Apple’s apparent antipathy towards the Mac prompts calls for macOS licensing

“Why should Apple go down the OS licensing route again? Why repeat what was almost a fatal mistake?” Gene Steinberg asks for The Tech Night Owl. “The latest suggestions are about Apple’s questionable moves in the Mac space these days. It appears that product refreshes have slowed, and what about the company’s commitment to pros?”

“Despite recent reassurances from Tim Cook, it’s clear that some people question his understanding of the needs of power users and creatives,” Steinberg writes. “Right now, hobbyists sometimes build what are known as Hacintoshes, which are regular or custom-made PCs onto which macOS is installed. It generally involves hacking the macOS installer to allow it to be set up on non-Apple hardware. There is an online community that has posted instructions on how to induce macOS to run on such a box, and the range of hardware that will provide the most trouble-free experience.”

“But what if Apple decided to license macOS to hardware companies to expand the market? If Apple isn’t interested in a professional workstation, why not let someone else build it? What about a bigger, more powerful notebook?” Steinberg writes. “Don’t forget that Apple is not selling an OS. It’s selling hardware, and anything that hurts those sales could impact the company big time. How many macOS licenses would they have to sell to even cover the loss of a single sale of Mac hardware?”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take:
In Q117, Macintosh accounted for 9.25% of Apple’s total revenue. Services (mainly from iOS device users) generated 9.15% of Apple’s revenue, nearly as much the Mac. (iPhone: 69.4%, iPad: 7.06%, Other Products: 5.14%.)

Clearly, the Mac is no longer Apple’s bread and butter. Beyond revenue figures, this is blatantly obvious simply by looking at the pitiful state of Apple’s desktop Mac products currently (desktops are a small slice of Apple’s Mac sales; the vast majority of Macs sold today are notebooks).

So, the risk to licensing macOS is nowhere near what it was during the last licensing fiasco. In fact there is little or no risk to Apple at all. If Apple simply instituted a partnership with a vendor or vendors and insured quality standards with a “Made for macOS” program, a third-party could build Mac towers, mini-towers, and whatever other form factors Apple approved. Apple could reserve notebooks or even all-in-ones for themselves and restrict third-party vendors to desktops (towers) only.

Such a move would go a long way to assuaging Mac professionals. Even better, of course, would be Apple properly and regularly updating their desktop Macs as any competent management would have been doing all along.


    1. I used to have a Mac cuz the Hardware was nice. The OS was ok, too. And I ran windows in a VM for VisualStudio to build PocketPC Apps.

      Now, we are buying cool hardware, run Windows on it, and setup a VM and hack macOS installer so we can run Xcode to build iPhone Apps.

      The world has turned upside down

  1. I think Apple would fear Mac’s would take off big time if they were licensed to others (who would gleefully take it and run with it) only showing how badly they mismanaged the Mac market. Plus Apple wants to control how the whole widget works and not have their stuff on poor hardware and get a bad rap.

    The most amusing aspect is how Microsoft would gasp in horror if this happened. I for one would welcome our Mac OS Licensing Overlords, especially in pro related gear.

    1. Problem is all that investment in OSX is a waste of time unless they do something with the hardware and fact is the OSX announcements still appear to gain the most interest from those interested in the company and the company itself seem to still present it as such. Wonder if that will change this year.

  2. I disagree…Apple hopefully learned from that lesson in the 90s. They need to get their act together and put more into the Mac line or split it off into its own. Licensing isn’t the answer and will be a nightmare like it was before and a Windows driver nightmare.

      1. No, they killed it because Power Computing was actually innovating at a faster pace than Apple. Power Computing actually had the fasted Mac tower in the market making the PowerPC 9500 look expensive by comparison. At the time, you could get a better Mac from a 3rd party than what Apple was offering. This scenario would probably repeat it self. Some folks have even taken 2012 Macs, upgraded the GPU and they actually have achieved parity or even supposed the performance of the 2013 Trash Can in certain areas.

