See, here's the thing; we want to be sourpusses about how this whole Mac OS X public beta spiel played out, but we're having a tough time staying angry. And that's kind of odd, really, because there are definitely reasons to complain. Let's start off with the obvious sticking point: the price. In case you didn't wake up this morning to scurry downstairs like a kid on Christmas to see what Steve left under the apple.com tree, there's no free download. That comes as no surprise to us, but it's somehow still a disappointment.
Worse yet, Apple's really stretching the whole concept of a "nominal" fee; the beta costs not $9.95, not $19.95, but a fairly substantial $29.95-- and it doesn't even come with a free TapLight or a tube of GS-27 Scratch Remover or anything. Shipping and handling costs? Puh-lease. If it costs Apple $29.95 to press the CD, print up the packaging, put one inside the other, and stick postage and an address label on it, Fred Anderson needs some serious lessons in cost-cutting. For $29.95, that disc better show up at our door with a free balloon and a Singing Steve-o-gram. And what about the Apple Expo attendees? They don't even get free copies-- just the privilege of buying them before the rest of us.
Now, before our mail server catches fire from several thousand messages that say "$29.95 isn't that much," we agree on some level. But we'd just like to remind everyone that this is a beta. It's not complete. It's not even feature-complete. If you run it, you are testing it, and you should expect to be in for a world of hurt. When things don't work, you shouldn't be surprised, and when they do, you should offer thanks to the deity of your choice. In short, by participating in the beta program, you are working for Apple-- and forking over thirty bucks for the privilege of doing so. If anything, Apple should be paying you for your time and effort, but instead, you're shelling out a bunch of cash which we have to assume is either going into the "Steve's Second Jet" fund or paying for some really premium postal service.
So, given that you're paying Apple to work for them, you'd expect a price break on the final product, right? But if you're thinking that the least Apple could do is cut you a $29.95 discount on the final product, you're dead wrong-- the least Apple could do is jack squat, and that's apparently exactly what you'll get. The beta expires on May 15th of next year, at which point you'll need to upgrade to Mac OS X 1.0 (at full price, whatever that turns out to be), or downgrade back to Mac OS 9. Here's hoping Apple has a change of heart, but we're not counting on it.
Having said all that, we admit it: we can't help smiling knowing that our copy is on its way. When we loaded up Apple's Mac OS X page first thing this morning, we saw the price, uttered a sleepy string of expletives, and immediately clicked on the "Buy Now" button. Seconds later we were keying in credit card digits, and we even paid the $10 extra for FedEx delivery. The bottom line is, we really want to participate in making Mac OS X the best operating system the world will ever see (at least until Mac OS XI comes out). As for the price, yes, it's scandalous that Apple abuses geeks like us in such a blatant manner, but we've decided to look at it this way: $39.95 is less than we pay for most computer games, and odds are, we're going to get a lot of entertainment value out of this beta for the next six months or so. Sure, we're also looking forward to helping shape the Mac's next great leap forward and all that, but mostly we just figure we'll play with the Genie Effect over and over again. It's so cute!