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Can Apple Truly Tie OS X Down?


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November 21, 2005

Can Apple Truly Tie OS X Down?

Arik Hesseldahl

Is the Apple computing experience one of software or hardware? It’s an old question that dates back to the platform’s earliest days. And since Apple first announced it was moving its platforms to systems based on Intel Microprocessors, Apple has taken pains to say that OS X will run only on Apple-manufactured hardware, not on commodity PCs from the likes of Dell, or HP or Toshiba or anyone else for that matter.

But that reads like a challenge to a certain kind of computer user. Call them what you will: hackers, hobbyists, enthusiasts, tinkerers or geeks. According to an item on the Web site OSX86project.org the latest version of OS X for the Intel platform, which is as yet available only to software developers, has been cracked in such a way that it can be installed on non-Apple hardware by someone using the screen name “Maxxuss.”

The timing isn’t good for Apple, because it’s widely expected to start introducing Intel-based notebooks – probably Intel-based iBook and iMacs – soon after the first of the year. And while by and large, most of the people inclined to use Mac OS X will also be inclined to do so on Apple hardware, there will always be folks who will want instead to run it on something else, thus costing Apple a the sale of a computer.

This is looks to me like its going to be a long-term cat-and-mouse game between Apple and legions of smart folks who won’t be able to accept the kinds of restrictions Apple intends to impose upon users of its operating system. I predict that once the Intel transition gets underway in earnest, we’ll be hearing much more about Apple’s efforts to shut down the efforts of people like Maxxuss, both through locking them out in software, and probably using lawyers too.

Or maybe not. Since there’s clearly a pent-up of some kind for the Mac OS on non-Apple hardware (Even Michael Dell has expressed an interest in selling PCs running Mac OS.) might it not be in Apple’s best interest over the long-term to get the OS in the hands of as many people as possible?

05:47 PM

MacIntel

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Do we have any idea on which Intel chip the upcoming Macs will be built around? I mean there are Intel chips and there are Intel chips. It is not inconceivable that Intel will be making a special chip that only will be sold to Apple and will the be the only chip on which the OS can be run. Everyone is assuming that the new Macs will be no different than the cheap WinTel boxes favored by the hoi poli, Apple is smarter than that.

Posted by: Fred C. Dobbs at November 21, 2005 06:11 PM

Well, at this point it can run on any system running a x86 processor, that be Intel or AMD.

It would also be a "stupid" way of a transition, only fucusing on lower watt processors, and not looking at the lower costs. If it was only in their (Apple's) interests to cut the watt consumtions, they would cut a deal with AMD too. My belief is that Intel has offered them a bigger discount on the processors than AMD, and therefor a better deal.

But time will show.

Posted by: Mars at November 22, 2005 03:40 AM

I aboslutely agree with the previous comment. Even with 5 or 4 or even 3 percent of the market, I don't see Apple buying of the shelf.

Posted by: Andrew Burke at November 22, 2005 04:19 AM

I think one way of screwing the transition is precisely that, locking users to the Mac hardware.

If Apple lets, and even encourages the informal use of Mac OS X, the only thing that can occur is that a lot more of people will be using it. People that won’t be able to use it otherwise, because they cannot afford a Mac. There are still many countries without a strong apple sales representation (I live in one, Mexico) and for normal folks getting a Mac is just plain impossible.

Posted by: Alfredo Cruz at November 22, 2005 10:59 AM

I would guess that Apple put the development Mactels out with a fairly open design and that the final versions will be a lot tighter. The benefit for Apple was that they got to see how hackers would try to break the security - and just how vulnerable they are.

My bet is that Apple's delivered products are going to be rather safe and the level of difficulty in hacking it will increase significantly.

Posted by: Ken at November 22, 2005 02:23 PM

Alfredo Cruz wrote: "If Apple lets, and even encourages the informal use of Mac OS X, the only thing that can occur is that a lot more of people will be using it."

Yeah-- and guess what, they won't be paying for it if they can avoid it, either.

