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.

36 Comments

    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 ?

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