Why is Mavericks free? It’s a good question. From where we’re standing everyone likes free software (and beer), after all not having to pay for a dazzling software update is great news.

Apple has to make money though, or it can’t carry on making amazing products. And I think we can all agree that Apple is a pretty smart company, so it must be financially worthwhile for Apple to give Mavericks away for nothing, or it wouldn’t do it. And from what we gather Apple has decided that all upgrades in the future will be free.

So why has Apple decided to release Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks for free? We look at some of the reasons:

Everybody gets to take part

The main reason we think Apple has decided to make Mavericks free is to entice as many people as possible take part in the upgrade process. Ever since Apple switched to the App Store for its digital download an update program it’s been  pushing Mac OS X updates down in price. Apple regularly boasts of how fast its users are updating compared to other companies.

Apple clearly likes the excitement when people rush to its products all at once. Apple is big on keeping things under the radar, and then announcing things with a flourish; it’s good at getting as a lot of products into the store on day one. Apple likes crowds! It likes it when everybody is together high-fiving outside its stores. Everyone getting a free update together is very Apple-esque in nature. It makes people feel good; that makes them buy more Apple products.

Apple Store cheer


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It’s anti-fragmentation

Apple also regularly mocks Google for the fragmentation of its devices. Apple likes to keep things simple and all running together.

Apple has a limited number of Macs that all run similar hardware, and it wasn't as many of them running the same software as possible. This has many benefits, it allows them to focus on making that smaller system great, the free Mavericks makes for a safer ecosystem by limiting security holes, and it enables them to move away from older operating systems faster.

See: Fragmentation could stunt Android growth

It pushes towards the unified system

Nobody likes to say it but we all know that eventually Mac and iOS are going to increasingly morph together. Apple is cleverly keeping the two systems apart while they run on different hardware, and perform different tasks. But Apple is constantly trying to weave  iOS and Mac OS X into each other. Apps and services in iOS make their way to the Mac; and Mac OS X is looking more and more like iOS every year.

Making sure that everybody is running the latest iOS and Mac OS X system enables Apple to concentrate on moving everything forward to this unified goal.

See: It’s time Apple made a touchscreen MacBook Air

Everybody expects free stuff

While nothing is truly free, everybody kinda expects software to cost nothing these days. We live in a world of Google and Yahoo!. Nobody is paying for an update to Gmail or Google Docs; or a new version of Yahoo! You pay for services like iCloud and Dropbox, not the browser or system they run on.

For sure there is software like Final Cut X and Logic x that is clearly worth a lot of money, but nobody would pay for an iOS update so why should they pay for a Mac OS X update. Even the £13. 99 that Apple charged for Mountain Lion is starting to seem a little silly. Mac OS X makes sense for free.

See: The best free Mac OS X games

Apple wants everyone Auto Updating

Apple has introduced a lot of auto-updating features into Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Both The System Updates and the Mac App Store updates are designed to work quietly in the background updating the system.

This is great for Apple , because once it’s got as many people on the auto-update program as possible it controls the experience for everyone. Apple loves to control the experience, because it can ensure that it’s as good as possible for everybody. It can introduce and remove features with as little friction as possible.

See: The best new iOS 7 features: Auto Updating

Apple makes hardware (and software is part of hardware)

We all know that Apple makes hardware, but Apple really does make hardware in a sense that no other computer manufacturer does. We believe that Apple sees the operating system and the physical hardware combining into a single product that it sells. Mac OS X is part of the hardware as surely as the Apple A7. That’s why Apple is the only company that can make products like it does. It’s not really free, as you’ll pay for it when you buy a MacBook or iOS device.

See: MacBook reviews

Apple Maps

It hurts Microsoft, and Google

Finally by removing all payment throws down the gauntlet to Microsoft, who is going to find it difficult to respond. Microsoft makes hardware, but doesn’t sell anywhere near enough of it yet to follow Apple’s suit. Microsoft has to continue selling its operating system in a world which is clearly moving away from that.

It also helps Apple protect itself from Gogole. By pushing out free software that is baked right into the operating system Apple can issue updates like Apple Maps and iBooks to the Mac. Apple Maps offers an alternative to Google Maps, and being able to take these traditional web services away from the web browser and into apps helps Apple protect itself from Google.

See: Google Nexus 5 release date, reviews and images