Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

Summary: The death of Apple's OS X wouldn't particularly hurt the company but there's a way to save it and it's pretty simple: Virtualization.


Apple and virtualization pundits agree that Apple needs to allow virtualization of its operating system. Although, it's likely that OS X Server is fading away after the Lion release, the desktop version has a strong future ahead of it. Its future will be guaranteed if virtualization is part of that future. Without virtualization, Apple's OS will die. Perhaps Lion will roar into the virtual world.

But, with Lion's short-lived future as a server OS, is there really a point? Yes, there might just be a point. At least it seems that VMware and Oracle think so.

vSphere 5 reportedly supports OS X Server but there's no confirmation of any of the leaked features from VMware. In fact, VMware has, "No comment" on this particular issue.

Apparently, Oracle has no fear of Apple's EULA or it's possible that Apple is about to change. The latest version of VirtualBox allows you to create a Mac OS X Server virtual machine, 32 or 64-bit. Yep, it's built-in to the VirtualBox list of available operating systems. So, is Oracle going to force Apple into virtualizing its beloved OS X or are we taking our own risks by installing OS X on non-Apple hardware? Apple, unfortunately, is never available for comment on any topic unless you're one of their accepted pundits, so don't expect to see their point of view expressed here.

Apple's EULA doesn't explicitly prohibit OS X virtualization but it does state that you may only install the OS on a single system using Apple-branded hardware. So, the workaround would be to install OS X into a VM on an Apple Server or workstation. Yeah, that would be awesome. And, useless.

License Excerpt from the OS X EULA:

A. Single Use License. Subject to the terms and conditions of this License, unless you have purchased a Family Pack or Upgrade license for the Apple Software, you are granted a limited non-exclusive license to install, use and run one (1) copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-branded computer at a time. You agree not to install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-branded computer, or to enable others to do so. This License does not allow the Apple Software to exist on more than one computer at a time, and you may not make the Apple Software available over a network where it could be used by multiple computers at the same time.

I'm confused though, as to why VMware and Oracle would bother supporting OS X Server. That's the wrong direction for them to go with Apple support. No one cares about OS X Server. That's not where virtualization's advantage is for Apple.

That said, Oracle and VMware might know something that we don't, since they're blatantly supporting OS X regardless of what's clearly stated in the EULA. I'm hoping that Apple learned its earlier lessons about marketing, trends and user-oriented computing that almost cost them the company. They can no longer ignore virtualization and OS X has a lot of potential in the VDI market.

Yes, VDI.

People love Apple. People love OS X. People love virtualization. Put them all together and what do you have? Apple making more money from cloud-based desktops. Remove OS X from the mix and Apple might lose its relevance as a computing company and simply exist as a gadget maker. But, who cares, they'll certainly lose little money and no sleep over gadgetifying the company.

What do you think Apple, VMware and Oracle have up their collective sleeves? Talk back and let me know.

Be sure to catch tomorrow's post, where I'll discuss my take on the future of Apple and virtualization.

Topics: CXO, Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Virtualization, IT Employment


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

    This makes little, or no sense (depending on your understanding). Apple Inc. makes an OS, to sell hardware. Apple Inc is not an OS vendor, but in fact a hardware maker. Rather than being a Windows OEM, and live on razor thin margins, or a niche Windows OEM, and go out of business, Apple chose to make its own OS to differentiate themselves, and create a seamless (for the most part) user experience. Apple controls the whole widget, Hardware, and OS, that way there is a single point of contact for their products. The advantage is that you get to speak to real American, not someone pretending to be an American in Bangalore. For the majority of Mac users, the User Experience has been trouble free, and the company experiences the highest customer satisfaction rating of any computer company.
    • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die


      The pervailing wisdom here is that the future is cloud computing. In cloud computing future, from my understanding, all functionality including much that is usually associated with the OS, will run in the cloud and be delivered to the user via the browser (applications, storage..etc all in the cloud). The differientiation provided by Mac desktops and OSX will lose relevancy. However, I can totally see Apples new desktops using iOS, or just making a docking station for the iPad would do it, and presto...you have a viable cloud computing desktop. None of the cloud server stuff will be running on Apple hardware. Apple is just not in the game of server software.
      • Not completely so; Apple's OS X Server does not just go away, it merges ...

        @bmonsterman: ... with desktop OS.

        So [b]Ken Hess is wrong calling Lion a desktop OS[/b] -- it will have all of server features from former MacOS X Server.
      • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die


        Sure, why not merge it? Regardless, without virtualization a Server OS can't compete. Frankly, I don't see the point of Apple on the server. What makes Apple a server OS? FreeBSD (I guess...some Unix compliant equivalent). Why would someone use OS X as a server OS, when they could just use FreeBSD or Linux? The users don't care...it's transparent to them. Apple doesn't have any differentiation on the server side.
      • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die


        The "prevailing wisdom" a few years ago was that every American should own their own home. That worked out well!

