The Hidden Cost of OS X Lion Server: Apple and misleading comments

Posted by steve on Jun 9, 2011 in News |

We all know, those of us who care about such things, that Apple will release Mac OS X 10.7 Lion next month. As has been widely discussed, by me and others, Other Steve and his mates went into quite some detail on Monday, dwelling in particular upon the price. Said price — $29 — was, it was widely agreed among pundits, was quite a bargain. What was a tad disappointing was the fact that Lion Server, an integral part of developer preview releases of 10.7, was no longer bundled with the basic software install, requiring a $49 additional purchase from the App Store.

This was a touch disappointing, but $49 for a server package that had previously cost five hundred dollars still seemed quite reasonable. After all, for the money we would be getting “the server for everyone,” to quote the banner on Apple’s website plugging Lion Server. The banner is subtitled:

Now you can quickly and easily turn just about any Mac into a powerful server that’s perfect for home offices, businesses, schools, and hobbyists alike. Lion Server is coming to the Mac App Store in July for $49.99.

“Just about any Mac.” “Perfect for hobbyists.” Under fifty dollars. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Sadly, it is. Clicking on the “How to buy” button in the top right-hand corner of that page leads a rather more distressing page, one listing three steps to turning “just about any Mac” into a server that’s “perfect for hobbyists” “for $49.99.”

Step one is fair enough: make sure your “just about any Mac” has the requisite processing oomph. Can’t argue too much with that, even though “Your Mac must have an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor to run Lion” isn’t quite the same as “just about any Mac;” in fact, of my three Macs — iMac, mini and MacBook Pro — only the last two fit the bill, meaning that, for me at least, “just about any” equates to “less than 67%.” But let’s not dwell. Onward.

Step three (yes, I know…) is — fortunately — pretty hard to take issue with: “simply open the Mac App Store from your Dock to buy and download Lion and Lion Server.” Can’t argue with that one, can one? Just as well, really, since it’s step two, the one we’ve saved until the end, that really chafes.

Step two: “Get the latest version of Snow Leopard Server.You’ll need Snow Leopard Server v10.6.6 or later to purchase Lion and Lion Server from the Mac App Store. If you have Snow Leopard Server, click the Apple icon and choose Software Update to install the latest version.”

I’m sorry, but this is very, very, very different from “just about any Mac” for “$49.99.” The reality is that you simply can’t install Lion Server on any Mac for $49.99 unless it’s already running Snow Leopard Server.

I have no problem with Apple charging five hundred dollars for Lion Server. Actually, that’s not entirely true. It does bother me that, having abandoned the X-Serve, and with it much real chance of being taken seriously in the future as a viable server option for anything bigger than home offices and hobbyists, they still want to charge the same price for what they now appear to consider a hobby.

Apple can charge howsoever much they see fit. They’re not bound, even, by hints and suggestions, promises inferred from preview releases never meant for public consumption or analysis. But what they shouldn’t do, what they’re better than, is advertising as misleading as this. Lion Server is not available for $49.99, not available for “just about any Mac.”

Apple are — I believed Apple are — better than this. I’m disappointed.

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