Is Apple getting dragged (kicking, screaming, or suing?) into licensing OS X?

Is Apple getting dragged (kicking, screaming, or suing?) into licensing OS X?

Summary: Are humans just naturally driven to want what they cannot have?Apple may be resisting the OS licensing model that has traditionally worked so well for Microsoft and perhaps that resistance is finally paying off as Macs nibble away (albeit very very slowly and from a distant blip in Microsoft's rear view mirror) at the market share of Windows-based PCs.


Are humans just naturally driven to want what they cannot have?

Apple may be resisting the OS licensing model that has traditionally worked so well for Microsoft and perhaps that resistance is finally paying off as Macs nibble away (albeit very very slowly and from a distant blip in Microsoft's rear view mirror) at the market share of Windows-based PCs. Apple goes to great lengths -- usually through its digital rights management technologies (what I call C.R.A.P.) -- to tightly control the relationship between its software, its hardware, and, in the case of the iPhone, the relationship of both to carriers and the Internet (God forbid you should attempt to acquire new audio online for your iPhone -- music, ringtones, etc -- through anything but the iTunes Music Store).

But none of this seems to be phasing the tenacious mice (the hackers) who are managing to keep the Apple cat on its toes. Most recently, under the headline $399 Ultraportable Apple Laptop, Gizmodo has coverage of how OS X has been hacked to run on the Asus EEE PC. Based on the buzz around the Net, Hackintosh How-To author Adam Pash is already a folk hero in certain circles. But if a Hackintosh isn't your speed, then maybe the Torrenttosh is. There's apparently a pre-hacked version of OS X floating around on Bittorrent that takes most of the hacking out of Hackintosh. As I've said before, if I could have OS X running on a Lenovo Thinkpad (as a Trackpoint addict, I hate touchpads), I'd take it in a heartbeat.

But the best (worst?) evidence that Apple is losing the cat and mouse game with hackers is how the latest firmware update to the iPhone (1.1.2, now, finally being pushed through iTunes) is already "jailbroken."

Perhaps Robert Scoble characterized Apple's enigmatic ecosystems best when, this last Monday, he wrote:

Steve Jobs treats developers like crap. Doesn’t give them an SDK. Makes them hack the phones simply to load apps. And they create hundreds of apps anyway.

What other company has the problems that Apple has where the company is coming up with all sorts of restrictions (not just on the tech's functionality itself, but how much of it we can buy) and even still, cult-like masses are climbing all over each other to push and even break through those limits?

Back to OS X, perhaps its time for Apple to reconsider its Apple-hardware-only policy and once again look into licensing OS X. Clearly, now that the switch to the Intel platform is well behind us, and given the the success that hackers are having at "porting" the OS, there are no technical barriers. And, compared to selling hardware, selling bits is like printing money. There's no question the demand is there. And I'll bet that, given some of the moves that have been made by desktop/notebook systems vendors like Dell in the area of Linux support, that they'd jump at the opportunity to bring OS X into the portfolio. Apple could, if it wants, roll the program out on a limited basis. For example, it could pick one or two other hardware partners (eg: Lenovo, who could give Apple huge access to the Chinese market) and work exclusively through them in a way that those vendors shoulder the lion's share of supporting users.

Related: Adam Pash benchmarks his Hackintosh against the real McCoy.

Topics: Software, Apple, Operating Systems

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  • Agree wholeheartedly

    I actually wrote about the same thing here: <A href="">Mac OS X Has a Barrier to Entry Problem</a>

    I would really like to see OS X licenced to be used on non Apple hardware.
    • Old Hat...

      ...alot of non-Mac users have been clamouring for a OS version for standard PCs. You're not alone on the posting bit either - i posted on this a few months back asking the same hypothetical question.

      What irks me is why Apple Corp. seem reluctant to even *go there*. I get the distinct feeling they're *snobbing we common PC users*. I also believe they have an ulterior motive behind the decision not to release an OS for standard PCs.

      I won't hold my breath.
  • Supporting different hardware and software.

    Apple now sells the hardware that runs OSX, and doesn't have the expense of testing or adapting to any other company's hardware. The expense of responding to all that hardware and related software could be significant.

    The speculation is, I think, academic, because Apple sells its hardware and software for an experience controlled by the company and believes that to be a primary sales point. Letting OSX run on a $300 Dell would both cheapen the brand and reduce the interest in paying the Mac premium.

