Apple's free software for iOS, Mac gives Microsoft a run for the money

Apple's free software suites for OS X and iOS challenge Microsoft's paid Office 365 software, and some new iPads are more competitive on price.

Apple lit a fire under Microsoft this week by offering the new OS X Mavericks operating system, the iWork office productivity package, and the iLife creative suite for free.

In addition, while most of Apple Inc.’s devices still cost more than Microsoft’s Surface 2, some models of the latest iPads cost only slightly more than Surface 2.

Mavericks is available as a free update to Mac computer users starting from 2007, while iWork and iLife are free to new owners of new Macintosh and iOS devices. Apple also unveiled the iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina screen, new Mac Pro desktop, and updated Retina MacBook Pro notebooks with Intel Corp.'s Haswell chipset.

"Apple is striking hard at the core of Microsoft, capitalizing on the perceived or real turmoil of Microsoft's transformation and its lame duck leadership," said Bob Egan, CEO and chief analyst of Sepharim Group, an IT mobile consulting firm based in Falmouth, Mass.

Apple's strategy to offer free software reflects an evolving trend among leading vendors that want to reach business consumers and provide them with software, hardware or services in ways that ensure their experience is the same both in their personal and work life.

"There is no question that one of the traits associated with the consumerization of IT is to help consumers mirror [or] match their home experiences with work," Egan said.

Microsoft generates 96% of its operating margins from operating system and productivity software licensing, and Apple is now teaching people to expect both of those things to be free.
Jan DawsonChief Telecoms Analyst at Ovum

Apple's free model places greater pressure on Microsoft and draws more users to the Apple ecosystem, industry watchers said.

"The Mavericks announcement is … a big disruptor. While Microsoft is interested in selling software SKUs with devices coming as a secondary focus, it's likely they'll have continued difficulty truly selling a multi-device ecosystem," said Chris Silva, principal analyst and founder of High Rock Strategy LLC, an IT consulting firm based in Melrose, Mass.

Apple, on the other hand, continually extends the capabilities of its devices and the services that interconnect them, he said.

"The more services they extend and the more devices they open those services up to, the greater potential for users to buy into the ecosystem more deeply," Silva added.

Indeed, Microsoft's Windows 8.1 is free for existing Windows 8 users, but for new users, it starts at $119.99 for Windows 8.1 and $199.99 for Windows 8.1 Pro.

Apple iWork vs. Microsoft Office 365

In addition, iWork ships for free for all new Macs and iOS devices, squarely placing the company in competition with Microsoft Office 365, which is required to use the Office for iPhone app. Pricing for Microsoft Office 365 begins at $99 for a home edition, $5 per user per month for a small business, and all the way up to $20 per user per month for the Enterprise E3 version.

It's unlikely that Apple can displace the entrenched Microsoft Office in the near term. While iWork may not fully replace the industry standard of Microsoft's Office productivity suite, it is good enough and can provide a mobile experience that could eventually make Office applications on iOS irrelevant, Silva said.

Microsoft Office and Office 365 are seen as the gold standard in office productivity software for businesses, but many alternative suites for both desktops and mobile devices have come to market. Apple's goals to displace Microsoft's productivity suite will be an uphill battle in the enterprise, especially with Office 365 enjoying a $1.5 billion annual run rate and more and more companies subscribing.

Microsoft offered a particularly snarky response to iWork being available for free.

"When I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don't see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch up," wrote Frank Shaw, corporate vice president of communications at Microsoft, in a blog post.

Convincing users to adopt iWork will be quite a challenge for Apple, Egan said.

"There is no question that 70%of the features in Microsoft's Office suite appeal to various fragmented use cases," Egan said. "It's also true that the iWork feature set has been anemic. Apple moved to enable more parity … but one should never underestimate the need to push or entice users to learn a new tool. That remains a challenge for Apple."

Apple iPad vs. Microsoft Surface

While Apple's software is free, the company continues to charge a premium for its hardware. But only some of Apple's devices are more expensive than Microsoft's. Some Apple devices cost less when stacked up against the Surface Pro 2.

Apple unveiled the long-awaited iPad Air and an iPad mini sporting a Retina screen. The new devices joined this week's tablet wars, as Microsoft began shipping its new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, and Nokia delivered its first tablet, based on Windows RT.

The iPad Air is a thinner and lighter refresh, weighing only 1 lb. and offering a faster 64-bit A7 chip and M7 motion coprocessor, 9.7-inch Retina display, 10 hours of battery life, and better Wi-Fi connectivity. Pricing starts at $499 for a 16 GB Wi-Fi-only model; $599 for a 32 GB Wi-Fi-only version; and $699 for a 64 GB Wi-Fi model. The high-end iPad Air costs $929 for a 128 GB version with both LTE and Wi-Fi communications.

