Mac OS X on Intel: Could it knock off Windows & Office?

by Tom Adelstein

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I'm a Linux advocate. I always want Linux to win. But, I refuse to lie to myself when it comes to Apple's potential with Mac OS X.

OS X for Intel would change the PC landscape like no other operating system has or could. Apple should open-source their operating system, port to Aqua and bundle it for Intel PC's.

Why? OS X is a stable and secure platform and offers the proprietary multi-media applications lacking in Linux. Reports of OS X for Intel indicate it performs well, has a great interface and provides a better overall experience than Windows. Some say the experience is vastly improved.

With Microsoft Vista barrowing heavily from the OS X look and feel, why wouldn't someone want the original? Apple could do a number of things with Aqua. Keep it proprietary and sell it, if you must. Or open it up and let the open source development community give users lots of great applications.

Sell Aqua for Linux and people would buy it in droves. Make a media player for it and you will sell that too. You have nothing but revenue looking you in the eyes.

Apple could continue to bundle OS X with their hardware and they would increase their hardware sales. Continue to offer high-end hardware solutions and Apple won't be able to keep up with demand. People will consider the value of OS X and purchase Apple hardware justifying the premium with the $300 software savings and the value of higher end hardware.

Make OEM deals that force the existing PC vendors to pay top prices for OS X. They'll pay you simply because they cannot afford to pass up the opportunity they would lose otherwise.

Would I spend more money for a great Apple computer? I already have. I bought a Cube when OS X was in beta.

We wanted the Studio Monitor, keyboard and mouse, sound system and the designer looks. Oh, the Cube eventually died, but we kept everything else, connected it to an Intel Pentium 4 box and run SUSE 10 on that system. Give me OS X and I'll install that without blinking.

My next purchase? A PowerBook with OS X. I'd then keep this IBM Thinkpad for emergencies and if I could, I'd dual book it with OS X and Linux.
What about Linux?

I would still run Linux where I could. I'd probably run it on Apple hardware. That's correct, I would buy an Apple Server and run Linux on it as my web service platform. If Red Hat ported their RHEL 5 to the Apple platform, that would be my solution.

Linux developers would have a chance to make some money porting 17,000 packages to OS X, servicing them and selling them. Because, enterprises would move to Apple within a moment's notice and without hesitation. Apple's eco-system would grow and Apple would prosper like never before.

In spite of Apple's proprietary stand, many Linux developers including Linus, have empathy for the Mac. Given the choice between an iBook and any Intel based Laptop, Apple usually wins. Given the opportunity to offer Apple, the channel would beg.

People use Windows begrudingly. They use Microsoft products because they have to use them. Give them an alternative and they switch.

Last week's rejection of Steve Job's offer to provide China with software for the MIT Children's Notebook should have opened some eyes. Even with the superior interface and the special applications, China chose to stay with Linux. It makes one wonder why isn't won't riding the horse in the direction it's going.

In the age of commodity hardware, Apple can adapt and win big.

You can digg this article.


2005-11-20 22:35:19
1) Linux applications are already being ported to Mac OS X.
2) You can already duel boot Mac and Linux (on Mac hardware).
3) The Mac OS X kernel, Darwin, is already open source.
4) If I had the choice between Apple and Linux, I would choose Apple. (I run FreeBSD on my servers).
2005-11-20 23:30:34
What about Mac sales?
I find it odd that whenever someone suggests that Apple make Mac OS X for Intel available for generic PCs, they never address Apple's Mac business, which produces about 70% of its revenue.

That doesn't make any sense.

2005-11-21 00:11:11
MacTel VS WinTel
Come on now. With the switch to Intel chips on the Mac platform, we're going to see that it's not the processor that was slowing down the operating system, but the software. As Mac hardware drops in price (and boot helpers allow for people to break through Apple/Intel DRM hardware system), Apple will finally crack and allow other companies to clone the Macintosh once again. You'll see HP/Compaq Macintosh, Dell Macintosh, even AlienWare Macintosh machines that not only run faster with the new OS than they would with Windows Vista, but will show Apple that software sales can rake in as much revenue as hardware sales when you have a larger installed base. When Microsoft realizes this and then figures out that a better platform is taking over their workplaces, maybe they'll finally learn that open-source is the future...