        One is often better off to go against prevailing wisdom. We'll see how the cloud works out in practice.
    • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

      @Rick_K Ohh yea, the all American Apple, having a full 5% made in America parts in all its products. You see an American, you speak to an American & you buy a Chinese product.
      • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

        I thought we were talking about the OS here? It's made in the U.S.

        And why bash Apple for making most of their products in Asia? Is Dell or HP any different? Would you rather pay twice the price to have it made here?
      • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

        figuring out where the part came from is a crap shoot with computers, kinda like cars. The iPad, for instance, is assembled in China (Taiwan via FoxCONN), but contains Samsung (Korean) display and chip technology. Apple also typically uses chips fabbed in Singapore as well. Samsung has subsidiaries for R&D and fab facilities in the United States as well as various parts of Asia. Apple also recently inked a chip deal with Intel for future iPads, but it is not yet known what kind of chip (this is likely a response to the Samsung lawsuit).
      • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

        @Blad_Rnr Yes, I would prefer it to be made here. Then the economy would be boosted and people would be able to afford the price premium. They really need to implement the idea of slapping tariffs on these things equal to the savings gained from below-minimum-wage labor and no environmental or safety laws in the places they're manufactured. That eliminates the incentive to ship jobs abroad, and abroad it eliminates the incentive to not implement environmental laws, safety standards, safe working conditions or unions.
    • Myopic view

      @ Rick_K

      This is a very myopic view. Apple are currently very successful, primarily because of the iOS products, but if you look at the data from the 90s, Windows vendors like Dell were killing Apple. In a free market where Microsoft are allowed to freely choose prices for their OS, there's absolutely no need for PC vendor margins to be 'razor thin'.

      It often goes unrecognised by technical journalists who are unfamiliar with economic theory, but the 2001 settlement between Microsoft and the USDoJ represented a major earthquake within the PC ecosystem: the USDoJ forced Microsoft to use uniform pricing for Windows (for the top 20 PC firms, in two tiers). It may seem like a small thing, but it almost certainly had substantial effects on the dynamics of the PC industry.

      Before 2002 (when the settlement took effect), Microsoft were free to set Windows prices as they pleased, and used that freedom to reward PC manufacturers who supported the Windows ecosystem (e.g. Dell). They were given very large OS discounts, which made it profitable for them to invest in the Windows ecosystem and allowed them to successfully compete with free-riders (firms like IBM who simply bundled Windows with their hardware, without promoting or investing in the Windows ecosystem). It also put the marketing and development resources of the major PC vendors solidly behind Windows.

      After the settlement, Microsoft were only allowed to offer vendor 'consideration' commensurate with actual investment, and were barred from controlling the overall desktop environment (i.e. installed software). The likely results, according to economic theory, are sub-optimal investment in the Windows ecosystem by PC vendors and higher prices for vendor Windows licences, leading to higher PC prices for end users. The first occurs because the cost of any investment in the Windows ecosystem is either borne by the vendor who invest, or at best recovered from Microsoft, but all PC vendors benefit (a classic 'tragedy of the commons'). Higher prices are likely because the vendor-specific discounts were apparently quite substantial in some cases -- it was in Microsoft's interests to effectively reduce costs for co-operative vendors.

      USDoJ oversight of Microsoft has now come to an end, but I don't know if Microsoft are allowed to return to their historical practice of price discrimination and rewarding co-operative PC vendors. If they are, then the PC ecosystem could see important changes, with a return to more joint investment in the Windows ecosystem by PC manufacturers and Microsoft. That won't necessarily remove Apple's edge (OS X is a competitive OS, whereas classic Mac OS was about a decade behind Windows, and the Mac is supported by Apple's iOS/iTunes products) or return the PC ecosystem to its glory days, but the effect of uniform pricing in destroying close vertical partnerships capable of competing with vertically integrated producers (e.g. Apple) has probably been quite substantial.
      • You disprove your own point

        @WilErz about margins being razor thin. With all vendors paying about the same price for a Windows license, the cost of that license is no longer a differentiator between brands. A Dell, or an HP, or any other brand (including Apple) all use an Intel or AMD cpu and an Intel or AMD chipset on a Taiwanese branded mother board manufactured in China. Either integrated graphics or a discreet card with either an ATI/AMD or nVida GPU and a disk drive from one of a small number of manufacturers - all made in Asia.

        All of them including Apple are just assemblers of mass produced components that are all the same regardless of brand. Windows PC's are pretty much a commodity - i.e. there is very little non-price product differentiation. So there is not a lot to compete on other than price and hence "razor thin margins".