By comparison, the Surface 2 costs less at $449 for a Wi-Fi-only 32 GB model, while Surface Pro 2 starts at $899 for a 64 GB version and $999 for a 128 GB model; a 256 GB Surface Pro 2 costs $1,299. The Surface Pro 2s are also Wi-Fi-only models.

The long-awaited iPad mini with Retina screen is slightly heavier than its predecessor, but has been upgraded with the 64-bit A7 and M7 chips, 3x video zoom and improved Wi-Fi connectivity. The 16 GB Wi-Fi-only model starts at $399, ranging to $829 for a 128 GB model with added LTE support. The new iPads will be available in November.

Analysts questioned Apple's decision to continue selling the older iPad 2 and iPad minis as part of its product line up, as pricing for the old devices remains high. The original 16 GB iPad mini is priced at $299, while the iPad 2 lists for $399.

The price gap between the old and new models demonstrates Apple's strategy to place more attention in the premium tablet market while reserving the older models for the low-end market, analysts said.

"Clearly Apple is not looking to gain back share from the low-cost Android devices on the market …," Silva said.

Apple also unveiled a refreshed MacBook Pro 13-inch and 15-inch with Retina displays based on the Intel Haswell chip. Pricing starts at $1299 for a 128 GB SSD model to $2,599 for a 15-inch model, depending upon configuration. Those products are now shipping.

Finally, Apple's Mac Pro desktop will be available in December starting at $2,999.

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The funny thing is that Office comes for free on Microsoft Surface. Windows 8.1 was a free upgrade. So how exactly is Apple giving Microsoft a run for its money. You forgot to factor in the increase of about $40 in the new iPad Mini's price. That basically compensates Apple for its free software. Then let's not forget the gargantuan amount of free Skydrive and Skype benefits you get with Microsoft. Please tell the whole story instead of fawning over your "impartial favourite".
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Although I use my Mac in my enterprise, VMWare Fusion is required.
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The apple stuff is robust and capable, windows is capable but annoyingly fragile a lot of the time. Windows 8 has proven to be very fragile, especially with office 2013, frequent crashes and reboots.. its only starting to get stable now a year later.
Mavericks is impressively smooth. THe new icloud base apps are very impressive.
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the real issue is file compatibility, there are issues with leagcy formatting in both Office as well as iWork, for instance, corporate style guides and fonts still don't match exactly
If you are a SME and dont have the baggage - its Apple for you. For corporates with legacy standards and applications, its not clear cut but why invest in new equipment - build a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure to enable BYOD, boost morale and increase productivity - be your user's friend, not the big bad IT dept!
Ultimately there may be more SMEs who will work with Apple as a vertically integrated provider rather than the pick and mix approach from Microsoft and its loosely coupled ecosystem.
One of the few flaw in IOS is the lack of integration with corporate printing solutions - airprint lacks support at the corporate printstation level and many printing solutions involve email and the web, hardly good for security. When will Apple put print calls into IOS that can be picked up by adaptation of industry standard printer drivers. Another is the blockage in cutting from web pages - as a knowledge manager this ability is critical, yet Safari doesn't allow it due to the security model that is a hangover from early IOS.
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Macs are far more secure
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The differences, MS is for productivity & enterprise, iPad is for social media & gaming, our live can live on social media & gaming?
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Used a Mac since 1984 and never looked back since .... there's always a way to have it play with others.
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Certainly considering adopting it; however, if the Mac starts to mimic ios7 user interface (too flat, too saturated, too white, and too dizzying), then we certainly will not adopt the Macs.
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Very Biased and one sided as usual. . . You fail to mention that the IPADs use ARM processors, not REAL processors like the Surface and Surface Pro which use the same processors as desktop workstations and laptops.
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Our systems team are totally focussed on Microsoft, but individual users are fed up with the command and control environment and so, subversively use a variety of devices including Macintosh
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Post 468267 is spot on! Yeah the update is free if you own a Mac. Just try and download a copy for testing or to use for school. Apple doesn't provide that. Student can get access to the whole library of Microsoft product for free. Microsoft has a similar program for startups. Apple isn't quite the competitor to Microsoft that people seem to think. There is an entire business line that Apple doesn't even touch not to mention cloud services and the like. Sure if you want a cool phone Apple is what you want but, if you need to run an enterprise they ain't got much for you.
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Macs are far more cost effective yet cannot run some of the apps our business require. We use Parallels for those apps, however performance takes a back seat.
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evaluating between linux and mac
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I don't like being tied to a particular hardare system
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There are already free offerings of decent MS-Office suites. None have put a dent in MS's market share. Especially if you're dependent upon VBA macros, or specialty features (pivot tables, etc.). So I doubt that this really will have much of an impact compared to what it sounds.
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Considering the Apple hardware is generally more expensive than a typical "Wintel" Platform, is the iOS really "Free"? The author gives some comparisons, but here's another generic from the same big box store on the web for similarly configured thin PCs (same Proc, RAM, HD, etc...):

