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Apple's OS X 10.9 Mavericks launches as a free upgrade for Mac users

Apple's next-generation desktop operating system, OS X 10.9 Mavericks, is now available on the Mac App Store as a free upgrade for all Mac users running Snow Leopard or above.

Mavericks, named after a Northern California surf spot, brings several new and innovative features to Apple's stalwart operating system. A major focus of the effort, Apple software chief Craig Federighi revealed at Tuesday's event, was to enhance the performance and battery life of Apple's Mac hardware.

"Mavericks is an incredible release, which introduces significant new apps and features, while also improving the performance and battery life of your Mac," Federighi said in a news release.

In a stunning departure from the status quo, Apple announced that beginning with Mavericks, all future OS X point releases would be free of charge. The free pricing structure was portrayed by Federighi as a "revolutionary" change in the PC industry, where software upgrades are usually paid. Federighi pointed to Microsoft's $199 pricing for the company's Windows 8 Pro upgrade as an example.


Apple's stated goal with the new pricing structure is for "every Mac user to experience the latest features, the most advanced technologies, and the strongest security," according to Federighi. He added that the company believes "the best way to do this is to begin a new era of personal computing software where OS upgrades are free."

In addition to performance enhancements, Mavericks brings iBooks and Maps from Apple's iOS mobile operating system. Maps is particularly deeply integrated into Mavericks, featuring prominently in updates to the Mail and Calendar apps.

Mavericks also features enhanced support for multiple displays, an updated to the Safari web browser, new iCloud Keychain functionality that synchronizes a users's Mac keychain with the user's other Macs and iOS devices, and a welcome new tabbed mode for Finder.

Macs running versions of OS X all the way back to Snow Leopard —  from 2007 onward — will be able to take advantage of the new software in a single update. In preparation of the next-gen OS X, Apple also released Migration Assistant software to ease data transfer from Snow Leopard and Lion.

Mavericks is available today as a free download from the Mac App Store.