        Apple is really primarily a hardware vendor selling the same components assembled into a fancier box. It is really only OSX that provides any real product differentiation - which is why Apple will never allow it to be installed on anyone else's hardware and will resist virtualization unless it has no alternative. Without OSX they are just a Dell in a prettier box.
      • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

        You might want to go back and read a bit of history. The original version of MS DOS was fixed by IBM, in order to make it work. Dell has put less into the Windows Ecosystem, from a technical standpoint, than IBM. You do realize that Windows NT is an offshoot of IBM?s OS 2? ALl the settlement did was level the price, sort of. It did prevent Microsoft from discriminating against the OEMs though. Before the settlement (slap on the wrist), Microsoft could discriminate against an OEM for wanting to make Netscape the default browser. This discrimination could go up to revocation of the OEMs license. It was in fact Microsoft?s own business practices that got them into the situation they found themselves in. The management at Microsoft is ethically challenged, and would not think twice about using underhanded tactics.
      • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

        @ cornpie<br><br>On the contrary, my points are: (a) uniform pricing reduces the ability to differentiate, and *if* Microsoft are allowed to set non-uniform prices again (did you miss the bit about USDoJ oversight having ended?), then PC vendors' margins are likely to improve -- for evidence, compare the margins of PC firms in the '90s and '00s; (b) claiming that there's some problem with the Windows ecosystem because Apple are doing well in 2011 is nonsense when that ecosystem is still dominant in the PC market (Apple's success is based on is iOS gadgets, not Macs) and firms like Dell used to wipe the floor with Apple when Apple's primary business was PCs rather than iOS gadgets and music.<br><br>@ Rick_K<br><br>If you knew anything about the history of Windows NT, you'd know that it was designed and written by a team of engineers who joined Microsoft from Digital Equipment Corporation. They had nothing but disdain for OS/2, and wrote NT from the ground up -- with heavy influence from Digital's VMS (which the lead NT architect had previously designed). The 'OS/2' in the original product name meant that NT could emulate OS/2, not that it was based on OS/2. The OS itself had absolutely nothing to do with OS/2 (or MS-Dos).<br><br>The claim that IBM had to 'fix' MS-Dos sounds like a typical urban myth, and in any case has nothing to do with the Windows ecosystem, which only took off a decade later. IBM were always hostile to Windows, and their refusal to agree to a 32-bit Windows API in NT (to make porting from Win16 easier, which Windows 95 proved was important) is what led to the IBM/Microsoft split.
    • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die


      I have to disagree with you here... They sell OS X for cheap when in reality it should be free. OS X is a bite off of FreeBSD <- notice "Free" sort of like Linux but not enforced like a dictatorship. Next... Does Apple own Foxconn or Intel? Last time I checked they don't so truly the i7, i5 and i3 chips that ship are not Apple branded but PC branded like all other machines with the only difference being that Windows and Linux runs on everything whereas OS X only runs on Apple's offerings aside of hacks. Apple is really a logo and nothing more. The common thing for Apple fans to boast about is "customer satisfaction" where this really only points to customer service especially with tech issues. Having stores everywhere will do this but will also cost a pretty penny. The reason their margins are so great is that they 2x or 3x over price everything riding on the logo of being trendy and hip and in the end you have the one button mouse oaf box. Most of the people I know aside of those who grew up with Apple and only Apple are the only ones satisfied. So many friends hate their mistake purchases and iPhones once they use them and get to know all the limitations. I say to each their own, I will enjoy my Windows and Linux until Apple gets their pricing figured out and makes their devices a little less inept.
      • Ah, another poster who doesn't know anything about

        lot grades and thinks a computer is nothing more than CPUs and chipsets.
      • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

        I guess you?ve never worked in electronics. Different type of components are selected by the Manufacturer. For example a 1k resistor: A 20% resistor is dirt cheap, when bought in large quantities. The same value (1k) cost roughly three times as much when you order the same quantity but request a 10% variance. When you order the same value, but specify a 1% variance, the price gets multiplied four time that of a 10% resistor
      • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die


        "I guess youve never worked in electronics. Different type of components are selected by the Manufacturer. For example a 1k resistor: A 20% resistor is dirt cheap, when bought in large quantities. The same value (1k) cost roughly three times as much when you order the same quantity but request a 10% variance. When you order the same value, but specify a 1% variance, the price gets multiplied four time that of a 10% resistor"

        What in the ***** does this have to do with anything? Purely from a chipset standpoint Apple has no differentiation from any other manufacturer. All of Apple's PC components can and are used by other manufacturers. CPU's, motherboards, video cards and memory are all commodity items.

        There are only three things that Apple can use to differentiate themselves on their desktops and laptops; OS, form factor and customer service.
    • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die

      @Rick_K - Absolutely correct on this one. The hardware/OS integration of Apple makes it easier to update and use in general. However, the OSes of both MS and Apple are to me seriously bloated in size...
    • RE: Without Virtualization, Apple's OS Will Die


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  • &quot;Apple is never available for comment on any topic&quot;

    That's true, they keep tight lipped about a lot of things.
    Guess that's better than that dumb bell Balmer making all these grand statements about Windows 8 coming out next year, then Microsoft has to put out a press release saying that Bozo misspoke. What an idiot.