The only dissapointment I have is that I've been a huge PPC fanboy for the last couple of years. My G3's and G4's still run circles around friends WinXP-based 2 Ghz machines, and there's really no comparison between My iMac G5 and some of their so-called "gaming" systems when it comes to most day-to-day operations (there's no reason why Word should take 6 or 7 seconds to load on a 3.6 pentium or amd 4000+, and only 2 to load and 5 to be ready to go on an 2.1 G5.) The sad part is that Microsoft and Sony realize the potential of the PPC family of processors and, along with Nintendo that used a modified G3 chip in the GameCube, are all using 64-Bit PPC processors (970FX in both the 360 and Revolution, and the Cell in PS3).

So just to recap - MacTel good for Apple, bad for Microsoft.

2005-11-21 03:16:34
Broken Record
How many times are we going to have to see this same deeply flawed strategy proposed? Invariably the people rehashing the idea are those who can't face up to the fact that Linux as a desktop OS is never going to come anywhere near Mac OS X (or Windows for that matter).

Such a strategy will severely undermine Apple's hardware business and send the company into a tailspin as was demonstrated with the Mac Clone debacle.

To then suggest that Microsoft should opensource their wares is similarly ludicrous as that would have a massive negative impact on their bottom line.

The only people to benefit from your suggestions are the Linux camp. If they want Aqua and an Office beater on Linux then they will have to build it themselves.

2005-11-21 03:31:09

  1. Apple makes a lot of money off their Mac division, why give this money to licensees? When Apple licenses MacOS the first time the clones didn't expand Apple's market, they simply ate into Apple's Mac sales.

  2. Microsoft can and will undercut anyone trying to muscle in on their turf. They can afford to give Windows away to OEMs, Apple can't, neither can Red Hat or Sun.

  3. If Apple tries to compete directly with Microsoft you can kiss Office for the Mac goodbye. OpenOffice is still years away from being a true MS Office replacement. Without Office there's little chance for MacOS in the business market.

  4. People don't run Linux to buy things, no one is going to buy Aqua for Linux.

  5. Maintaining their OS on a septillion combinations of cheap PC hardware would cost Apple a lot of money, licensing fees and retail sales would struggle to break even, especially with the hardware division's collapse.

  6. Apple will have a terrible time getting third party hardware vendors on board. If they're not writing Mac or Linux drivers now, they won't later either. No one wants to lose their "Designed for Windows XP" badge or spend more money than they have to supporting their products.

2005-11-21 06:59:26
MacTel VS WinTel
I keep reading G3/G4 to Pentium comparisons like this and have never, ever seen them born out in the real world.

My P4 desktop smoked my G5 on Photoshop. World of Warcraft performance was absolutely horrible on my G5; my P4 barely studders walking through IronForge.

The Powerbook is a sad, sad story. I get very tired of the spinning pinwheel everytime I try to open a Finder window.

To suggest that Apple will license other hardware builders is usually more wish-fulfilment than based in fact. Jobs is an unrestrained control freak. He won't license FairPlay drm to other music stores; why the heck would he give away his Mac hardware business as well?

There is no real open-source future for Microsoft. Software licensing is their business model. It's more likely that you will see stripped down versions of their software (Visual Studio Express Editions being the current examples) given away free as the gateway to full-priced versions.

Apple has a very good opportunity ahead of it, but the way to exploit that opportunity is to do what they have done in recent years: continue to polish the hardware and the os, and continue to refine consumer and professional media applications. They could also devote some time and attention to actually understanding corporate markets, though I don't see this happening.

2005-11-21 07:16:07
So I have to say, I agree with the article (I rarely agree with the mac articles here because typically only have veiled criticisms, if any).

I run mac and linux and I just took apart my G5 dual processor monster and noticed that some of the hardware isn't that great. Yup, the ram, the hardrive, etc., corners were cut.

