On Apple Eliminating Boxed Software

February 7, 2011

MacRumors reports Apple may eliminate boxed software inventory from its retail stores.

Boxed Mac software purchased over the past year: Adobe CS5, Turbo Tax (had a Costco coupon), and iLife (the Mac App Store hadn’t launched yet). The rest were downloads (StarCraft 2, Adobe Font Folio, VMware Fusion, TextWrangler, various Mac shareware, OSX updates, iOS apps).

The arguments for downloaded software outweigh those against.

The only argument against I can think of is missed sales opportunity to people visiting physical Apple retail stores to purchase software.

But the best argument against physical media for software: The iPhone / iPad has no DVD drive. All iOS apps are delivered online via iTunes. This was true since day one of apps, and hasn’t hampered my experience in the slightest. The thought of purchasing an iPad app on a DVD or even a USB stick for installation sounds downright bizarre – and should point out how boxed Mac software is a dead end.

So let’s see if I can go through the rest of 2011 not purchasing any software in physical form for my Macs. Don’t think it will prove remotely difficult since over the past few years, I haven’t missed purchasing CDs and DVDs or physical media for iOS apps in the slightest.


  1. Mike says:

    They can’t do this with the most important thing, the OS. Sometimes people need to reinstall their OS, and you can’t trust them to make their own install discs. For years, PC manufacturers have carved out a partition for burning restore/install discs, and a significant amount of people procrastinate on burning those until their hard drive dies or their OS fails to boot (hey, it’s Windows, so it usually doesn’t take long). It always seemed like a cheap move.

    I’m concerned about how this will affect me. I like the idea of the Mac App Store, and the push for everything to go digital is in line with how I want the world to go. Losing the installer packages on those iLife discs will make imaging more difficult, though. Since the OS doesn’t come with iLife, but new machines do, I tend to deploy a copy of iLife when restoring a person’s machine.

    How would family packs work? You’d buy a family pack, and then list four other Apple IDs that can access the software? If they simultaneously discontinue the boxed copies, it’ll be interesting to see sales spike (or not, as people decide not to upgrade at all). Many people never upgrade past what their machine originally came with, and just wait until they replace the machine. There are still plenty of people using 10.4, and even more using 10.5. Should be interesting to see how this shakes out.

    • Yeah the system software will surely be the last holdout, the files are really large and as you mention the backup aspect isn’t something to leave to the end user. It does feel cheap when you get a new piece of hardware and the manual has instructions to burn your own install DVD…

      Anyhow, you have me realizing OSX Lion will not likely be downloadable this year (and therefore throws a wrench in my year of only software downloads). I would take a bet that Lion comes in DVD and USB stick form. First, just for the MacBook Airs, but also other potential yet-to-be-released Macs without DVD drives (perhaps one model MacBook and possibly Mac Minis before Lion’s release). Providing OSX on a USB stick would be a huge hint to everyone that over the next few years DVD drives will be phased out.

      • Mike says:

        Actually, that makes a lot of sense. As Lion would be Intel-only as well, they could get away with strictly going with read-only USB flash drives.

        In fact, at this point, I think I’d be surprised to see them go with DVDs this summer.

        It’s a shame you said “physical media”, as I’d still consider flash drives to be a step in the right direction. Maybe make an exception? :)