    This is, after all, a company which killed very profitable clones. Allowing them to return would be the easiest way to add revenues, and even that is apparently not under consideration.
    Anton Philidor
    • focus on the competition and innovation

      Put simply, Apple can't even get Leopard to run reliably on their own hardware! It would be like throwing a rock to a drowning man. Face it Apple/Mac floats on a sea of fluffy marketing. And they and their iFanboys should tone it down until they can go toe-to-toe in the open.

      Having said that, they've done some things I like. And I surely want to encourage competition in the market as that's definitely needed. So focus on the competition and innovation.
      Sonny Maou
      • Hmmm

        I develop applications that run on multiple platforms, it's a client requirement, and something we've geared up to offer due to demand. Leopard has made me groan more times than I can enumerate: lack of SDK, dirt ass slow on a mac pro, and suffering from more code bloat than roseanne barr on thanksgiving. Frankly, vista is fast winning me over, and I've been using apple since I got my first macintosh way back when (EGA screen, etc).

        I'll never fully switch as there are things in each os that each does, but, the only time vista started acting up, was when I was stupid and went with a cheap power supply. Replaced that and magically, it runs like a bat out of hell (on a system barely comparable with my mac pros).

        One thing I want to see in OS X that I've grown to love in vista, is a way to turn off resource intensive processes and services simply. I don't need a billion and a half drivers perpetuating in memory, and I'd really like to see PPC come back, or at least use a SUN processor. Costs more, but you won't have that damnable lag caused by the translation from PPC to X64.
        • Oh, really?

          So Leopard DOESN'T come with Xcode on the disc, and you can't download it for free,
          and If Leopard runs dog slow on one of the fastest consumer computer in the world,
          how come it can run on older hardware than Vista?
          This is why you must love the Internet. No one knows who you are, so you can
          pretend that you are an expert on the subject, and people won't know aside from
          glaring flaws in your logic.
    • Missed the problem with clones

      >>> This is, after all, [b]a company which killed very profitable clones[/b]. Allowing them to return would be the easiest way to add revenues, and even that is apparently not under consideration. >>>

      Apple originally allowed Mac clones because it was thought the move would help grow Mac's market share.

      Instead, market share remained relatively unchanged while the clone makers sucked hardware sales from Apple.

      Considering Apple makes a good deal of it's income from the hardware side (Macs WERE pricier vs "PCs" then compared to now), they took quite a hit thru lost sales to clone makers.

      Would licensing OSX to "cloners" (Dell, etc) make up for lost Apple hardware sales in today's market???

      • The market is larger now.

        Apple would have to be confident that the clones, made to specifications approved by Apple, would add sales because of slightly lower prices while Macs continued to sell because of the cachet.

        The clones would have to avoid the low-cost pc market to avoid cheapening the brand.

        This discussion is, I think, more realistic than one considering a decision by Apple to sell OS X, the visible part of the Mac's difference, to all comers.
        Anton Philidor
        • Why bother?

          If Apple is designing the clones, why not just make them themselves? What's the advantage in becoming a wholesaler when you can sell the same product at retail for a much higher level of profit? What's in it for Apple? I mean, if you're just selling high end computers designed by Apple with someone else's nameplate on them, how is that going to change the market in the slightest?
          tic swayback
          • Brands and down-market.

            A good brand can be used - carefully - to make money from the higher volume of people able to spend less. The distinction has to be maintained in an obvious way, but the down-market versions can end by producing more profits than the luxury products.
            Anton Philidor
          • A brand better than Apple?

            Is there any brand in the computer market that's more valuable/higher rated by consumers than the Apple brand? Wouldn't slapping a "Gateway" sticker on an Apple box be a brand downgrade?

            But what you're talking about is contradictory to your earlier statements. If you want to go for high-volume, low-margin sales, that's an entirely different beast than licensing high-quality, high-end Apple approved designs to other companies. Apple seems to be doing pretty well staying out of the bottom of the market with its razor-thin margins. And if they wanted to get down into the mud, again, I don't see the benefit in licensing clones rather than selling things themselves.
            tic swayback
          • The original post concluded Apple would not...

            ... once again permit the making of Mac clones. Though that might be the most practical way of making OS X available to more people at a less expensive price.

            Less expensive doesn't mean cheap, only less than Apple charges.

            Consider that a number of companies with strong brands have set up other brand names with a widely known connection to the brand holder, but selling at a lower cost.

            The alternative to Macs might be made by another company and called Granny Smith (it's Friday) and be designed in a form similar to but not identical with Apple's design for Macs. It would run OS X.

            The other company might have a way to manufacture at lower cost, as did the earlier clones.

