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Microsoft already tried to pull this (maybe they even did get it off the ground in some markets, I lost track). It's called "subscription based software." They met up with A LOT of opposition. One of the main complaints is that the manufacturer has little incentive to innovate when cash is already in hand. One can just imagine how bad this could get in MS's hands, seeing as they pretty much behave this way already.

Your twist is interesting, though: bundle it with a .Mac account. I could see Apple doing this to get more .Mac users than anything else. So a .Mac+ account gets you all the goodies and keeps you up to date with the OS. BUT they have already moved to a model where every year they release "entirely new" OSs, not updates - technically Jag was not an update to Puma and Panther is not an update to Jag, they are full priced OSs. So, it would only sound like a deal to buyers if they are guaranteed an new OS in the year. That has other problems - Apple engineers might get stuck into trying to deliver before an OS is well tested to meet subscription deadlines. Apple would have to keep selling stand alone purchases of the OS as well, because generally people don't like things that feel like "paying rent". Look at what Jobs keeps saying about iTMS competitors: people just don't want to pay monthly subscription fees, they want to own the music outright. I think this is true of many things, including software.

On the whole, the idea has some merit, I'd go for it simply because I am a .Mac member already - value added. In reality, I'm betting it never happens.
 
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