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Has the time come for Apple to open up?

by on16 April 2008


Psystar’s OpenMac could be a sign

Apple has always resisted attempts by others to release hardware clones of its computers. While they did dabble with some licensed hardware clones in the distant past, they never really fully embraced the possibility of having someone other than Apple make the hardware that their OS and products run on. When they switched to the Intel processor, things became much easier for enterprising individuals to get Apple’s OS X running on non-Apple hardware.

Psystar’s announcement of the $399 OpenMac clone offers close to the same hardware as that found in a $2,000 Mac for a lot less. Of course, the news didn’t get by Apple, which, of course, is going to challenge Psystar for violating its end user license agreement for OS X. The terms of the OS X EULA prohibit the sale or use of OS X on a computer without its consent.

Apple has continued to come under fire for what some describe, as its continued closed-mindedness when it comes to opening its architecture up for third-party development. We have seen this before with the iPhone, iTunes, and of course, OS X on any equipment other than Apple’s own. Apple seems to think that it is about protecting its intellectual property and technology, but does it really just boil down to money and control?

If you own it all and control it all, then you are the only game in town. Some might argue that this has contributed to Apple having better products because it doesn’t have to support third-party efforts that can sometimes lead to a lot of headaches. (Just ask Microsoft about all of the headaches that they have had over the years with Windows, due to nothing more than a bad third-party driver!)

With Windows XP coming to an end in June, Apple does have a huge possible opportunity that could turn the industry on its head. Imagine if you will, that Apple announces that it will make OS X available to anyone that wants to load it on an X86-based system that meets its defined compatibility requirements. Would a lot of people jump ship from Windows and switch to OS X? They just might. As an alternative, maybe Apple does not release the latest version for this crowd, but offers a dubbed-down version and saves the best version of the OS just for its own hardware.

We think the industry would be shocked at the sheer number of users who would gladly abandon Windows for a chance to be able to run OS X on their PCs. The catch is that OS X, even though it runs on X86 processors now, does not offer the large amount of software applications that are available for the PC.

While home users and enthusiasts would be excited about the prospect of being able to run OS X on their PCs, business users would have a tough time porting the large amount of business applications written for Windows over to OS X. While you could use Parallels or even a multi-boot configuration to offer access to those Windows applications, the reality of the matter is that most Average Joe computer users would require at least some training to understand how to make it all work.

The ongoing biggest argument that as PC users we continue to hear about Apple and Apple hardware is that it costs too much. If you look at Apple’s hardware dollar for dollar, it is obvious there is a lot of truth to this. Psystar makes this point even more obvious with their OpenMac systems, which cost just a fraction of what a real Apple Mac does.

Apple has made some strides over the years with attempts to bring its prices down, and they have been successful in doing it with products like the Mac Mini, which is a great introductory experience for users who want to get their feet wet and see what the Mac experience is like; however, the system isn’t really expandable and does not offer the horse power necessary to handle some tasks. Of course, it really is not targeted to do so, but when you compare it to what you could get from Psystar or even build yourself, you have to consider that Apple is more than just a little greedy.

Engineering and design can go a long way, but when Apple expects consumers to pay sometimes double or even triple just to get the “Apple experience,” we have to wonder why they just don’t license a lot of their technology and open up to the idea that they could dominate if they were not so greedy.

We are the first to admit that Apple designs a lot of great products, and we even own a few, but the fact remains that Apple could be on the brink of something big if they were given a little push. Imagine if Dell were to start selling its own line of OS X Dell systems? Maybe Psystar isn’t the right partner, but licensing at least some of the technology could provide a potential revenue stream that far exceeds much of what they are doing now.

Last modified on 16 April 2008
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