      2. My school bought those junk machines and constant problems. Stupid issues, usually reseating memory or CPU or the board would just blow. But constant issues! With Apple hardware, I rarely have issues. I have an excel sheet that is over 10 years old and have ordered about 60 parts over those years with 95% being under warranty and not having an issue again after that. Licensing about crippled Apple! Not again!

  3. The post-Steve Apple conflates perfection (which is unattainable) with shipping products in a timely fashion. Both can live in the same world. Always be shipping should be a mantra at Apple. Go ahead and reinvent the wheel if you must, but then have two pipelines for the Mac — the innovative incremental growth pipeline that ships on time and the reinvent the wheel pipeline that can take them time. That’s respect for loyal Mac professionals who need to keep up with their power needs. It’s also a nice important PR move to not upset an important element of your customer base. Or else MDN is right to suggest you license it to someone who cares enough about this market.

    1. I wonder how the count of days above compare to a PC maker like Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc.

      Their products are not desired by me, but at least they have new models for their customers to choose from…

      Can you imagine an auto manufacturer selling 1 or 2 or 3 year old brand new cars in the showroom as the newest model. When sales go down they talk about decreased demand. Not realizing that the demand is there, but people do not want to buy a “years old” product as a new one.
      If Apple makes new desktop or laptops, people will buy them. They will make money. The longer they wait, the more likely they are to lose a customer to another manufacturer, one that actually makes new products. :-0

  4. This is one of the times I agree with the boys at MDN. The reason why licensing failed at Apple the first time wasn’t because the concept itself was wrong, but because the licensing was done poorly. Apple just assumed that third parties would make cheaper, low end Macs, and Apple would produce high end, more profitable,versions. They also,didn’t anticipate that small players would be more mobile in their ability to secure newer chips that Apple,itself, because they could order a thousand, where Apple had to order 100,000.

    It got out of hand, with Apple finding that overall Mac sales didn’t rise all that much, but that some of those sales were taking from Apple’s own sales.

    For a long time I’ve been saying that if the Mac drops to,10%, Apple should consider licensing again. If they no longer want to do servers, let others do it. If they don’t want to make pro models with card slots, drives, etc., let others make them. As long as Apple spells out very specifically, in its licensing contracts what it is that these companies can do, then it will be fine. In fact, Apple should have a testing and approval department that does what UL does on a wider basis. That would ensure that all Macs work as they should with all OSs they need to, and all software and hardware.

  5. Apple has sufficient designers and engineers (and the cash to add more) to bring out a range of new desktops. They also do not invest in production facilities and I’m sure there is some capacity available in China, India or Texas.

    Apple will deliver a new desktop when they believe the numbers tell them to. Fortunately I would be very happy with a new iMac sometime soon.

  6. Just because Apple made a mess when licensing the Mac OS in days gone by does not mean they would have to make a mistake the second time.
    1st, Apple could limit licensing to certain grades of hardware such as Workstations and ruggedized laptops (Panasonic Toughbook type) and other markets Apple chooses not to make hardware for. To be honest, I give not a shit about skinny, aluminum, sealed boxes without ports which is Jony’s passion. Let my buy a workstation with Mac OS and I will be happy, regardless of the logo on the box. Getting excited about the industrial design of a computer is about is as stupid as getting hyped about a Pickup Truck or a Vacuum Cleaner.
    2nd, Apple could allow home builds as l on gas they used specified, approved components. Instead of giving the OS away as with current Macs, third party Macs could be based upon software as a service subscription. This means third party boxes pay their way.

  7. Perhaps a ‘reference design’ licensing scheme would work? Apple could keep some control maybe?
    Hackintoshs’ are not for the newbie. Mission critical work killed my experiments. I did get a good price for it tho’, even when I explained some work arounds are needed daily just to get it working. Or maybe he knew something I didn’t?

  8. Tell the boneheads and beancounters that it is NOT ABOUT THE PROFIT!!!

    It’s about mindshare, and specifically the mindshare of opinion makers.

