Upgrading, Why It Hurts To Be A Mac User

by James R. Stoup Jan 23, 2006

I am about to speak on a subject that annoys me greatly. And what is worse, it annoys every veteran Mac user out there as well. What am I referring to of course is upgrades. Though before I get too worked up I should be more specific and say Apple upgrades. You see, most software companies like to reward their loyal customers by knocking off a portion of the price of a current piece of software if they already have an older version of their product. It is really a great system because it not only encourages your customers to stay loyal but also to upgrade in a timely fashion. Everyone seems to be on the same page here, everyone, that is, but Apple.

Allow me to give you an example. If you were to go over to Adobe’s website you might stumble across a rather popular product they sell called Photoshop. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Well, the current version retails for a mere $649. A bargain to be sure. However, let us assume for a moment that you already own the last version of Photoshop. Why, in that case it will only set you back $169. So, Adobe rewards you for sticking with Photoshop by knocking off $480 from its current retail price. That is a savings of slightly under 74%. Not bad for sticking with Adobe is it?

But wait! What if, by some horrible mischance, you actually had a computer running Windows? I know, the very thought of it makes me ill, but some people still do it, despite warnings to the contrary. So, you have this PC running Windows and you decide to upgrade to the latest version. How much will it cost you? Well, $299 will get you a brand new copy of XP Professional. But once again, like Adobe, Microsoft rewards its customers for using their software. Because if you already own a copy of Windows it will only cost you $199 to upgrade. And while this discount isn’t as great as Adobe’s, $100 off is still 33% off its current retail price. That is right, Microsoft, who will do its best to pump the last dime possible out of everyone of their customers, offers a discount if you upgrade their software.

And lastly we have Apple. Walk into an Apple store anywhere in America and you will pay $129 for a copy of OS X Tiger. However, if you already own Panther (or any other version) you can then be expected to pay. . .$129. No discount. No price break. Nothing.

But wait! What if you buy the latest version of iLife? The newest version (iLife ‘06) will run you $79. But for being a loyal Apple customer you also get to pay $79 if you want the newest version. The same is true for iWork as well. No matter how many older versions you might have you always have to pay full price if you want to upgrade.

Now, Apple does offer upgrades in its professional lines. Final Cut, Logic and Shake all have upgrade options, but that doesn’t help your average user very much, does it? So, my question is why? Why doesn’t Apple offer an upgrade path? Any path? The only answer I can come up with is greed. Certainly it wouldn’t break them as a company to cut us a small break, would it?

Here is the upgrade path I would like to see:

OS X 10.4 -> OS X10.5
Full Version $129
Upgrade $99

iLife ‘06 -> iLife ‘07
Full Version $79
Upgrade $49

iWork ‘06 -> iWork ‘07
Full Version $79
Upgrade $49

Maybe one day Apple will finally cut us loyal users a break. Until then I suppose we will just be selling all of our old versions on eBay.


  • James, we need to compare apples to apples… Granted comparing OSes is reasonable, comparing pro apps to consumer apps is rather fallacious. Let’s see:

    Upgrades available from Apple
    - Final Cut Express upgrade $99 (66% discount off full version)
    - Logic Express upgrade $99 (66% discount)
    - Logic Pro upgrade $299 (70% discount)
    - Shake 4 upgrade $999 (66% discount)

    So mid and pro apps from Apple do get upgrade pricing…  just as Adobe does for Photoshop and all their pro apps.

    Now lets look at what MS and Adobe do with their consumer apps for Windows:
    - Microsoft Works Suite 2006 $99. No upgrade pricing.
    - Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 $99. No upgrade pricing

    I’ve looked on BestBuy for these and perusing, it seems most consumer apps do not seem to have upgrade pricing.

    So it seems Apple not providing upgrade versions of their consumer products, iLife and iWork, is pretty much the industry norm.

    You’re left then with only the argument of whether Apple can justify the regular full priced upgrades to OS X. On that I might agree. There probably should have been upgrade pricing available from the previous versions e.g. Jaguar to Panther, but not Jaguar to Tiger.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 24, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • Thank you Ryan and Chris for your lucid and logical posts.

    Damn, some folks are thick.

    GoCatGo had this to say on Jan 24, 2006 Posts: 5
  • Adobe *does* offer a $20-off ($79 instead of $99) upgrade from Photoshop Elements 3.0 to 4.0. Just wanted to get that one fact straight.  Not that you’d want to upgrade from a good version to a crappy one, but that’s a separate issue. 

    With regards to the whole XP comparison, look at the Win98 to XP path (from Amazon.com):

    WinXP Home upgrade - 94.99
    WinXP Home full - 187.99

    Not that you’d want to switch to WinXP, but I would think the comparison is valid in terms of the upgrade path between OS’s, no?  Regardless of the whole “but MS never updates Windows!” argument.

    I’m with James on this one.

    MojoJojo had this to say on Jan 24, 2006 Posts: 14
  • thanks mojo, I stand corrected on that one.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 24, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • Guys, guys, guys…

    Let’s not get overheated here -

    I am a long time professional Mac user and I have a lot of Macs… at work and at home (more than I want to count actually).

    Anyway having declared my obvious bias I would like to say you buy a Mac and you get a good OS “free” and a bundle of pretty good software “free”. If a new software bundle becomes available you may wish to upgrade or you may consider the new features not really worth the cash…

    Now to my mind Apple’s prices on consumer apps are pretty cheap for what you get so the argument that they are all offered at “upgrade” pricing is not spurious - even if not 100% germane either. But overall, allowing for a reasonable margin I would call them reasonable.

