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Should Apple licence OS X to Dell?

There was an interesting op-ed by Doug Mohney in The Inquirer yesterday, which suggested that the launch of Vista provides a good opportunity for Apple – if it licences OS X to Dell.

However, Vista is being beaten like a dead horse by the mass media – most of them already are enthralled to the God of Jobs if you read between the lines, so Microsoft could make nuclear fusion work tomorrow and they’d give it a lukewarm review at best. The consensus view out of the babbling punditry is “Don’t buy Vista today, unless you have to buy a new computer tomorrow.”

On that front, I think the babbling pundits are right. Heh.

So what about Apple?

If Apple was serious, and I mean really serious, about gaining more PC market share, they’d realize they need to license/sell their operating system to another hardware manufacturer or two. Sure, Apple’s tried the license route before with mixed results, but it’s about time to bite the bullet, look into the mirror, and realize they should try something bold.

Apple should license their operating system to Dell.

Mohney isn’t suggesting that Apple should make OS X available to any PC user; the dangers of that (such as hardware incompatibilities or really crap machines ruining Apple’s reputation) have been talked to death for years. Rather, he’s suggesting that Apple could team up with a single PC manufacturing firm to make decent clones, expanding OS X’s market share without diluting the core Apple brand. It wouldn’t be an Apple Mac: it’d be a Dell Mac. Dell’s good at churning out PCs, so if Apple laid down strict criteria about what should and shouldn’t go into a clone you could get decent non-Apple Macs competing in different markets to Apple Macs. Does anyone really think Dell is capable of making something as sexy as a MacBook or as iconic as the iMac?

I’m sure Mohney will be inundated with angry emails, but I do wonder how many of the senders will have reacted similarly to suggestions a few years back that Macs should run Intel chips. I think his idea’s fascinating.

3 replies on “Should Apple licence OS X to Dell?”

No, it’s not fascinating (and not only because this kind of speculation is as old as the hills), it’s completely stupid and ignorant.

Apple make their money from selling hardware. The number of people buying OS system upgrades does not even nearly cover the cost of developing them; what on earth would Apple stand to gain from letting Dell run OS X?

People who wanted Mac OS X would buy a £350 from Dell and not a £800 iMac from Apple. And the cloning in the 90s didn’t have “mixed results”: it was a complete fiasco. People bought the cheaper clones (and suffered for it later, admittedly) and Apple lost money hand over fist.

Apple posted their first $1billion profit this quarter and, according to Jobs at the Mac Expo, 50% of people buying Mac from the Apples Stores are “switchers”. What on earth would Apple have to gain by letting a PC manufacturer run OS X? Nothing: in fact, they’d have a lot to lose.

Microsoft makes its money from software, Apple makes its money from hardware.

And that’s why Mohney’s idea is completely stupid.

DK

Hey DK, long time no speak. I liked your blog post on this very subject.

And the cloning in the 90s didn’t have “mixed results”: it was a complete fiasco. People bought the cheaper clones (and suffered for it later, admittedly) and Apple lost money hand over fist.

Very true. But I still like the idea in a “what if Apple decided it wanted world domination and to crush Microsoft?” kinda way :)

Companies often do things that lose them money. Take TV ratings battles: the moment a TV station gets involved in a ratings battle with another station, they lose revenue. Yet they all do it. (I’m obviously not talking about the BBC here, who do it for no reason anyone can fathom.) The attraction is the thought of losing some money now but, in return, driving your competitor out of the market and making lots more money later. If Apple could figure out exactly the right amount to charge Dell (or whoever) for a license, they might decide to make that gamble. And they might not. But I don’t think it’s stupid to consider it. Especially given Apple’s track record of making really stupid business decisions and almost bankrupting themselves.

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