    Come on, you dimwits! Who cares if you make any money designing the Mac Pro Workstation?!! The groups you are going after and want to grab are some of the most influential people in society: medicine, mathematics, sciences, photography, videography, architecture, musicians, the arts of all kinds, etc. Design the best, hottest Mac Pro you can, refresh it every year, and don’t worry about the profit. Just break even. The payoff will come in other ways.

    Those opinion makers will talk about using your product for their science, art or music and assert that anyone is crazy not to be using what they are using, a Mac Pro!

    STOP WITH THE PROFIT ARGUMENT! It doesn’t make sense, especially in light of the money and effort Apple is happy to piss away on other projects, requiring hundreds of engineers. Put ten good engineers on the Mac Pro’s annual redesign and you will keep the lion share of your customers happy. It will cost you little and gain you a great deal.

    1. Yup, the profit argument is the refuge of MBAs and beancounters. If those are the people holding sway at Apple now, *especially* if it’s a driving force toward say abandoning Intel CPUs in favour of A-series ones, then it’s time to abandon Mac hardware for professional use altogether.

  9. We all agree that the beancounters at Apple have harmed the reputation of the Mac, selling old hardware at premium prices with no user flexibility. There is huge value in giving the user the option to update his machine as needed, Apple seems to have forgotten this.

    But what does licensing solve? If Apple doesn’t care enough about the Mac to design new hardware on a regular schedule, what gives you all the hope that they would do the critical work to monitor its licensees 24/7? And how would Apple protect its proprietary Mac technologies from IP theft? Letting the MacOS out would be the end of the platform since Windows or some other lightfingered thief would copy the OS.

    Even going to the last remaining US company isn’t a guaranteed success. Are all you willing to buy MacDells? I didn’t think so.

    It is a question of leadership. Cook is chasing quick and easy services subscription income. He has no clue how much money he’s leaving on the table by not delivering Mac improvements every year.

    With a very small design staff, he could have ~6 Mac product lines (3 laptops, 3 desktops). If every year you had one all-new model and one refreshed model, then no model would go more than 36 months without an upgrade. Software makers and users would have the confidence to know that the Mac is a strong platform that will stay near the cutting edge of tech. If Apple can’t do this, what makes you think that some undercapitalized 3rd party hardware maker would be able to pull it off?

  10. Here we go again ????
    They’ll have no standards again and will intro another chipset 3 months later and again. Previously, Apple got screwed than and will now. Besides who wants any type of tower case ?

  11. would it have been so awful to simply iterate the Cheese-Grater Pro? Some might have ridiculed them for lack of innovation but pros would have bought them up and been very happy to. And it would have cost them relative peanuts to iterate.

  12. I for one miss the days of new macs being regularly. I think Steve would kick tims ass to the curb for what he has made of Apple.
    Licensing I don’t know about that gives Microsoft such issues. Plus why would anyone buy a Mac at such a high price when all the clones would be so much cheaper?

    I love my macs but the cost of the portables is so high these days you got to be rich to afford one that is not that much better if not worse then what was out previously. The stupid 1 port MacBook is the worse thing ever.

    We should all start a campaign and email Tim daily lol. If all the Mac users bombarded him with emails he’d maybe see just how much we love our macs.

  13. There is a lot riding on Tim Cook’s promise of exciting things coming in the Mac space and his commitments to the Pro community.

    But I wonder whether the focus should shift to Linux. The Mac interface hasn’t changed much for years. How long would it take to “Macify” Linux?

  14. I think they come out with these stories about once a month just to get us riled up so we all spew our anger and ideas on to these comment boards so they can then take that material, rewrite it and repackage it for their next article one month from today. lol

    I’ve been writing pretty much the same thing every month or two on this board for the last two years.

    As for Intel vs ARM chips – I don’t really care, but from some of the articles about the new power of the ARM chip, it seems to me a group of engineers at Apple should be able to use a bunch of them in a new Apple server or Mac Pro. Maybe not the #1 Mac Pro, but certainly an “X” model just to dip their toes in the water.

