pressure on our friends up North."

That would be Microsoft.

I'm not sure what kind of pricing pressure Apple could put on Windows 7 at this point; Microsoft's plans are surely in stone, since Windows 7 ships in October. And Microsoft has also decided, once again, to pursue its disastrous and confusing plan to ship Windows in five or more different versions, each with different features (sigh). Since Microsoft's bread and butter is corporations, who buy Windows by the palette, Apple's pricing gesture must seem like little more than a gnat.

But there's a final possible reason for Snow Leopard's $29 thing: the App Store Effect.

When programmers write iPhone programs, Apple encourages them to set a price that's really low--like free, or, if you insist, $1. As a result, the huge majority of programs in that store are impulse buys. Nobody blinks at $1; it's less than a soda, and it's something you'll have for a long time. Price is virtually no barrier at all.

That's quite a bit different from any other software category. Even shareware usually starts at $20. There's a huge psychological difference between $1 and $20.

The App Store Effect says this: if you cut a software program's price in half, you sell far more than twice as many copies. If you cut it to one-tenth, you sell far more than 10 times as many. And so on.

It's a little counter-intuitive, but this principle has paid off beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The numbers are staggering: as you've probably heard, iPhone/iPod Touch fans downloaded 1 billion apps within 9 months. Some iPhone programmers have become millionaires within months--yes, selling $1 software--because of this crazy math. $20 may sound like more than $1, but not when 1,000 times more people buy at $1.

I can't help wondering if Apple has the App Store effect in the back of its mind with Snow Leopard. If the previous Mac OS X version sold for $130, then Apple would need five times as many Snow Leopard sales to equal the revenue.

The App Store Effect says: Oh, baby, that's a no-brainer.

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