            As observed above, this scenario is unlikely, but could be a way for Apple to offer OS X on a device other than a Mac without the difficulty of supporting a large number of hardware configurations.
            Anton Philidor
      • They're still pricier

        As in more expensive. The Macs may compare favorably to PCs in the same price range. They may even be better. I don't know, since I don't have enough long term experience with recent Macs to make an informed judgment. But you can buy a $300 PC w/Vista Home Basic at Walmart (sans monitor). $200, if you can live with Linux.

        Almost everyone I know looks at the sticker price first, before they consider anything else. Many of them could afford a Mac, even a nicer one, if they felt that there was sufficient value. I'm not saying that there isn't, just that the only person I know who owns one has it specifically to run DreamWeaver (and yes, I know it's available on the PC ? I have it at work). As "user friendly" as Apple's products are supposed to be, I still see her struggle with some things.

        There just isn't the sense that Macs are worth it. Some of it is legacy, back from when they [i]were[/i] overpriced. Some of it is that the Macs offer features that they don't need or care that much about, like the aesthetics or Firewire ports. Then, at this point, most people have PCs and don't want to have to acclimate themselves to the Mac OS. Some won't give up games on the PC. A lot of it is the Apple commercials ? even though some have valid points ? that come off as a childish "I'm better than you". Especially when viewed more than once. And Windows works well enough for most of them, most of the time. When they do have a problem, they come to me and I can almost always straighten it out. It's a black box effect to them, but they know they can't get that from me for a Mac.

        Still, the biggest single thing is the price. Until they can match dollar for dollar, regardless of actual value, there will always be a large segment of the population that will go for the bottom tier PC. More so now that even basic machines have the power to meet most needs into the future.

        I'm not saying this as a Windows fan. I have no plans to go to Vista and I only begrudgingly use XP. That's mainly to support friends who have it. I think both OSes are bloated and unfriendly to power users. Not to mention being changed for the sake of change. I'm not even going to get started on SPA and WGA. Windows 2000 works for me, because I can add almost every customization option I want (often better than what comes with XP or Vista) and it usually doesn't get in my way. Right now, there are still enough software options for me. And I'm starting to tinker with Linux. I might even like to have a Mac, except I think Jobs and Company are going the Microsoft route in terms of the way they treat customers (or at least more so than before).

        Apple may gain market share, but I think it's going to be a slow road that plateaus before too long, unless their low-end price drops. And I don't see that happening anytime soon.
        • And Windows works well enough.....

          [b]And Windows works well enough for most of them, most of the time. When they do have a problem, they come to me and I can almost always straighten it out. It's a black box effect to them, but they know they can't get that from me for a Mac.[/b]

          I agree, Windows works well enough for most people most of the time. As does OSX.

          But what happens when something goes wrong in Windows? Whom to turn to? Doubtless there are numerous businesses who are honest and reputable and who will genuinely fix the problem if they are able. Equally, there are numerous rogues who will rob you blind.

          How much do you think your friends should pay to straighten out their PCs? Maybe you're happy as unpaid Microsoft support. But don't forget to add in the cost to the lower ticket price.

          Personally, as paid IT support, I've had enough of fixing PCs and their SNAFUs during the working week. I have two or three friends whom I'll help out [i]in extremis[/i] but they are in the minority and I don't have any version of Windows at home. I understand why some people consider Macs to be more costly, I just wonder how valuable they consider their time to be.
      • Apple Clones?

        Either people have a short memory or weren't around. Anyone doing real work with a
        Mac (digital photography, pro graphic and publishing) that bought clones got stung

        But I suppose time heals all wounds and people are ready to be taken again on a bad
        ride thinking they are going save a few buck. cheap is what cheap gets.

        David B. Brooks
  •, what a huge heaping pile of you know what!

    do you have any hard numbers?

    - how many PC users have a hacked version of OSX on their machine? (10.. 15.. 100...?)
    - how many have actually hacked their iPhones?

    you're viewing the world through techno geek glasses, there are no hordes of people clamoring to do what you say they are doing... if there is let's see the hard numbers... put up or shut up.

    there is just a extremely small group of geeks that are hacking apple devices in order to get at extra functionality.. (including myself actually).

    look at the previous iPhone update that removed all third party apps and if users we stupid enough to install it, even temporarily bricked some iPhones.. there was no big public outcry... but if what you were saying was even remotely true there should have been a huge out cry as with the abrupt iPhone price drop, but there wasn't. want to know why? because you are wrong, other than a few techno geeks that frequent tech oriented boards, no one is interested in this stuff and are using their Apple product exactly as intended.

    so when you present your stats we'll listen to you.. for now you are just talking out of your... you know what!
    • Wanna hear something shocking (at least it was to me)?

