Someday Apple will set up an affordable software subscription service. In exchange for a nominal fee, Apple will automatically send users new software on a biannual basis. The upgrades will arrive with detailed explanations as to what they do, what files land where on the hard disk, and what bugs were fixed. Until Apple figures that out, we'll all have to go to the extra effort not only to purchase our system software, but also to find the best deal.
Apple's suggested retail price of $134.99 is pretty much from the moon, especially since their upgrade policy is not generous in terms of taking care of customers who recently purchased System 7.1 or System 7 Pro. Fortunately, even a small amount of resourcefulness on your part can drop that price substantially, though people outside the U.S. may find that mail order is the only way to go. (I could not find non-800 numbers to match the 800 numbers listed, and I suspect that the Apple upgrade deals are good in the U.S. only.) In all cases, the prices are for either the disk or the CD-ROM version, and I recommend the CD-ROM version because it comes with more software, including two Peirce Print Tools extensions for use with QuickDraw GX and various telecommunications utilities.
Buy a Mac -- If you purchase any Macintosh (Performa, PowerBook, Power Mac, Quadra, whatever) between 02-Aug-94 and 31-Dec-94, you get 7.5 free, but you must pay sales tax and a $10 shipping and handling fee. To sign up for System 7.5, you use an upgrade coupon, which you can acquire in many ways, including through a dealer or by calling Apple at 800/871-6634.
Apple has started shipping System 7.5 with most new machines (all but the Workgroup Servers), but resellers must clear out inventories of machines bundled with System 7.1. According to the information on the Apple World-Wide Web site, after 12-Sep-94, all Macs purchased through a Higher Education Campus Reseller should come with a copy of System 7.5.
Upgrade through Apple from System 7 Pro -- If you bought System 7 Pro on or after 02-Jun-94, you can upgrade for $19.99 plus sales tax and $10 for shipping and handling, although, if you bought System 7 Pro in a ten-pack, you can upgrade for free, plus sales tax and a shipping and handling fee. To upgrade through Apple you must use an upgrade coupon. Ask your dealer or call 800/769-2775, extension 5919.
Upgrade through Apple from System 7.1 -- If you purchased System 7.1 between 02-Jun-94 and 02-Oct-94 you can upgrade for $39.99 plus sales tax and $10 shipping and handling. To upgrade, you must use an upgrade coupon, which you can get from a dealer or by calling 800/769-2775, extension 5919.
Join a Macintosh User Group -- If you don't belong to a user group, you probably should, and if you do belong, you can purchase System 7.5 for $49.95 plus sales tax and $10 shipping and handling. This offer is good regardless of what version of the system you currently own, but it is only valid in the U.S.
I can't speak for how every user group will handle the upgrade, but in the case of dBUG (Seattle's Downtown Business User Group), Apple mailed upgrade order forms to the group, and the president of the group gave me one last weekend. The forms cannot be photocopied, so you must get your own personal form; look for them at user group meetings, or ask someone official in the group.
Try Mail Order -- I polled four popular mail order vendors today, and found that any one of them would be happy to sell me System 7.5 for within pennies of $99, regardless of when I purchased my previous System version. Upgrades from System 7 Pro cost around $20 and upgrades from System 7.1 come in around $40. Each vendor had slightly different rules for how you qualify for an upgrade, but by and large you must fax a receipt dated on or after 02-Jun-94. I've heard stories about people who obtained the upgrade via mail order without sending in a receipt, but the representatives I spoke with were quite clear about the dating policy and requiring a receipt.
Shipping Policy -- Mail order vendors have their own shipping costs, usually no more than three dollars. In comparison, Apple's $10 seems excessive, especially in light of the small print on the back of the User Group upgrade form. The small print states that for $10 you can expect System 7.5 in four to six weeks. If you pay $15, Apple will use Federal Express to send you System 7.5 and you can expect it in three weeks. Perhaps Apple plans to beat these estimates; I certainly hope so, or we may have to start talking about overfortnighting something rather than overnighting it.
Rising Costs -- Given that system software came free to Macintosh users not all that long ago, the pricing and upgrade strategy took some by surprise. TidBITS reader Larry Staples said, "I have issued my first protest to Apple over their System 7.5 Upgrade policy. I, like many others, bought a new PowerBook 520c in June, shortly after the 500 series was announced. I'm a happy customer. Love the machine. My Mac is not included in [any special upgrade offer]! I don't think this is fair, I paid good money for my Mac and System 7.1.1."
I'm not surprised at the cost of the upgrade (I've become increasingly cynical over the past few years), but I hope Apple puts the money to good use in developing stable, amazing products over the next few years and not in feeding the coffers of the bean counters and stockholders. While we wait to find out whether Apple puts the money to good use, this strikes me as an excellent time to support your local Macintosh user group.