Perhaps lost in the shuffle amidst a slew of announcements on Tuesday is that Apple is making its fleet of iWork apps available free for download on new iOS devices. In addition to Pages, Keynote and Numbers, users will also be able to download iMovie and iPhoto free of charge.
Think about that for a second; in one fell swoop, Apple made its entire range of productivity and creativity apps (save for GarageBand) available for free. As it stands now, purchasing all of the aforementioned apps would set you back US$40.
This is significant on a number of levels, and harkens back to Apple's strategy with the Mac when it first began introducing what would soon become a formidable collection of apps that together comprised Apple's iLife suite of software -- iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD (now defunct), iWeb (also defunct) and, last but not least, GarageBand.
Steve Jobs first introduced Apple's "Digital Hub" strategy back at Macworld in 2001 (though iMovie had already existed at that point).
"If you use iMovie," Jobs boasted during a vintage performance, "it makes your digital camcorder worth 10 times as much because you can convert raw footage into an incredible movie."
In relaying the thought process behind Apple's digital hub strategy, Jobs explained that the "glue that's going to make all this happen are the applications: iMovie. iTunes. iDVD. They are going to be our passport into our new digital lifestyle era."
And Jobs was spot on. Macs in the early 2000s began shipping with powerful software applications that enabled users to harness their creative juices and manage their digital media right out of the box.
I myself was a heavy iMovie user early on and remember being blown away by what was now possible. While my videos were hardly award-winning productions, my friends would often excitedly remark, "You were able to do that on your computer? And the software to do that just comes with it for free?"
Once iPhoto hit the scene in 2002, soon followed by GarageBand in 2004, Apple's suite of iLife software really empowered the average user to create ambitious and professional-grade projects.
Apple's iLife strategy with the Mac provided a value proposition that was simply unmatched on the Windows side. While it's impossible to quantify how many Macs were sold on account iLife, there's no denying that iMovie and its brethren created a lot of happy customers who became reliant upon and excited about the Apple ecosystem.
Now, Apple is taking that same strategy and applying it to iOS. While the aforementioned iOS apps won't be pre-loaded, they will be available as free downloads on new iOS devices.
Much like the Mac, this strategy aims to enhance the value of iOS devices, especially when measured against competing devices from the likes of Android and, well, I guess mostly Android.
During yesterday's event, Tim Cook explained:
We think that iWork is a really key advantage for our customers' productivity, and that iPhoto and iMovie are great for are customers creativity. No other platform has any apps like these. We think that all iOS devices are made even better if they have these apps. And almost all of our customers want these apps.
Sounds a lot like Jobs back in 2001, right?
iLife on the Mac put powerful media creation tools at the forefront of the PC user experience. Now, Apple is implementing the very same strategy for iOS and it's hard to see this as anything but a savvy business move on Apple's part. Out of the box, productivity and media-creation tools will be more accessible and intuitive on iOS than on any other mobile platform.