New Macs Give Users iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand For Free On All Macs

When I received my new MacBook Air three days ago, I immediately launched the Mac App Store to re-download all my apps with a few clicks thanks to Apple's unified solution that makes it easy to get all the software you already own on a new machine. As I headed over the Purchased tab, however, I noticed downloads for three iLife '11 apps -- iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand -- automatically started in the background. With new Mac purchases, in fact, it turns out Apple is giving away the iLife suite as standalone apps available on the Mac App Store. Normally, these apps would set you back $14.99 each -- instead, I got them for free on my new MacBook Air with OS X Lion pre-installed.

As reported by Macworld, the new Mac Minis and MacBook Airs released on July 20th come with the latest versions of OS X and iLife bundled for free. Owners of Macs purchased between June 6 and July 20 can request a copy of OS X Lion through Apple's Up-to-Date program, whilst the Minis and Airs released two weeks ago already have Lion, but don't have a physical copy or backup of the OS in the box. This is because Apple will start selling a Lion USB Thumb Drive at $69 in August, and Lion automatically creates a Recovery HD partition that, among other things, allows you to re-install the operating system via an online system that, through a series of security, hardware and Apple ID checks, pulls Lion directly from Apple's servers.

The iLife apps users will receive with a new Mac, however, can easily be "ported" to an old Snow Leopard installation through the Mac App Store. Once the apps are downloaded and tied to your account, the usual Mac App Store licensing terms apply: apps can be downloaded on any of your Macs authorized with your Apple ID. And because these apps are not exclusive to Lion, they'll appear in the Purchased tab on a Snow Leopard's Mac App Store.

The iLife license you get when you set up one of the latest Macs is no different. Which means that if you haven’t yet gotten around to upgrading to iLife ’11, buying a new Mac mini or MacBook Air essentially gets you iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand for all your Macs running OS X 10.6.6 or later (since you need at least that version of Snow Leopard to run the Mac App Store). And this isn’t sneaky or dishonest—it’s right there in the Mac App Store’s software license.

Obviously, these free downloads won't include digital versions of iWeb and iDVD, which are not available on the Mac App Store. Apple had previously announced its intention to discontinue iWeb, suggesting existing users to find an alternative solution to host their iWeb-designed websites.