Snow Leopard's moral dilemma

What's your conscience worth to you? It's a difficult question, and one not easy to answer. Certainly it's difficult to attach a definite price tag to it.

How about $A190? That's how much Apple wants Tiger users with Intel Macs to pay for the honour of being honest. Doesn't seem like much, does it? Or does it?

You see, for owners of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, the cost of moving to Snow Leopard this coming Friday is $A39 (prices vary in different countries obviously). For that $39 you get a fully 64-bit operating system, optimised for the current generation of Mac hardware rather than hanging back to support the last. You get 64-bit versions of the Finder, iCal, Mail, iChat and a bunch of other built-in applications. The optimised OS and optimised apps will mean snappier performance for a lot of your everyday tasks, though how much snappier will vary.

You also get geeky coolness like Grand Central, which helps the computer make more optimal use of all of the available processor cores. And you get OpenCL, which enables developers to use the untapped power in your graphics co-processor to perform non-graphics tasks.

Wake up!

For owners of Intel-based Macs still using Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, the cost of moving to Snow Leopard is $A229. For that you get a "box set" that includes Snow Leopard with all of the above nerdvana plus the latest versions of iLife and iWork. The differences between Tiger and Snow Leopard are much more dramatic and visible, plus you get iMovie, iWeb, GarageBand, iDVD, iPhoto (with facial recognition for hours and hours of fun and laughter), Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

It's like Christmas and your birthday all at once! Or is it?

What if you are a user of NeoOffice or Microsoft Office and don't particularly want or need iWork? What if the only part of iLife you've ever touched is iTunes and that's free? Apple does not offer a standalone retail package for Snow Leopard. If you're a Tiger user the only path to Snow Leopard involves buying these apps.

It's understandable to include the new iLife, since Tiger users wouldn't have been able to upgrade to iLife 09 and whether older versions of iLife will function properly under Snow Leopard is a big question mark. But bundling iWork just seems like throwing in the kitchen sink to bulk out the set. And of course a lot of iWork 09 works just fine on Tiger, so there may well be many people who've got 10.4.11 and have already bought iWork. Exactly how many Intel Mac owners have not upgraded from Tiger to Leopard, of course, is a figure Apple would probably not divulge, even if it can.

Of course, taking Apple's side and assuming that people do want iLife and iWork, the two of them sold separately are $129 each, so the "box set" is cheaper than the two sold separately and you get Snow Leopard for free — it's certainly possible to see it as a great value deal.

Well here's the thing: the disc that comes with the $39 "upgrade" from Leopard is identical to the disc that comes in the "box set". Which is to say, it will upgrade your Tiger installation just as it will upgrade a Leopard installation. The only thing stopping you is your conscience.

You see, the End-User Licensing Agreement stipulates that you should only buy the "upgrade" version if you're a Leopard user. When you click "Agree" in the installer, you're telling Apple that you own Leopard and are taking advantage of the upgrade fairsies-squaresies. If you in fact do not own Leopard, but you click that button anyway, you're in breach of the EULA just as if you were a software pirate or a Hackintosher.

There is, however, nothing else stopping you. No verification, validation, activation, regulation, meditation, United Nations, congratulations. All Apple is saying is give honesty a chance.

So, if you're a Tiger user with an Intel Mac, looking to shift to Snow Leopard, you do have a choice: be honest, pay $229 and get a bunch of software you may or may not want; or save $190 by lying to Apple.

Is it worth it?

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