Code within the iOS 7 beta suggests Apple will release all its iWork and iLife apps for free. Courtesy /

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has always believed in the tight integration of hardware and software, but the company mostly relies on free software and services to help sell its computers, tablets and phones, which amount to most of the company’s revenue. Still, even though iOS and most of its associated services are free, including iMessage and iBooks, the most fundamental productivity software from Apple still costs money – and it’s not cheap either.

For years, Apple has sold its iWork suite, consisting of Pages, Keynote and Numbers – the Apple equivalent of Microsoft’s Word, PowerPoint and Excel, respectively – as a bundle, only recently splitting the programs into separate downloads worth $19.99 apiece; the same iWork programs on iOS cost $9.99 each. Apple’s iLife suite, consisting of iPhoto, iMovie and Garageband, is a bit cheaper, with each program costing $14.99 on the Mac App Store and $4.99 on the iOS store.

Luckily, the cost of these important first-party applications may no longer be an issue once iOS 7 sees its release date this fall -- we believe Sept. 18. With Apple poised to put its iWork software on the Web, presumably for free, rumors suggested the company would eliminate the cost of iWork applications once iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks was released to the public. Now we finally have some support to these rumors: Code within the iOS 7 beta 3 suggests Apple will release all its iWork and iLife apps for free.

German site ifun, which initially discovered the code within iOS 7, noted that Apple’s typical pop-up window for its App Store that’s shown to users when they launch the application for the first time now includes its entire iWork and iLife suites, including Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iPhoto and iMovie. The pop-up in iOS 7 says, “To make the best use of your iPhone we recommend these free apps from Apple.”

We imagine Apple is making this decision for two reasons: It would be difficult, if not completely unnecessary, to release iWork on the Web and iOS but charge users for it. But more importantly, Apple probably just wants to use iWork and iLife as selling points for its new hardware also set to release this fall with iOS 7. Apple is expected to launch an armada of products in the next several months, including two new iPhones, two new iPads, new iPods, and possibly even an all-new iOS device, the highly-anticipated iWatch.

With so much iOS hardware to sell, Apple will need to incentivize new customers to adopt iOS devices now more than ever. The release of iOS 7 will certainly help with Apple’s hardware sales this fall, but the release of iWork and iLife as free apps could be one of the biggest selling points for iOS products and Mac products this season. After all, nobody wants to pay an extra $30 on necessary productivity applications when you’re already spending upward of $200 for a new iPhone or $500 for a new iPad.

Besides the rumors of free iWork and iLife applications, iOS 7 introduces a complete revamp of the font, style, colors, icons and textures of iOS to make it a familiar but modernized experience. But iOS 7 isn’t just a cosmetic upgrade; the release of iOS 7 will usher in plenty of important new features and tools to discover and use. Most notable among the new iOS 7 features: the helpful Control Center that contains quick access to important settings; the built-in parallax that shifts the background image in response to one’s movements; a new way to multitask apps; the AirDrop feature for sharing photos or documents with other iPhone users in the area; and much more.

Once again, we expect Apple has pegged the release date for iOS 7 to be Wednesday, Sept. 18 -- exactly 100 days after the June 10 unveiling of iOS 7. The release date of iOS 7 is also expected to precede the release of at least one new iPhone model; we believe the new iPhone 5S will see its release date just two days after the public release of iOS 7, on Friday, Sept. 20. Hopefully, iOS 7 products will be the first to offer Apple’s suite of professional and creative toolkits for free.

Do you expect Apple will finally release iWork and iLife for free this fall? Does this make you more excited for the release of iOS 7? Sound off in the comments section below.

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