For the price of that machine, I could have (and am in the process of) built an AMD based machine (for those of you paying attention, AMD is winning a lot of the benchmarks, and has been for a while) with top of the line parts and with money left over for an extra gig of ram. preliminary bench marks show that the built machine blazes past the g5.

My point is that I would prefer to not be bound by the hardware as I don't think apple builds computers for me (numerical and scientific computing). as of right now, my office is switching to linux for the best bang for the buck.

2005-11-21 10:06:22
How does this work for Apple?
I can see why people think these are good ideas, but many of your arguments smack of not having much understanding of what really would be involved here, and of making the rather large assumption that "if Apple builds it, they will come, and that will be good for Apple". To be honest, I think this is more wishful thinking than a solid business plan. What Apple wants to know is, how much more will it cost them to do these things, and how many of these supposed new customers would pay for what they came up with?

First, Aqua is NOT just about pretty widgets. You can't just make a Aqua window manager for Linux and you're done. Apps on Mac get such rave reviews because they follow Apple's HIGs and stress good interface design. Something many OSS developers, unfortunately, don't do. Besides, Mac OS X is Unix, so why not make it easier for Win/Linux devs to create a Mac GUI rather than porting their crown jewels to Linux? Oh yeah, they bundle wxWidgets with OS X.... :-)

Second, Apple would much rather only test their software with 10-20 hardware configurations than 10,000+. The cost savings in this for Apple must be very significant, and now that MacIntel is coming out, you can use a Mac to dual-boot into Win or Linux, and no doubt software like VMWare will be appearing for Mac soon. Now that Apple has a $500 computer (which will probably still be that price when it goes Intel), is known for its quality hardware, and you'd pay $129 for the OS anyways, what's the point in not just getting an Apple?

Lastly, porting OOo to Aqua would be expensive and painful, and they probably wouldn't have much help from the folks at Sun. I even looked at the idea of a port to Aqua or a wxWidgets port, and after looking at the complexity of it, I can certainly see why Apple went with iWork instead. It will probably be cheaper and faster to write a new Office suite than it will to re-work the OOo code to work with Aqua and adhere to Apple HIGs, but most importantly, the result will assuredly be easier to maintain.

Besides, have you tried iWork? It's still 'young' and needs more features (I bet we'll see iWork 2 in Jan), but it provides great word processing/desktop publishing and presentation apps, which are clearly a cut above OOo. Again, strong interface design and focus on the user, rather than a focus on cloning MS Office. (Hint: Cloning something isn't the best way to remove its dominance. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as they say.)

The benefit of using Apple is about the experience, not the processor. You can't 'port' that experience to Linux distros, unless you get some real interface designers involved in the design of major apps. You also can't simply just say "make it work on any PC" and not expect tons of compatibility testing and bug fixing to be necessary. Now with Apple going to Intel, you can try Mac out without going cold turkey, which is going to only accelerate the number of people (and businesses) that adopt Apple computers.

If you want to see Windows and Office lose marketshare, buy OS X and iWork and start using those, encourage the development of cross-platform apps that work on Mac and Linux, or figure out a way to get the Linux development community to be able to replicate the experience OS X and its apps provide. If the Linux desktop experience is to get better, it needs Linux developers to make it better, not a helping hand from Apple.

2005-11-21 10:53:07
An appropriate framework is available
"Apple could do a number of things with Aqua. Keep it proprietary and sell it, if you must. Or open it up and let the open source development community give users lots of great applications."

If Objective C is the lure here, a framework leveraging that is already available and, yes, it will run on Linux:

But almost no-one uses it, and consequently there's no flood of great applications.

2005-11-21 11:12:22
What about Mac sales?
Agreed. One might as well suggest that Apple renounce all worldly goods and join a Buddhist monastery.
2005-11-21 17:36:58
If Apple tries to compete directly with Microsoft you can kiss Office for the Mac goodbye. OpenOffice is still years away from being a true MS Office replacement. Without Office there's little chance for MacOS in the business market.

Do it right now, 3 years and Microsoft will see competition coming on Windows with new great software to compete their office. It's just what it's need. Cut it. Microsoft know it, i'm sure.