Will Apple license Mac OS X and once again send in the clones?

“In the months since Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the Mac was making the seismic shift from PowerPC to Intel processors, the murmurs about the possible resurrection of the clones programme have been getting louder – but will the talk come to anything? The clones programme, whereby Apple licensed the Mac operating system to PC manufacturers to load on non-Apple hardware in return for a royalty on each computer sold, was abandoned in 1997 with the ‘second coming’ of Steve Jobs,” Seb Janacek writes for Silicon.com.

“Apple has flatly denied that the imminent shift to Intel chips heralds a longer term strategy to license its operating system to PC manufacturers,” Janacek writes. “Adding further spice to the speculation, Steve Jobs claimed earlier this year that three major PC manufactures had already approached him regarding the licensing of the Apple OS. Global PC market leader Dell is almost certain to have been one of them. The company’s chairman Michael Dell admitted this summer that he would be interested in selling PCs loaded with OS X.”

Janacek writes, “Advocates of a new clone programme claim the case is compelling and believe it affords the company the opportunity to renew hostilities in the OS wars at a time when Microsoft is relatively weak. Ten years on from the launch of Windows 95, Microsoft’s operating system is hamstrung by an ever-growing body of negative publicity about its system security problems and the enormous malware threat posed by a global army of virus writers. With OS X, Apple has delivered an operating system is usable, attractive to consumers and above all stable and secure. Each new iteration of the cat-themed OS has won new fans and advocates.
While security experts claim a genuine OS X virus is a possibility, they also admit it’s a very remote one given the robustness of the operating system’s Unix core.”

Janacek writes, “When it finally arrives, Vista is likely to offer an ‘OS X experience’ for PC users. In the same way that Windows 95 was the first version of Windows which came close to emulating the spirit of the Mac OS, Vista will no doubt woo consumers with its OS X-esque translucent windows. Many interface features appear so similar to OS X as to make little difference to most PC owners anyway.”

Full article here.

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MacDailyNews Take: Imagine that Apple licensed Mac OS X to Sony or HP in some way that would work for Apple and the licensee. While large business buyers would continue with Windows (the average IT guys we’ve met at large companies discount Apple completely except for the “art department”), such buyers would also have a main leg of their anti-Mac argument kicked out from under them. Mac OS X would no longer be available from a single hardware vendor.

For the consumer market, it’s important to remember that many people turn over their PCs every few years. While there is some amount of “lock-in” due to Windows-only software applications, the vast majority of users just use what came bundled on their PC appliance. This majority uses a PC to do basic things: surf the Web, send email, do their budget, some word processing, calendars, and, for the more advanced average users: manage and edit digital photos, organize and play music and maybe edit home movies.

We are very confident in stating that for the large majority of personal computer users, the Mac OS X platform would be vastly superior for their needs. They’ve bought the wrong platform with Windows, plain and simple; they just don’t know it or know what to do about it, yet. Sometimes we stand in Best Buy and watch them carting cardboard-boxed Windows machines to the register and we want to cry out to them, “What are you doing to yourself?! Please, put that back, we’ll help you!” It’s actually anguishing. Yeah, we know, we’re cult members who’ve drunk the Kool-Aid in 55-gallon drum allotments. Still, if you see someone hurting themselves, even if they don’t know they’re doing it, isn’t it natural to want to help them? Oh, the grief we could save if we could somehow stand in the Windows box aisles of every Best Buy, CompUSA, Circuit City, etc. all day and night! But, we digress.

Our point is that the “OS war” never ended, contrary to what pro-Microsoft sources want the world to believe. Apple and the Mac are still here, still way out in front, leading the way by a large margin, and growing unit sales and market share. It wouldn’t take much to get Joe and Jane Average to buy a Mac the next time their Windows PC slows to a crawl trying to run 550 adware and spyware apps simultaneously. The question, as always: what’s the most effective way to shake them awake and get them to realize that there is a much better way?

Is it cloning? Mac advertising? iPod’s Halo Effect? Word of mouth? Some combination of these and/or other ideas? What do you think?

