As promised, Apple today began offering a USB installer for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion in its online store for a price of $69, a $40 premium over the OS's price in the Mac App Store. This price hike is not just for the price of the drive and its packaging, which aside from the Lion branding is identical to the recovery media that began shipping with MacBook Airs after the late 2010 refresh, but as a way to push customers toward the Mac App Store for as much of their software as possible.

Apple notes that customers installing Lion from the USB drive cannot use the Lion Recovery partition to reinstall OS X in the future. The installer likely creates the Recovery partition (as does an OS X USB or DVD created from the App Store installer, a process we detailed in our review of Lion), but your computer's serial number won't be associated with a valid Lion purchase through the Mac App Store, rendering your Mac unable to re-download Lion via the recovery partition.

While this Lion USB drive doesn't make sense for most consumers with just a few Macs and a sufficiently fast Internet connection, it is a nice option for system administrators, users with DSL or dial-up connections, and people lacking the Mac App Store who need to upgrade directly from Tiger or Leopard to Lion. Given the company's push to digital downloads and its notorious stubbornness, Apple probably thinks we should be grateful to have the option at all.

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  • pattycake0147 - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    So we have a $30 piece of software (Profit markup already included) and a $10 flash drive for $70. Sounds like typical Apple to me.
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    I wonder if anyone has actually analyzed Lion's price point and determined whether they are making a profit on it? Apple's strategy has always been acknowledged to be focusing on the software to sell the hardware, since the hardware is where they have good profit margins. It wouldn't surprise me if $29 for Lion just covers the development costs or is even a lost leader. There is certainly software a lot less comprehensive than an entire OS selling for a lot more.

    And physical products also have associated shipping and transportation costs. In Apple's case, their main concern is what better use of floor space can they be doing in Apple Stores. Apple is already phasing out most boxed software because they are comparatively low volume while taking up a lot of room. By stocking Lion USB keys, they are potentially losing revenue and profits compared to using that space to sell high volume iPhone 4 accessories for example.
  • uhuznaa - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    This is silly. Even with the flash drive Lion is still cheap as far as OS upgrades go and prices anyway are "political" here -- Apple is trying to convince users to try and use their online store and the $30 price is just a carrot dangling before the customers.

    And you're free to buy the $30 version, get a $5 flash drive and copy it over yourself.

    The cost of the physical media never has much to do with the price you're paying in the end for digital content (or software).
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    "Cheap as far as OS upgrades go"

    I'm curious. Which OS upgrade prices would you be comparing to here? Apple's own?
  • xype - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    Windows Vista's upgrade to Windows 7, perhaps? Or is it that much bigger a leap than OS X 10.6 to 10.7?
  • quiksilvr - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    I think you answered your own question.
  • xype - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    "So we have a $30 piece of software (Profit markup already included) and a $10 flash drive for $70. Sounds like typical Apple to me."

    I wonder how you reacted to Windows 7 pricing. Did Microsoft get any flak for selling "basically the same Windows 7" in a black box for, er, a "premium"?

    Without even knowing how much OS X Lion cost Apple to develop, comments like yours are just as naive as my Window 7 Ultimate example.
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    The point is, why is a USB stick of the same OS available online $40 more, when the drive itself costs around $3 for apple?

    And why not just a DVD for those who don't want to spend $70?
  • KITH - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    Do you really believe that there were no development costs involved in creating the extra features that the different versions of Windows have?

    Besides development costs, there are also additional support requirements for those features, incurring continuing costs for the lifetime of the software.
  • Bluestealth - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Actually Ultimate has Language Packs + Enterprise features.... honestly its really just to screw people who don't speak English, but its a feature right?

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