Talking tech since 2003

We’ve talked plenty today about Apple, so much so that it pains me to tap out the words for this post, knowing that we’ve sadly under-covered every other tech company out there. But we saw something incredibly interesting from Apple today that wasn’t a hardware product. Sure, the new Macs are neat. Yeah, the iPads have stepped up. But the most impressive thing at Apple’s event today was the company’s willingness to give its most popular software away for free, a move that has to sting for one of its biggest rivals.

20131022-185025.jpgWhich software, you ask? The latest version of OS X, Mavericks, for starters (our Jeff Weisbein thought that Apple would do this in 2011, by the way). You can also nab the iLife and iWork apps for both Mac and iOS when you purchase a new device, and some iWork apps are now available through Apple’s iCloud Web interface. It’s essentially the a Google model for apps and services but Apple also controls the hardware, ensuring a more cohesive experience.

Now, we’ve seen Google do this for a long time as a means to draw users into its ecosystem. When you go Google, you know you’ll have access to all of the cool Google apps and services without having to pay out of pocket. It’s certainly a selling point and it’s a reason why, even as an iOS user, I’ve continued to use Google products — because they’re free and universally available, so just about anyone has access to them.

Microsoft, which Apple subtlety jabbed at several times, charges for both operating system updates and for its software suites like Microsoft Office. This move by Apple, on a day when Microsoft officially launched its Surface 2 tablets, no less, has to hurt.

Many of the apps becoming free are being updated for the first time in years, a sign that Apple may plan on treating these apps as a part of the hardware/software package from now on. As the company makes less drastic hardware changes year over year, increased innovation on the software side of things may be a big part of the company’s focus going forward. And as competitors jack up the prices for software updates, Apples juke in the opposite direction could actually be the biggest story of the day, iPads be damned.

It’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft, in particular, responds to Apple’s bold move.

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