updated 11:35 am EDT, Wed June 1, 2011
OS could follow price point set by Snow Leopard
At next week's WWDC keynote, Mac OS X Lion could be announced as including at least some iCloud services for free, according to sources for AppleInsider. For Snow Leopard users, and the larger Windows audience, iCloud could potentially come with a minimum cost. The nature of the planned services is still a mystery, but as iCloud is generally expected to replace MobileMe, free offerings could include contact, calendar and bookmark sync, as well as email and/or file storage.
The most frequently reported aspect of iCloud, music streaming, may be the most likely to be paid-only. Although the AI sources have no comment on the matter, the fact that the feature requires licenses from record labels means that Apple will at least have to recoup costs. A compromise might be the possibility of a free trial period designed to lure people in.
One source adds that to make Lion even more appealing, Apple will be continuing a cheap pricing approach introduced with Snow Leopard. That software launched at a cost of just $29, making it far less costly than any other Mac or Windows upgrade. Whether or not Apple will stick to a $29 price point is unknown, but it might make sense given that Lion is expected to appear on the Mac App Store, where Apple has sharply discounted other first-party titles in the past. Retail copies could conceivably cost more in order to push online sales.
Because the company makes most of its profits from hardware, not software, Apple is claimed to be most interested in ensuring that people upgrade as quickly as possible. Executives in particular are said to be so confident in Lion that they feel the OS will help steal more marketshare away from Windows PCs. Another source suggests that along these lines, Lion could have a new "mentor" tool, making switching from Windows easier by configuring system options like printers and routers. The tool may nevertheless be cut from the final version of the OS, the person says.
Separately, industry rumors allege that Apple is considering how to improve its photo-sharing offerings. Part of this might involve replacing the current Gallery component in MobileMe. At the same time the company may be looking to change iOS' handling of sharing, with an emphasis on getting pictures to friends and family rather than the public at large. Such a service would therefore be closer in spirit to Path, not Flickr, and might come in the form of either a unique app or an overhauled Photos. The latter would require a firmware update, probably iOS 5.