You guys can't seem to get it through your heads that Apple's revenue comes from HARDWARE sales. If they open up OS X to run on any old x86 hardware, they'll have to charge more for it than the $129 they do now. Anyone who's using OS X now has paid Apple for a computer. When any knucklehead can fire up his BitTorrent client and get a free, cracked copy of OS X that will run on his non-Apple machine, what do you think that will do to Apple's income? It will plummet, because Apple won't be making money on the hardware sale, plus for every person who actually buys OS X for x86 probably 8-10 will pirate it. You can't dispute that when it's not even shipping yet and people already can't download and crack it fast enough to satisfy them.

Apple may indeed have a plan for a future, gradual transition to an all-software company, but chances are that will be ruined by all the idiots out there who want everything, but don't want to pay for anything.

Posted by: Michael Stango at November 22, 2005 03:52 PM

Um, even if the people using OS X on their own hardware have a purchase rate of 1 in 10, that's a LOT of software sales Apple are making that they just had no chance to make before at all.

I know a LOT of people who would love to use OS X rather than windows, but don't because they don't want to pay for Apple's stupid hardware prices.

And think of all the professional applications apple make that run on OS X, that people will probably start using.

Not as many people pirate software as you might think. The majority of software sales (as with most things) are to businesses.

Posted by: James at November 23, 2005 11:03 PM

While Apple may get a great deal of revenues from their hardware sales, as the poster above suggests, most of their PROFITS come from software sales. It costs much more to build and ship a computer than it costs to churn out software packages. That's why companies like Microsoft are willing to take a loss on their game machines. Besides, for the first time, most of their revenues come from iPod sales, not computer hardware.

Posted by: Brad Suchy at November 25, 2005 01:59 PM

Talking about security hacking of OS/X is beside the point. OS X is built at the core on the Unix kernel. Unix has been used by businesses for 30+ years and is rock solid and stable. Unix was designed from the beginning for corporate security which Windows was designed for ease of home use.

I'm sure there will be patches to run Windows dual-boot on Mac boxes, but I just don't see everyone and their sister running out to buy OS X to put on a Wintel machine. Part of the desire for Apple is the myth and design surrounding the product. Dell can't figure that out. No one can except apple. Dell could copy an apple machine down to each screw and it wouldn't sell anything like it would with an apple name.

Posted by: Wes at December 2, 2005 12:04 PM

[quote]

Part of the desire for Apple is the myth and design surrounding the product. Dell can't figure that out. No one can except apple. Dell could copy an apple machine down to each screw and it wouldn't sell anything like it would with an apple name.[/quote]

?

ho hum, except if it was at Dell price - which for comparative hardware specs would half of Apple price (is this why they got 20% of computer market?)

Posted by: MichelDell at December 5, 2005 08:41 AM

While not everyone and their sister might run out to buy a second OS for their computer, a lot of people do. And off-the-shelf Linux distributions are more expensive then MacOS currently sells for. Perhaps the first round of converts might be looking for a simpler Linux to install and use. Although I am a long time Mac user, I also use many of the *nix-stuff that comes with OSX.

A bit of caution is nessecary: I don't agree with how Microsoft operates, but the history of Windows is not a straight path. Assuming that ease of home use had any influence on it's design doesn't fit with what I know and I have been a developer for both MacOS and Windows since 1989.

I don't believe for a moment that price has much to do with marketshare. Ok, people are always looking for a bargain, but a lot of money is wasted because machines aren't used to their fullest potential or their weak construction require too early replacement. What I mean is this: a lot of people have at home equipment that can drive a small workgroup and their owners are more tinkering with installation then actually using them.

What I read from "switchers" is that although they feel that their machine isn't as fast/hasn't a huge harddisk/can use more RAM/should be compatible with more gadgets, that in spite of all those things, they actually start *using* a computer.

People seem to choose what they know and since many are exposed to Windows before they learn about the Macintosh, they seem to choose Windows. The current media coverage is hopefully changing how people look at the Macintosh.

I personally don't care if Apple can or should tie down their OS to their hardware. I just want Apple to profit from having many users. In the end. all I want is to do my job and for that a Macintosh just makes life a lot easier.

Posted by: Eddy at December 5, 2005 07:42 PM

The best thing to happen for Apple would be to let the Dells, HPs and other Intel vendors offer OS X bundled PCs,just like Microsoft has been doing sucessfully for a long while. Apple could then give Microsoft a stiff competition, which by the way is good for the Industry and consumers.

