Apple patent application designed to prevent Mac OS X from running on non-Apple hardware

“Apple Computer, which is in the process of switching to computers based on the omnipresent Intel processor, has filed a patent application describing a method for securely running Mac OS X on specific hardware,” Ina Fried reports for CNET News. “The Mac maker has applied for a patent to cover a ‘system and method for creating tamper-resistant code.’ Apple describes ways of ensuring that code can be limited to specific hardware, even in a world in which operating systems can be run simultaneously, in so-called virtual machines. The patent application was made in April of 2004, but only made public last Thursday.”

Fried reports, “In its application, Apple describes a means of securing code using either a specific hardware address or read-only memory (ROM) serial number. Apple also talks about securing the code while interchanging information among multiple operating systems. Mac OS X, Windows and Linux are called out specifically in the filing.”

“The company said it is not planning on supporting Windows or other operating systems on the Intel-based Macs it sells but has also said it doesn’t plan on taking steps to prevent Mac owners from running other operating systems,” Fried reports. “‘We won’t do anything to preclude that,’ Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller told CNET in June. However, Schiller also said Apple has no plans to allow its operating system to run on non-Apple hardware. “‘We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac,’ he said.”

Full article here.

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MacDailyNews Take: See our “take” in the article, How Apple can win the OS war. Also of note, is Architosh’s recent article, “Apple patent shows company possibly preparing for OS War” here.

Related articles:
Apple patent application describes Intel-based Macs that run Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows – November 05, 2005
How Apple can win the OS war – October 19, 2005
Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ ultimate goal: ‘to take back the computer business from Microsoft’ – June 16, 2005
Intel’s built-in virtualization tech could be one way to run Windows on Intel-based Apple Macs
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
Microsoft: The safest way to run Windows is on your Mac – October 08, 2004


  1. All well and good for now, but the question of selling oodles of operating systems on millions of computers remains for Apple…probably more profitable than doing it with Apple-only hardware. However, the legal aspects could begin to arise if the success of Intel based Macs takes off and the competitors’ sales drop off drastically…they will then complain about anti-trust this and monopolostic behaviour that. One could envision the day when the company might be forced to license its operating system software to other manufacturers or to cease and desist the planned segregationist strategy. Laws can change to accomodate public demand, and laws can change based on the dollars thrown at the legislators.
    The other side of this is that too much success on the market for OS X might make Microsoft unhappy, which might make that company complain about anti-competitive behaviour on the part of Cupertino (Microsoft South). Hortense thinks the proposed exclusive strategy will work as long as Apple’s overall sales are below the horizon, whatever that might be.

  2. Apple should be careful how it presents this to the public, lest they get in trouble for unfair business practices. Like making sure that the hardware/OS are integrated. Can’t have that. They should look at how kind Microsoft is, sharing their wonderful OS with any company that can pay for it.

    MW: long

  3. Hortense,

    I wish you and the other cows would stop with the “anticompetative” “monopolistic” drivel until you understand it. Having a successful, competative product on the market that is also proprietary is not anticompetative. Anti-trust behavior is when one has a product that is FORCED into a market and one that ELIMINATES competitors through extortion and lock-out deals.

    Apple will never have to license its OS even if it reaches critical mass because Windows (and Linux) will still be available for licensing. There will still be competitors. That’s the point.

    Your suggestion implies that if Sony Playstation becomes too successful, Sony will have to license its OS to XBOX and Nintendo. Now that’s just silly.

    Your milk has soured, girl. I suggest you modify your diet.

  4. I have to agree with Elsie. This is an Apples and Oranges (pardon the pun) type of argument.

    Now, if Apple were ONLY producing the OS software and not the hardware, and were forcing third party PC manufacturers (like HP for example) to dump Windows and only load OS X on every box they sold, now THAT would be considered anti-competitive. But as long as Apple makes their own computers, they can make OS X exclusive to their machines all day long and there is nothing anyone can do about that.

    Same thing goes for the silly iPod/Fairplay licensing argument. Since Apple provides both the hardware (iPod) AND the software (iTunes/Fairplay), they can make it as proprietary as they wish and it cannot be considered anti-competitive.

  5. What really freaks me out about this article is the date that the patent was applied for. That’s more tan a year before the Steve announced the move to Intel.

    It makes me wonder what else is being planned int eh bowels of 1 Infinite Loop that we don’t know about.

  6. Regarding why Apple may want to licence OS X is an issue has been raised a few times, namely that business do not want to have a single vendor for their computer hardware. Whether or not that really makes sense, if it is true and Apple want to go for the business market, they may choose to do that.

    This patent provides a means to stop generic PC from booting OS X by means of a chip present on the machine, similar to what Apple have done in the past. There’s no reason that Apple can’t provide those resources for other vendors if it makes good business sense.

    I foresee a time when Apple is garnering 20 % market share, that it would be smart to open up to clones. At that point they may want to focus on OS and related apps as well as making cool machines. Apple’s cool factor was non-existant back in the early 90’s. Now they lead the industry in design and can sell a lot of machines on that alone.

    You could argue that why give some of the market away. It could be that eventually, for the mac market to grow, other vendors will need to be involved.

    Look at M$. At one point, their earnings / revenue ratio was about 100 / 75 %. With software the overheads are very low compared to hardware particularly when volume is high. Remember once the oftware is written, there are little other costs. With hardware, profit margins are largely dictated by component costs.

  7. “Apple describes a means of securing code using either a specific hardware address or read-only memory (ROM) serial number.”

    Actually, this reminds me of something IBM used to do.

    Sitting in the ROM of the old IBM PC was a message: “(c) 1981 IBM”. Certain IBM programs would look for this message at that location and refuse to run if it was not there. But, of course, cloners could not legally claim that their code was copyright IBM or they’d have to give up ownership.

    Solution? In the four bytes preceding this, the cloners added ‘NOT ‘.

    I’m sure Apple is smarter than this, but I doubt whatever they do is going to work. Within a short period of time, someone’ll be selling a card which you can plug into your Dell which contains the appropriate keys.

  8. This patent is a building block in Apples medium to long term strategy to win the OS battle. It is unlikely that during this battle Apple will license their OS to sony dell Hp etal.

    The Apple “brand” is so strong now, they do not need to licence. Particlularly if they have an OS which will allow people to run windowz.

    Apple will enable (and promote that) people can use windowz in a secure way, from within OS X.

    So, people will buy a Mac because of the Apple Brand, with the intention of running windowz securly, however after using OS X they will be hooked.

    Well thats my take on it


  9. By the time the Intel CPU Macs are shipping in quantity the new x86 version of DarWINE x86 should be up and running. How about running Windows programs in OS X WITHOUT emulation? Talk about the ultimate switcher platform for commercial, educational and institutional use.
    FreeBSD Unix apps
    Mac OS X apps
    X11 apps
    Windows apps
    All on the same OS.

    Links to the future-

    “The DarWINE project intends to port and develop WINE as well as other supporting tools that will allow Darwin and Mac OS X users to run Windows Applications, and to provide a Win32 API compatibility at application source code level.”

    CodeWeavers’ mission is to make operating systems like Mac OS X and Linux into Windows®-compatible operating systems. By doing so, we provide a bridge to help users migrate from the Windows software world to these other worlds. We do this primarily by making it possible to use Windows software on Linux and Mac OS X.”

  10. Do You Want WINE With That Mac?: Actually, the aforementioned patent also talks about technology similar to WINE, so it would not surprise me if that’s in the cards. Specifically, it talks about Windoze and Linux in this context.

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