If OS X is moving to an iOS-like yearly release cycle, what if Apple makes Mountain Lion and follow-on releases free updates?

All the benefits the free OS updates bring to iOS devices could be found on a Mac as well. The vast majority of Mac users would almost certainly be using the latest version their hardware could handle, offering significant security and API benefits, and it would be yet another reason why buying a Mac over a Windows PC provides greater value to the consumer.

Plus, I can’t imagine Apple made all that much money (comparatively) off of Lion or Snow Leopard, given their low $29.99 cost.

I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

UPDATE: The folks at Consomac have done a little digging into the Messages.app beta, and discovered this text:

Thank you for participating in the Messages Beta program. With the inclusion of Messages in OS X Mountain Lion, the Messages Beta program has ended. To continue using Messages, please visit the Mac App Store and purchase OS X Mountain Lion.

Not only does this imply that Lion users will lose access to Messages once Mountain Lion is released, but there is a clear statement that the new version of OS X will be available for purchase.

Still unanswered is whether Lion users of Messages.app will have iChat restored via an official Apple update.