  15. My guess is that all these “I could do it better than Apple” posters are independents, or working in small shops where supervision is very lax.

    If they were busy actually meeting deadlines, they wouldn’t be spending production time reading/posting MDN click bait.

  16. Licensing is a bad idea. No-one is going to get it as right as Apple does. And I do think that they will getting back to us Pros with something soon.

    Possibly we are dealing with a bit of a chicken and egg thing here. If Apple would get back on track with some new Macs, pent up sales demand would move the needle upwards in terms of higher Mac sales. I do think that it is still important for Apple to build us a PRO level piece of hardware that can stand up to the other fast/powerful machines out there, not so much for sales, as for credibility with customers and the general computer audience. Not too many people will be buying the new Acura NSX, however it sure makes you feel good to know that there is some racing technology under the hood of your regular Acura vehicle. Of course, my analogy breaks down when we start talking price of NSX at three times the cost of a regular Acura unit. 😉 Still, it would really make all of us Mac evangelists stand up and take note and start evangelizing if we had something that was worth talking about, without being shouted down by the PC crowd.

    Possibly even a machine that is useful to the Pro Video / Scientific Analysis / 3D community, rather than a design that makes Jonny look good as a designer.

    Jon, design is only as good as the functional problem that it solves.

  17. If you want to be further discouraged about there not being a Mac Pro in our near future, just analyze the image that accompanies APPLE’s WWDC invitation sent out today.

    You can see iPhones, tablets, and laptops, but nothing I see that looks like a desktop machine.


      1. Yuck. This picture has its lofty focus on numbers, or bean counting, for Apple I guess, or for iOS app developers. I’d rather see a boots-on-the-ground promise of a bleeding edge gpu, of that scripting doesn’t go away, and of more fun Xcode goodies to pursue my vision, which isn’t immediately in the pursuit of profit.

  18. Licensing the Mac OS is putting a bandaid on a seriously bleeding and broken limb. Doing that will, IMHO, signal many of us to jump ship to Windows.

    What we need is descent support of the Mac computers and the entire Apple ecosystem that we bought into. “It’s the Ecosystem, Stupid!”

  19. They should go ahead and license the OS — to end users. Let people install MacOS on any compatible hardware, and charge a reasonable subscription fee for it. The code base stays with Apple and users could pick their poison with regards to CPUs, GPUs, etc.

  20. Apple Friends,
    Tim Cook is a incompetent CEO that can not handle managing this company at all. The lack of hardware is unacceptable for a company of this size and revenue. How hard is it to update a product with new IO, higher ram options, higher storage options and adjust price competitively and accordingly? With less than 30 major hardware sku’s, this is just unacceptable. With a staff and resources, WHY is Pipeline Tim only focusing on iPhone and iWatch? They are WAY behind on anything related to the Pro market. The lack of love shown in that area in beyond embarrassing and Pipeline Tim has to GO! and GO NOW! The amount of FAILS this guy has outweighs his Wins.

    One analytic data point that must be understood in a prop context is the percentage of revenue from the Mac line. This data point has not been accurate since 2012, when they made Pro hardware products that consumers WANT and NEED and wasn’t 1,000+ days old. No one I know would buy a pro machine, unless they desperately needed it, since 2013. Especially when that machine had 4 year old configs with a price that is WAY out of FAIR to the consumer. THAT is why the Mac sales are low. That is a FACT!!!!!!
    I can’t wait for dumb surprise earnings call when Apple sounds all surprised when Mac sales did really well, AFTER they release NEW machines. Just plainly clueless.

    While I can complain all day about this, I need your help to get this petition to remove him higher and higher so it’ starts getting some attention. I want to have a face to face with Tim and call him out on his bulls###. As a CEO myself for 14 corporations, I understand how to manage people, projects and get things DONE! and I am DONE with Pipeline Tim Cook

    Sign this please

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