Never one to avoid an opportunity to tout launch figures, be it 4 million iPhone 4S units sold over launch weekend or the 3 million new iPads moved on the tablet's debut, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) is at it again. This time, the Mac maker has announced that downloads of OS X Mountain Lion, the newest version of its desktop operating system, hit the 3 million mark in four days.
That makes it the "most successful OS X release in Apple's history," according to the press release. Apple is sticking with its moat-building ways by keeping the upgrade affordable at $20, even cheaper than its $29 predecessor Lion.
Longtime rival Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) is even taking a page out of Apple's playbook here, offering a promotional upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $40 through January of next year. That's a big departure from the software giant's normal pricing, and this offer extends all the way back to machines still on Windows XP. That will surely boost upgrade activity for Mr. Softy.
At $20 a pop, we're talking about upwards of $60 million in revenue for Apple so far for Mountain Lion, although the actual figure is probably less because Apple extends free upgrades to recent Mac buyers and some of the downloads could be from one buyer with multiple Macs.
That figure is also pretty small compared with the revenue implications of the aforementioned iDevice launches. The iPhone had an average selling price, or ASP, of $659 during its launch quarter, implying a roughly $2.6 billion launch weekend; the new iPad's launch ASP of $559 similarly implies a $1.7 billion weekend.
At the WWDC keynote, Apple also said its Mac installed base had reached 66 million, with Lion installed on 26 million, representing 40% penetration. That was seven weeks ago, but 3 million downloads would represent roughly 4.5% penetration, slightly lower when factoring in the million or two more Macs that Apple has sold since.
At $20, Mountain Lion clearly isn't about the money. It's about streamlining support by quickly migrating users to the newest version, something Microsoft has been trying to do. For example, Microsoft recently sponsored a white paper on how Windows XP, now more than a decade old, costs business more than five times as much to support than Windows 7, in an unsubtle prodding attempt to get them to upgrade.
Mountain Lion is also about building a moat by delivering upgrades to users at impulse-buy prices, and it represents the broader trend we're seeing with mobile and desktop operating-system convergences.
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