Apple's updated operating system, OS X 10.9 Mavericks, was released Monday at a new price: free. What's new in this version -- aside from no more big cat names like Mountain Lion -- and does this point to the era of free OSes?

Apple is now emphasizing its Californian roots; Mavericks is a surfer's site, and the default image associated with this OS is a giant wave. Mavericks can run on any Mac computer that can run Version 10.8 Mountain Lion, although the machine needs to have at least OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard.

Consistent with Apple's trend of adding mobile Relevant Products/Services features to its desktop OS, Mavericks now offers updated versions of the Maps app and iBooks app that have been on the iPhone and iPad. Reportedly, many of the problems that so plagued the first release of Maps have been worked out. There's also a tighter integration between Maps and other Mac apps, such as with addresses in Contacts or Calendar.

'Decent Update'

There's new power management, which Apple says can reduce CPU usage by 72 percent and improve battery life on laptops, and there's enhanced security Relevant Products/Services for apps and browser plug-ins. A new Tags feature allows users to organize files in a way that is consistent across Macs or iOS devices. Software updates can optionally run in background, with only a notification button that needs to be clicked to allow installation.

Some reviewers are reporting enhanced performance once Mavericks is installed, even when running full-sized applications, as well as more free disk space and more available memory Relevant Products/Services.

Roger Kay, an analyst with industry research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, described Mavericks as "a decent update, but not as big a leap as the leap to version 6 was." He added that some Apple-watchers have expressed displeasure over the tweaked graphics and thinnish system font, although he thought they were "fine."

'Exclusively Desktop OS'

The free price has been taken by many as a jab at Microsoft, which, as a primarily software Relevant Products/Services-focused company, still charges for its major OS upgrades.

Apple's decision to give Mavericks away reinforces its position as a company that primarily sells hardware, at least in its computer business Relevant Products/Services. Kay noted that, in addition to Microsoft, there's also a third major computer OS player, Google, whose Chrome OS is free, so the pressure on Microsoft is coming from two directions.

Current Analysis' Avi Greengart pointed out to us that "Apple is continuing to invest in its desktop OS as an exclusively desktop OS," as compared with Microsoft's approach with Windows 8.

He also noted that one common-in-mobile function he'd like to see adopted on Macs is a capability to "use touchscreen input" as an option. After all, he said, it was Apple itself that first taught us that "the most natural way to change the size of a photo" is through hand gestures on the screen.