Related MacDailyNews articles:
How Apple can win the OS war – October 19, 2005
Michael Dell say’s he’d be happy to sell Apple’s Mac OS X if Steve Jobs decides to license – June 16, 2005
Intel-based Macs running both Mac OS X and Windows will be good for Apple – June 10, 2005
Why buy a Dell when Apple ‘Macintel’ computers will run both Mac OS X and Windows? – June 08, 2005
Windows users who try Apple’s Mac OS X Tiger might not want to go back – June 07, 2005


  1. I’ve finally accepted the Intel switch. And if Apple decides to license OS X, I think it would be good for Apple. Whatever it takes to get Apple’s total marketshare up to at least 50% is fine with me.

    – Mark

  2. I believe that licensing Mac OS X to other manufacturers would be kind of a last resort… the same way as allowing WMA into the iPod is.

    Only if the tide shifted and Apple began to take a dive would these measures come to pass.

  3. Apple is a hardware company. Apple makes and sells computers. They do more than this, but they see themselves as a hardware company first.

    If they allowed this licensing, it would hurt their business of selling hardware.

    They won’t do it anytime soon without a philosophy change. (Although, a philosophy change is not impossible. They might decide they are a software company or a technology company…)

  4. What Apple needs to do is a major TV ad blitz once the Intel based Macs are available. That would do more for them than cloning would. All that would accomplish is to water down the product. I’d consider cloning to be a last resort.

  5. Mikie Dell was the one who said that Apple should close the company and give all the money back to shareholders. Now he wants to license OSX? What gives? I think Steve should demand an apology before even considering the impossible.

  6. “Sometimes we stand in Best Buy and watch them carting cardboard-boxed Windows machines to the register and we want to cry out to them, ‘What are you doing to yourself?! Please, put that back, we’ll help you!’ It’s actually anguishing.”

    As God is my witness, I have been there and felt exactly the same way, MDN! I want to help them, but I’m afraid they’ll treat me like an airport Krishna.

  7. Selling OS X in a box for you to install on any x86 PC is not and has never been a good idea. But MDN’s idea of a controlled licensing system, for a narrow and specific group of models from a specific vendor, might have some merit. If Sony, say, would pledge that their small number of OS X-licensed models would hew to a specific set of hardware components, it would negate the problem Windows has with having to support thousands of different configurations, and also satisfy Apple that their OS was running on hardware of sufficient quality.

    Appropriate MW: function

  8. Apple makes the whole widget, licensing is for the folks like M$ that don’t and can’t. I do not see why the whole widget can’t compte with patchwork approach more effectively in futre, just as iPod and iTunes has now. Licensing is a route to poor quality products.

  9. yea but just imagine right now if dell shipped ALL there boxes and laptops with Tiger. guys i hate the monogomy of dell and there unimaginative ways, but think of the freaken market share, instantaneously. BOOM!! your on the level of microsoft in a heart beat.

    I think they can do both. sell the os on other vendors boxes and also sell their own hardware. theres no lock-in really, apart from the rules apple make for themselves. ie the agreement to sell it to dell for a period of say 2 years as a trial. and whats the biggest app right now on the mac? its iTunes by far. run on windows? you bet! im sure this is what apple are thinking, let them see itunes on windows, then give them the whole OS, and see how they like that. and the best part of this is that bill gates can do absolutely nothing about it. he’ll have to sit back and watch people eventually upgrade there computers, and if they can get a mac, then why not. the only danger with that is if users can have windows and OSX then they might go that route if they need certain apps. certainly they wont go that route for reliability and user experience. but i dont think thats a huge problem.

    we have to be open to this. i think it might happen.

    I wanna beat these guys. apple is better and we know it. M$ is the big stupid bully that got lucky because of his size. its only a matter of time, and apple is the one to make the most of this. if they dont, then ill be pissed. now is the time and steve knows it.

    one thing, weve got one of the best thinkers of the last 100 hundred years at least, ruling the direction of the company and setting the battle plan. im just looking forward to seeing steve kick bills ass repeatedley over the next few years. mwahahahahahahaaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. ya… we all know that they are a HARDWARE company… but if they were a smart hardware company they would produce the best operating system ever (done)then they would liscense it to the masses, and assuming it IS the best and everyone gets hooked then they just stop liscensing it! If it all works out they become the HARDWARE king and sell more computers than anyone. Just because they gave everyone a taste.

    What do you think?

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