      They just got iMacs at the school my brother goes to (I say "just", but they are not the newest models, and they got them at 3 months ago when school started, and nearest I can figure from him they run Tiger, not Leopard).

      I asked him what he thought of them. He said "I hate them. We all hate them. We don't like having to use something that we are never going to be exposed to again except for the slim minority of us that may end up in the arts. Not to mention they are slow as hell. And don't get me started on Safari. Who invented that piece?" At this point, my jaw hit the floor.

      I told him that he would like them once he got used to them. He says after three months he hates them more now than he did then, and so do his classmates. He seemed to be hung up on how slow they are and how frequently they stop working. He said that when he has work to do on the computer, he goes to the library to use one of the Dells, even though there are fewer of them and he will probably have to wait in line instead of using them.

      I genuinely can't figure this out. This didn't come from my family. They in general don't care what they have as long as it works, so no one ingrained Mac-hatred into him. He hadn't given it a second thought until he was forced to use them. I mean, I don't really like them either (I do a little, I just prefer other options)....but I certainly don't [i]hate[/i] them. Nor have I ever heard someone say that they are slow. I even told him that every Mac I have ever used or seen was faster than Windows. He's no actor, so the look on his face was genuine, and it was disbelief at that statement.

      I couldn't help but slightly understand what he was saying, though. He is not wrong about being unlikely to ever use one in the field that he will be in, regardless of what that field is.

      I question it a little bit though. Why are they so slow? Why are they crashing so frequently? I figure something must be wrong. That's just not Mac behavior. But...who knows?

      Still, it was a shock to me. And then I realized that my brother and his friends are far more typical than I am when it comes to tech. He's not interested. I am. I began to wonder whether his opinion reflects a more common one. If it is, then you are likely correct and it wouldn't do much good to license the OS when people aren't interested outside of the hardware-software combo.

      So, I asked him if he'd ever buy a Mac. He just glared at me and said "Maybe if I had more money than brains...for someone else. Not for me." He did say that he knew someone with an iPhone, and it was cool...but he still didn't want one because it "doesn't do enough stuff to be worth it." Who would have known that one purchase by a school would create a whole class of anti-Mac users?

      Surprised? I know I was.
      • Geeez, what kind of iMacs are they running anyway?

        1st Gens?

        But seriously, I hear alot of people spit out words of hating Macs and the usual oh, you have a Mac, oh sorry, or wow too bad, but when asked if they have ever even used them, you get a big fat no. I'm not saying your brother is one of them at all, so don't take it the wrong way, but it is frightening the herd mentality that can be accumulated in certain circles of supposed "tech" people hating something that they have never even tried. And the funnier thing is to bump into one of these same people years later to find they purchased their first Mac and loved it and wondered why they even hated it so much.

        Too bad some people can become so brainwashed and hung up about hating something so much without even trying it out first..
        Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
        • That's just the thing

          I can't figure out what happened here.

          My bro is a pretty, "out of the norm" kind of kid. He doesn't like the crowd, and he doesn't like to go along with it.

          I just stared at him slack-jawed whilee he spewed this. All the knowledge of Macs that I have (which I will admit is limited to basic) and all that I have heard from power users screams that there is something wrong.

          They are using iMacs, but they are a year or two old. White plastic, no brushed aluminum.

          I think that this is the biggest part of the problem, is that they are so slow. Kids are notoriously impatient. I think that there is something incompatable in their network causing the problem...but it's turning all of these kids off to what I know to be a really great computer (again, I prefer other options...but have always stated that Macs are good systems and I like them just fine...they just aren't for me).

          But this isn't someone who has never used it and hates it. This is a group of people who have to use them almost daily that hate them. That's what it is that surprised me. I've never heard people who actually use one say that they hate it.
          • An educated opinion

            As a IT Admin for a university and former Admin for a public school district (that ran a ton of Macs) I might be able to give you some insight. It's possible that he is referring to emacs and not imacs. Apple still sells the emacs to schools and they are white, but not a flat panel like the iMac. It also depends on the district and their general rules.. via parental controls, I can easily make a mac more restrictive that Non_Zealots memory (down to a single app if I needed to). So the kids could be miffed that they can't get to myspace or hotmail on the macs, but can on the PCs.

            Granted these are simply educated guesses. Having personally owned the very first rev of the iMac G-5 and the second rev of the intel iMac and not one of the 24" aluminum iMacs, All of them were incredibly fast at everything they did.

            In my k-12 days, I had kids that hated macs because they couldn't hack them. Once I got better secure software for the PCs, they hated XP as well... go figure.