Fortune: Michael Dell reiterates he’d love to sell Apple’s Mac OS X if only Jobs would license

“When Apple switched a year ago to using the same standard x86 processors that other PC companies use, it opened the door to all this progress on virtualization. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has always been adamant about controlling the hardware on which his software operates, but because of Apple’s switch to x86 his ability to maintain that control is now diminishing,” David Kirkpatrick reports for Fortune.

Kirkpatrick reports, “Both Parallels’ and VMware’s products virtualize x86 hardware for any operating system, but the excitement for desktops has been almost entirely about what it means for the Mac. That’s because Mac OS remains the easiest and most enjoyable software to use day in and day out. Microsoft’s new Vista, despite being a major advance, doesn’t really change that, as many reviewers including Walt Mossberg in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal have recently reiterated.”

“Until now it hasn’t been possible to for most corporate users to switch to the Mac OS because they needed applications that only ran on Windows, notably Microsoft Outlook. But that problem is melting away. Beloussov says Parallels is now talking to a number of big companies about making the switch,” Kirkpatrick reports.

“VMware’s CEO Diane Greene told me yesterday that her company’s existing x86 desktop product is already being used by some to run Mac OS on computers from Dell, Hewlett-Packard and others, though this is not intentional on VMware’s part,” Kirkpatrick reports. “SWsoft’s Beloussov says that this spring, Parallels will upgrade its software further, in a way that by coincidence will make it easier to run Mac OS on a non-Apple computer. He also insists that is not deliberate, but just a consequence of the nature of the technology, especially now that Intel builds virtualization technology into its chips.”

“Both companies’ products specifically aimed at the Mac will remain self-consciously crippled in order to satisfy Apple’s demands that users not be encouraged to put Mac OS on a non Apple machine. But pressures seem to be building in a way that Apple and Jobs will increasingly have a hard time controlling,” Kirkpatrick reports.

“In June 2005 I broke the news that Michael Dell wanted to ship Mac OS on Dell machines. This week in an e-mail he confirmed to me that his thinking hasn’t changed. ‘We would offer MacOS,’ he wrote, ‘if customers wanted it and Apple would license it on reasonable terms…It’s Apple’s decision,'” Kirkpatrick reports. “The pressures are building in Steve Jobs. Eventually, as virtualization improves and makes it easier with or without his cooperation, it will prove harder and harder not to accede to Dell and others who want to sell his software in different ways.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Proper licensing would create an environment where Apple would have final approval over products that Mac OS X licensees would sell. The main advantage we see to licensing is that it would open some minds to Apple that are currently closed regardless of the facts. We can think of better companies which which to work than Dell. Beleaguered Dell deserves to be left out in the cold, if Apple ever did license. Dell could then do the right thing: shut down the company and give the money back to the shareholders.

Apple would have to be careful about cannibalization and license Mac OS X for products that add to Mac users’ choices, not duplicate existing Apple products. For one example, imagine that Apple decides to license Mac OS X to Sony for a range of ultra-thin, 12-inch, 10-inch, and smaller screen notebooks. One would imagine that Apple would not approve of crappy $400 stripped-down and worthless Wal-Mart PCs. Make them right with the features people need or “No Mac OS X for you!”

This old-but-never-dies idea of Mac OS X licensing still seems a risky strategy with Apple’s Mac sales on the increase, but it would have the benefit of quickly increasing the Mac OS X user base and helping to wean the world off Microsoft’s mediocre, insecure, and less productive Windows curse faster than it is currently. Apple would sell more Apple software to more Mac users, as well. Plus, it would hurt Microsoft to the core and they’d have no response; what would Microsoft do, send their 4,000 spaghetti coders off on another 7 year project to come up with another warmed over, re-skinned-by-committee XP?

Nevertheless, it’s very difficult for us to imagine Apple licensing Mac OS X. Perhaps Apple could license older versions of Mac OS X to others? Tiger easily beats Vista and Apple could keep Leopard for their own Macs? That’s probably way too fine a point for the average PC buyer to understand, though. (Look, they are still mindlessly buying Windows in droves, aren’t they? They certainly aren’t going to understand that Apple’s Macs are better than HP’s Macs due to the OS X version.)

It’s easy to see why PC box assemblers like Dell are salivating over Mac OS X when all they have to offer is the disappointing Windows Vista and/or some random Linux distro. It’s just really hard to see Apple doing it. What do you think?

Related MacDailyNews articles:
BusinessWeek’s Hesseldahl: Gartner report that Apple should license Mac OS to Dell belongs in trash – October 20, 2006
Gartner: Apple should quit hardware business and license Mac OS X to Dell – October 18, 2006
Michael Dell say’s he’d be happy to sell Apple’s Mac OS X if Steve Jobs decides to license – June 16, 2005
Fortune: PC makers realize Mac OS X is superior to Windows, they’re wooing Steve Jobs for licenses – May 26, 2005
iPod success opens door to Mac OS X on Intel – March 04, 2004


  1. Is this the same Michael Dell that said Apple should close their doors, liquidate assets and give the proceeds to the stockholders? Now he’s dying to sell Macs, that after his iPod killer got killed.

  2. Hell no. Screw ’em. They put all their stock into MS and MS can no longer deliver, so boo hoo. Dell should close up shop or come up with their own software. As long as Apple can keep building Macs fast enough then they will keep selling them and continne to grow their market.


    MW: ‘record’ (earnings still aren’t proof enough)

  3. Want to see OSX running on more than 5% of the computers in this country and move up from half that market share world wide?

    This is how you do it.

    BTW, MDN has ignored news that Apple’s position in computer sales has dropped into 5th place. There’s nothing more bothersome to MDN than the frustration over the impossibility of Steve’s Macintosh gaining market share.

    It’s never going to grow as long as Lord Jobs insists on keeping it to himself. Since he doesn’t care, why does MDN?

  4. Hey Mike, yea you, Mike Dell….

    Might as well sell DELL’s oustanding shares, give the money back to the stockholders, and lock the door.

    You know it’s going to happen. I know it’s going to happen. I am Nostradamus.

    Those statements you directed towards Apple Computer Inc. (now Apple Inc.) in 1997 WILL come back to haunt you.

    Just ask your CFO.

    P.S. Have a nice day!


  6. Anything’s possible… Steve killed the Newton, but the iPhone seems it’s heir.

    I doubt it, and I hope not. Steve once famously called the licensees “leeches”, and it will be the same again.

    Why would “Joe Six-Pack” buy a $1500 Mac when you can get Mac OS X on a $500 Wal-Mart POS?

    I think this is Dell realizing that M$ has screwed them over, and grasping at straws. Michael Dell never was much of a visionary (back to the shareholders?), so he’s trying to clutch Jobs’ coattails.

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