Now that Mountain Lion has shipped, Apple has shipped OS X Server for Mountain Lion. And it comes at a great new price, only $19.99.
I think that’s great. What I don’t think is great, is that Apple now refuses to even sell OS X Server for OS X 10.7 Lion.
Because of driver bugs, I can’t upgrade one of my systems to Mountain Lion. I’m stuck waiting for a third-party to issue a USB driver update. I would, however, like to add Server to it at the new price-point. I can’t, because OS X Server for Lion has been digitally vaporized from the Mac App Store.
And, as I just noticed, it looks like OS X Lion itself has also been pulled from the Mac App Store. My father, who refuses to upgrade until absolutely necessary, now can’t even obtain Lion except from the USB Flash Drives. He has to use my license, which Apple may or may not find acceptable.
This all underscores a massive flaw with digital-only distribution of software. Once a product has been discontinued, your only choice is to pirate. With the Abandonware Exemption to the DMCA always at risk of expiring (unless the Library of Congress renews it, regularly), consumer freedom has taken a major hit. Not only can you not re-sell software, trade software, or let someone borrow a disc legitimately, you now can’t obtain older versions of software for older systems. Consumer surplus/freedom falls, producer (corporate) surplus/freedom rises, thanks to a little thing called Planned Obsolescence.
Now, if you don’t plan to buy software before it is discontinued, you will have to retire your hardware, because of the inability to obtain older software that is still security-supported.
If you sell a Mac, Apple says you have to remove any Mac App Store purchases, including upgrades. Well, what happens when you want to sell your old Mac? If it can no longer run the latest-shipping version of OS X, the new buyer will have no legal way to upgrade to the last-compatable version…
Apple needs to address this. They need to continue selling Lion and Lion Server indefinitely. They need to commit to doing the same for Mountain Lion and beyond.
Note: It is possible that Apple is still selling Lion / Lion Server for systems that Mountain Lion cannot run on. I don’t have one to check. I have sent Apple an email asking for clarification. If they ever respond, I’ll update this post.