Friday, October 26, 2007: I was standing in a long line of hopefuls outside the Apple Store in Regent Street, London. Or, rather, I was in Hanover Square, way back behind the Apple Store. Those were the days when you had to wait patiently for a box of software—in this case OS X Leopard—and hand over, I seem to remember, £69 for the privilege. Then there was the mad dash home to stick the disk in the optical drive and install the latest OS. Today I opened my App Store, clicked to purchase Lion and got it for the bargain price of £20.99. And that covers all my computers, no need to buy a family pack.
Lion is the first major OS to be distributed in this way, and it’s also the cheapest revision of either of the two main consumer systems¹. The implications are there for all to see, not just in software publishing but in book publishing, music distribution and newspapers. Physical media is on the way out in all its forms. Downloading, with instant gratification and cheapness—no distribution costs, no packaging—now rules. Apple have played ball by keeping the cost of Lion to the bare minimum. It’s a pity that the book publishing and music industry haven’t taken the same lessons. In some cases they try to charge more for electronic copies. They will learn, it’s just a matter of time.
We now have what I consider to be the finest operating system ever launched by Apple. I bet those servers in North Carolina are grinding out the petabytes and the tills in Cupertino are overheating. And with good cause. We will see a million downloads in a few hours and that’s a good start to the fourth quarter earnings. There is absolutely no reason not to upgrade, unless your Mac is too old to take Lion.
¹ Compare the cheap, instantly available and one-size-fits all Lion with the murky methods of Microsoft. Not only is Windows 7 hideously expensive compared with Lion, it comes in so many guises that you have to be an expert to know which is right for you. It’s no wonder that millions of Windows users are still on Windows 98.