On the other hand,if it still insists on tying OS X to the proprietary Apple hardware, I don't foresee any great market share in the future, since the price would still be way above the Wintel PCs.

Posted by: Jgeo at January 11, 2006 04:34 PM

I totally agree with Jgeo. Apple should start by releasing a Geek OSx86 Box with an installed CD, an empty G5 case a slogan on the box: Build your own Intel Mac.

People have been building PCs for years. You don't see Dell or HP going out of business? Apple needs to expand and go after Linux and Build your own PC [switch to Mac] geeks.

Sincerely,

Goodtime

OSx86 Geek

Long time Mac user and buyer

Purchased: System 7, 8.0, 8.1, 8.5, 8.6, 9.0, 9.1, 9.2.2, 10.0 beta, 10.0, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, 10.4 and soon to be 10.5

Purchased over a dozen Macs, but now I am keeping my latest Macs, and adding a few PC Hackintoshes until I can afford an Intel Mac.

I would purchase the Intel Mac OS X if it was available to buy separately.

I wonder how much Money Apple is wasting on Copyprotection? How much of it will affect the Price of an already expensive Machine.

Come on Apple! Give the Geeks something to do LEGALLY!

Sincerely,

Goodtime

Posted by: Goodtime at February 18, 2006 12:50 AM

When you buy a Mac, you don't just buy hardware and you don't just buy software. When you buy a Mac you are also buying customer service.

A Dell might be cheaper, but you get what you pay for. Try calling Dell customer service. They'll blame the problem on the software. Talk to Microsoft, they'll blame the problem on the hardware. If you ever need to call Apple with a problem, they are intelligent, speak English fluently and don't pass the blame to another company.

Posted by: Noappleenvy at March 8, 2006 05:07 PM

I would guess that Apple put the development Mactels out with a fairly open design and that the final versions will be a lot tighter. The benefit for Apple was that they got to see how hackers would try to break the security - and just how vulnerable they are.

My bet is that Apple's delivered products are going to be rather safe and the level of difficulty in hacking it will increase significantly.

Posted by: ima at May 17, 2006 03:54 AM

Part of the stability advantage that Apple has over Windows and even Linux is that Apple controls the hardware configuration of each of it's systems from start to finish. Apple does not substitute one brand of DVD-ROM drive for another. For instance, if a business buys five Macs (all iBooks for example). All 5 machines are exactly the same configuration, all of them will have exactly the same brand and model of DVD-ROM/RW, etc drive. On Dell, HP, IBM, Gateway, eMachines, etc, if you order 5 laptops of exactly the same model and configuration, the first laptop might have a Sony branded DVD drive, the next will have a Toshiba brand DVD, the third will have a LITE-ON brand DVD, the fourth will have a Panasonic/Matsushita DVD, and the last laptop will have a Samsung DVD drive. This means that Windows or Linux needs to have a massive IDE controller driver database loaded upon boot. The iBook/MacBook does not need this. The fewer drivers in MacOS means the OS runs much leaner, using less memory and less potential for errant drivers to cause serious problems for the user. If Apple starts licensing OS X to third party CPU vendors, it will need to develop MacOS to have a massive driver database. This will lessen the stability of the system software and may compromise the quality of the user experience with MacOS.

Posted by: jmcj at June 18, 2006 09:42 PM

What I read from "switchers" is that although they feel that their machine isn't as fast/hasn't a huge harddisk/can use more RAM/should be compatible with more gadgets, that in spite of all those things, they actually start *using* a computer.

People seem to choose what they know and since many are exposed to Windows before they learn about the Macintosh, they seem to choose Windows. The current media coverage is hopefully changing how people look at the Macintosh.

Posted by: DM at July 2, 2006 01:36 PM

A bit of caution is nessecary: I don't agree with how Microsoft operates, but the history of Windows is not a straight path. Assuming that ease of home use had any influence on it's design doesn't fit with what I know and I have been a developer for both MacOS and Windows since 1989.

I don't believe for a moment that price has much to do with marketshare. Ok, people are always looking for a bargain, but a lot of money is wasted because machines aren't used to their fullest potential or their weak construction require too early replacement. What I mean is this: a lot of people have at home equipment that can drive a small workgroup and their owners are more tinkering with installation then actually using them.

Posted by: Bcetyt at August 13, 2006 08:04 AM


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