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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

How Much Should Jaguar Cost? How Much Is A Customer Worth?
August 14th, 2002

It's funny how one's preconceptions affect the way we interact with the world every day. I was watching an episode of Gunsmoke the other day, and the show opened up with an out-of-control stagecoach. The driver was doing his best to reign in the team of six horses that were racing pell-mell for some unknown reason. There was a passenger -- just one passenger, so I am not sure why 6 horses were needed, but that's another issue -- inside the stagecoach, and she was being tossed about as one can only be tossed about in an out-of-control stagecoach. Note that I have never been in an out-of-control stagecoach, so I can only assume that the makers of Gunsmoke were offering a realistic presentation.

So there they are, sheening along at breakneck speed when the driver spies an old dead log lying inconveniently across the road. He tries valiantly to stop the horses, but alas, they simply broke away from the stagecoach and pulled the driver off of his platform to be dragged along on the dirt. The stagecoach itself then proceeded to roll off the road and down the cliff that was near. The stagecoach rolled and flipped end over end two or three times, eventually smashing itself on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff, and would you believe that I was honestly waiting for it to blow up!?! Seriously. So conditioned by Hollywood have I become that I was waiting for this crashed vehicle to explode, despite the fact that it was a horse-drawn, wooden stagecoach. Go ahead and laugh at me, because I got a good chuckle at my own expense, too.

As human beings, we tend to be slaves to our preconceptions. For instance, I have a preconception that Apple isn't going to screw me. When it comes to hardware, I watch what Apple is doing very closely before I buy. I bought a new TiBook three weeks before MACWORLD New York because it was a very good bet that the company wasn't going to release a new model at the show. If they had, I would only have been mad at myself because it isn't Apple's job to make sure that I don't miss out on the upgrade cycle. When it comes to upgrading software, however, can Apple afford for me to be afraid that I am going to get screwed?

That's right, my preconception that Apple is going to treat me right is seriously threatened right now. I honestly feel that Apple is showing a complete lack of respect to early adopters, recent buyers of Mac OS X and Apple hardware, and especially Switchers, by not offering any sort of an upgrade path for Jaguar, the next version of Mac OS X that is scheduled to be released next week.

Let me start this off by saying that I think Jaguar is "worth" US$129. This is evidenced by the fact that I am going to pay it since it doesn't look like Apple is going to do what I want them to do. More on that below. As has been my theme this week with Is Apple A Company You Can Trust, and Making .Mac Right, it is my feeling that Apple is telling its customers that if we invest in Apple technology today, we'll pay later. That's a message Apple can't afford to deliver, but fortunately for Apple I magnanimously come bearing an easy solution.

When Mac OS X was released, I found it very usable, but was looking forward to Mac OS X 10.1. When Apple announced that update, it was billed as free, but you had to pay Apple US$19.95 to get it. That's old history, but it bears mentioning here not only as background, but for the fact that Apple really went above and beyond the call of duty by providing free upgrade packs at Apple retailers around the country. That was a class act, and it only happened because of the uproar from the Mac community.

With Jaguar, I don't expect it to be free. What I do expect is for the company to offer current owners of Mac OS X, early adopters in many instances, a *less* expensive upgrade path. US$99 would be acceptable, and I would be delighted with an upgrade price of US$79. Some have said that they want a price of US$49, but US$79 would honestly do it for me. And what is it that it would "do?" It would keep me from being tense about being an early adopter in the future. It would show me that Apple is going to respect my investment in their technology in the future, and that it was safe to not sit on the fence forever. It would show me that Apple values me as a customer. How much is a customer worth?

I know that I am not alone in this, as there has been quite the uproar in the Mac community on this issue. Though some may decry that roar as "whining," the reality is that many people, including some Switchers from whom I have heard, are really angry. They have been OS X users for years, or they just bought new hardware before MACWORLD, or they just Switched, but now have to pay full price for Jaguar. Those who bought new hardware after the keynote will get a free copy of Jaguar, but everyone else will pay full price.

Maybe next time I'll just wait until after MACWORLD to buy new hardware, and that is exactly what Apple needs to not have happen. The company needs its users to know that we can buy in confidence. Offer me that US$79 upgrade, and I am happy. The goodwill that Apple will earn will more than outweigh the US$50 per copy it's not getting. If the company made the upgrade available only through the online Apple Store, it would be even less of a price difference per box due to retail mark-ups.

This is a simple solution to something that shouldn't even be an issue. Even Microsoft offers discounts to the poor schmucks upgrading Windows, and Apple should do the same, at least for this update. A one-size-fits-all pricing structure just doesn't make sense in this case. If you agree with me, tell Apple. Let them know what you think, because the company has shown that it listens. There is a general feedback form available that offers options for commenting about products. Tell Apple you want an upgrade path for Jaguar.

This really is an easy solution for Apple to implement, and it would pay off down the road. It's not asking for too much, and it takes into account Apple's need to add cash to its coffers. It makes sense, and it's smart, and I hope that Apple listens to those of us who want it.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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