Apple MacBook Pro 13" $1,499.00 MSRP

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13" Convertible $1,049.99 MSRP
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Having problems in running legacy software applications on Mac books and it is difficult to mange them in a corporate environment.
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These days mainly Linux with a couple of legacy M$ boxes for now....
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not a serious contender for business use either currently or in the near future
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The other comment below regarding iOS being "secure"? The reason there's so much malware for Windows and not iOS, is there's a much greater Wintel market share. If I was writing malware I wouldn't concentrate my efforts on such a small market share (Linux/iOS). Let iOS really gain on Windows and we'll see how "secure" iOS really is. When it's worth while to concentrate malware coding efforts on, that'll tell the tale....

Each OS has it's plus/minus as we read through all these comments. Really depends on your use case.....
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Maybe I will change my Linux WS to a MAC begimning of next year.
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Mac is for the "low tech" people.
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Not considering Apple at all for the enterprise. Just planning to have the support skill-set in place for executives who use it at home.
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With our specific requirements: very bright displays for outdoor use and gaining access to building rooftops. We had always used Dell ATG notebooks and they were good. However when the software that we used was ported to OSX. At that time we explored the possibility of using a Mac. To all our surprise we got the same brightness from the Mac Air as we did from the Dell ATG for less than half the cost. Additionally, the Mac Air is significantly lighter which is a huge bonus as we use stairs and vertical ladders to access our equipment.

For our application the Dell ATG was a good solution, but the Mac Air was a better choice.
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More and more we adopting to Apple because of parallels and vmware fusion.secondly the hardware of apple is unbeatable
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Let's not forget that WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 were once "the gold standard" for basic enterprise productivity applications. Before them, it was WordStar and VisiCalc. It may or may not be Apple, but anyone could come along with a better office suite than Microsoft's poorly designed, buggy crap.
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Apple is more productive without frequent windows errors.
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As a Field Engineer for a Managed Services company in Houston I use my MBP 15" x64I7 at work and out in the field supporting both Mac and Windows based systems. I use a virtual software package called Parallels. This i7 MBP replaced my original Dual core MBP 15" purchased back in 2007, which is still in use and running fine at my home...
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Only with BYOD
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apple is utterly irrelevant in the enterprise.
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IT's managing is known a little about mac.
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We are MS Office bound
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The company laptop are Wintel, but staff are free to choose their own laptop brand
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A very small portion of the enterprise has a Mac (in design). Vast majority is Windows based.
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Normally our mac cause little problem compare to windows.
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Till 5 yrs back i was using MS W.When I could get some money I boughy a Mac destop.I am fully convinced that there is no os to compete with Mac. I was fed up with error messages and virus attack in MSW.
The sturdy ,strong and durable Mac has made it the LEADER,
Kudos to Mac.
I am a senior citizen 93 yrs old and CEO of aIS Security services Cop.
Long LIVE MAC
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I have an iMac 27" I use at home and a 2010 MacBook Air - while I love them both and would never think of using a Win desktop at home again the comparison between iPad and Surface Pro is lame. Surface Pro is a full-fledged computer you can run any application on, not a glitzy new toy with lots of eye candy. I'd even prefer Surface RT with a keyboard to iPad because of the Office suite thrown in for free. As always, use the right tool for the job.
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The Mac platform continues to show its superiority over a Microsoft Windows OS. The security, reliability and ease of use plus the recent development in software for this platform has removed any reservations from past experiences of Mac users. The combined light weight, durability and power combine to provide an experience unrivaled in the PC industry.
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we're an engineering company. our people learned to be engineers by experimenting, and taking things apart. The apple model is sealed and closed and we dislike that. it's "shiny" and people get apple-envy but that's a lousy reason to spend extra money.
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We don't use Apple desktops/laptops but we use their iPhones and iPads.
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Maybe I'm mistook, didn't Microsoft get hit with an anti-trust suit for bundling software just to kill the competition?
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easy to use. easy to learn. reliable hardware no doubt it is the best and most cost effective solution
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The only problem is MS administrators negativity; some of the least mad comments I get are: No I.E!!!, won't connect, not compatible, not secure, not Microsoft and of course "I thought they stopped making them"!
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