    Pro apps are a bit different - I am seriously dependant on Adobe apps at work and though I am happy enough with the versions I have I will have to upgrade to keep up with the game or get left behind… I paid 1000 UKP for the Adobe design collection several years back and as a carrot and lure I can keep on upgrading for a “mere” 300 UKP or so as each version emerges. Excessive for personal use maybe but for a business user fairly small beer. Anyway “consumer users” have the choice of a wide range of free and cheaper alternatives (The Gimp, iPhoto, Seashore, Photoshop Elements, ImageTricks, Stone Imaginator. Pages, Swift Publisher, Stone Create, Mariner Write, Open Office, Neo Office, ScribusAqua, PageStream, Inkscape, EazyDraw, etc. etc.)etc.)

    OS upgrades come at a fairly rapid pace on Mac… So some might gripe at their cost I guess - but if you compare features and power of your machine you rarely need more than evey other one (unless you just /have/ to be on that bleeding edge, in which case you will just have to pay for your addiction).. which makes about 3 years these days… time for a new Mac anyhow with nice shiny new OS included in the price - and a big new bundle of consumer apps too.

    Overall - I don’t think Apple “gouge” their customers at all. Actually I think they treat their average users pretty well. Of course having a selection of Macs of various vintages does mean I tend to have at least one that needs replacing every year… so I tend to always have access to the latest and greatest “free” Apple software on at least my newest shiny upgrade. Then again I suspect many (though not all) who come here would be in a closer situation to this than they might let on…

    You don’t want to cough the cash for the latest upgrades? Remember firstly that they are not obligatory, and secondly that free or chap alternatives are available to all… Google is your friend on this one (truly it really is).

    Serenak had this to say on Jan 24, 2006 Posts: 26
  • Dude, if you gotta ask you don’t understand. Why do people drive Porsche when you could save oh so much money and drive a Ford Fusion. Well darn it why don’t they make the Porsche as cheap to drive as the Ford… darn darn darn…. then everybody could…

    Go clip your coupons, For me if the current pricing structure of Apple produces the machine I love so much, so be it, if this is the cost of it well let me pony up.

    puller had this to say on Jan 24, 2006 Posts: 1
  • You don’t want to cough the cash for the latest upgrades? Remember firstly that they are not obligatory

    Yeah - I’m skipping iWork ‘06 but am getting iLife ‘06. I’ve decided this year to buy The Print Shop instead of iWork.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • One of the more bizarre Mac user arguments I see bantied around here and elsewhere is that because you pay for an upgrade roughly every year, OS X is more up to date then Windows XP, as though XP is frozen in carbonite unchanged since it hit the shelves in 2001. This can be demonstrated to be false by looking at how WiFi Protected Access (WPA) has been rolled out by each vendor in 2003. With Apple, it was rolled out piecemeal with at first only the brand-new Airport Extreme equipted Macs gaining it (on machine running Cheetah), then later it being rolled into a update for all Airport cards for OS X Panther (and only OS X Panther). To gain that new security feature actually required a $100 upgrade for many. Over in XP land, the only prerequisite for updating to WPA security was having Service Pack 1 installed—itself being a free update to Windows.
    That’s but one example to how the two companies differ. If Microsoft want to introduce a new programming framework, they don’t generally have the luxury for waiting for the next paid release of Windows (because even in the best of times they do upgrades on a 3 year cycle, and this isn’t the best of times for them). They introduced the .NET Framework as a new programming framework inbetween OS releases. Also, Microsoft has opted to make many of their Vista frameworks available to Windows XP. Apple, typically holds new frameworks (think CoreData or Spotlight) for their more frequently paid OS updates. That is to say Windows XP today is pretty different than the Windows XP released in 2001.

    Ster had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 12
  • And then there’s Toast.
    $20 upgrade discount… no, wait. That’s available to EVERYONE—you qualify if you own OS X (will anyone who doesn’t own it buy Toast for OS X)? So Roxio/Sonic is simply inflating its price by $20, perhaps assuming (rightfully) that the rebate hassle will let them retain that $20 for a large portion of their sales. Not only do people often not mail out rebate forms, but the fulfillment centers are terrible about honoring those that do make it out in proper form (speaking from experience).

    So, own Toast 5 and 6? Well, if you want 7, Roxio doesn’t care who you are. You’ll pay what everyone else pays.

    Scott_R had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 17
  • I have several macs, and I really have to ask to the author, how many copies of windows you have to buy to upgrade 6 PCs at home?

    ...neber mind!

    tropicoco had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 8
  • I can understand the author’s frustration, but I would have to agree with the majority of responses here that the iApps are appropriately priced.

    The one consumer-oriented Apple product that I *do* wish offered an upgrade/discount path is .Mac. Of course, until recently, Apple offered a promotion that gave a $20 credit for each new .Mac customer referred, but that program seems to have ended. The first year or so of .Mac featured some nice freebies for members, but the “perks” have fallen rather flat of late. Some sort of incentive or break for customers to continue to use the service would be nice.

    captkevman had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 1
  • The environmental issue annoys me though. All those boxes of air every year. Surely Apple could offer a disk only version of iLife or even a download only.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 25, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • In my opinion is all plain simple.

    Apple don’t offer upgrade price for products that ship with every new mac: OsX and iLife.

    On the other hand it offers two prices (full and upgrade) for products that does not ship with every mac: iWork (yep, also if this isn’t a pro app), and all others pro apps.

    This lead to the point: Apple consider the price of iLife and OsX as upgrade price since every mac user have iLife and OsX.

    Nik D had this to say on Jan 27, 2006 Posts: 1
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