Since Apple’s announcement to switch to x86, there has been an increase in talk about the possibility of Apple licensing OS X to other PC manufacturers. The discussion came to a head today, when Fortune published a story quoting Michael Dell, former Dell Computer CEO (current Chairman of the Board), as saying “If Apple decides to open the Mac OS to others, we would be happy to offer it to our customers.” This is the first time a major PC manufacturer has expressed public interest in licensing OS X. I, for one, would be devastated to see Apple license OS X and let it run on such crappy hardware. I would go so far as to say that I would be utterly disappointed in Apple as a company. It just does not seem right, or logical to me for Apple to license OS X. One of the reasons OS X is so stable and reliable is that Apple has complete control over the hardware that OS X will run on. Thus, Apple software and hardware engineers can work together to find the best operating environment. If Apple were to let OS X run on just any old PC hardware, Apple’s ability to maintain quality control would disappear. In my opinion, Apple engineers and programmers should be spending their time working on new technologies for the OS and Apple hardware, not making sure that the OS will run on the every-day PC.

Read the Fortune article.



I think the whole point of buying an Apple now is largely about the beautiful machine that they have design, coupled with a rock-stable OS. (At least for my reason of buying a mac)

It’s it going to run on just about any biege box, then to me, Apple is only one half more unique than PC, not entirely.

Daniel Boyd

I know that Dells aren’t all that bad. I have used them in the past. I have had some bad experiences with some low-end Dell Optiplexes (especially those running Celerons), but I generally have had good expiences with the higher end Dell Dimensions that I’ve worked with. Incidentally, I don’t think Apple should ever release a PC running a Celeron. If they want cheaper processors, they should look to AMD, whose processors are equal to Intel in quality (I use them extensively on my custom-built computers) and are much cheaper.

The only benefit to Apple of putting their OS on a Dell as far as I can see is to try and get Mac OS X in front of previously unenlightened Dell customers. However, most PC users use PCs because they need to run Windows software. I just don’t see people buying a Dell with Mac OS if they wouldn’t buy an Apple with Mac OS. For PC users, hardware is hardware. There just isn’t that much difference between a Dell Dimension and an HP Pavilion. However, I believe consumers do think that Apple’s machines are a notch above those generic PCs.

For that reason, I think its even a bad idea to let Dell do the low-end stuff. The Mac Mini is great, and, since Pentiums and their chipsets are less expensive than the PowerPC counterparts, Apple should be able to continue delivering quality machines in the low-end market without the help of Dell.

As for the feasibility of porting linux drivers, I understand that there will be some difficulty involved, however, I urge you to not to underestimate the resolve and dorkiness of the open source community. Remember, these are the same people who spent time porting NetBSD to 68k — software which was used by all of three people (and I, unfortunately, was one of them ). They also more recently ported NetBSD and various flavors of Linux to PlayStation 2. When presented with the prospect of writing software that could actually potentially be useful to somebody, their ears should really start to perk up.



It is not quite that easy. While OS X uses quite a bit from BSD the kernel is very different. So porting drovers is not quite that simple.

Also Dell does not make bad computers. They are not as good as the current Apple’s or ThinkPads perhaps but that does not make them bad.

Daniel Boyd

I am torn on this subject. I have always maintained a fairly up-to-date PC at my house out of necessity. Due to limited funding and the fact that I can upgrade individual components in my PC, (my Mac gets upgraded far more infrequently than the PC), my PC is frequently the fastest computer in my house.

I would install Mac OS X on my custom-built PC in a split second if I could. I would love it — especially if somebody comes out with a good version of Wine to run my Windows software.

On the other hand, I would absolutely cringe if Dell started shipping computers with Mac OS — that’s just wrong.

I agree with Chris Holland that Apple could insist on certain hardware requirements, but it wouldn’t be worth it to buy an expensive Dell running Mac OS X when you can buy an expensive Apple machine running Mac OS X already. Why would anyone want to pay lots of money for such an ugly black box? It would only make sense if Dell offered low-end machines, but that could hurt the OS stability.

What I would like to see, I guess, is Apple not officially licensing Mac OS X, but kind of turning their heads when power users like me install it on our own PCs. And, more importantly, Apple not going out of their way to make it difficult to install on normal PCs. We would know, of course, that Apple wouldn’t provide any support, but, hey, as power users, we can probably figure a lot of it out for ourselves.

Also, and I’m not a programmer, so I don’t know what all would be involved in this, but I would think that it wouldn’t be too difficult for existing open source hardware drivers for linux and bsd to be ported to Darwin and OS X. Darwin, of course, is just a BSD offshoot anyway. That way, we power users could run OS X — at our own risk — on non-Apple-approved hardware.

Frank Bruno

While it’s true that Apple does use hardware revenues to finance its software R&D, you have to wonder: how much of that is just because Apple has such a small market share?

Going back to the Siracusa formula above, we have to assume that Apple would ONLY license the OS if licensing revenues EXCEEDED hardware revenues. If that happened, then the point would be moot, because licensing revenues would have more than made up for the software R&D budget that used to be provided by hardwdare sales.


As to why MS charges $300 for windows… I have no idea.


That is a very good point. Steve Wozniak recently said in an interview that Apple had bascially become a monopoly, and no longer really holds quality above profits. He makes a good point that many of Apple’s recent business moves are more in the direction of bigger profits, and not neccisarily better systems.


With people getting excited about the possibility of getting cheaper computers to run Mac OS X, no one has stopped to realize that Apple is kind of subsidizing OS updates and other software like iLife because they make their primary profit off the machines. If they license their OS to other manufacturers, they may have to charge more for their software. So, instead of spending $130 on Leopard, you could be spending $300 — just like Windows.


But Dell has a foothold in many markets that Apple has no traction in.
In particular Government. The uptake would npt be immediate, if ever. But it is more likely for ig business and government to go with OS X if Dell were to offer it.

Another aspect that I feel is underestimated is warranty. Applecare leaves a lot to be desired. If Dell offered a laptop that was in the same price/feature range as the PowerBook I would choose the Dell in a heartbet. Why? Onsite, next business day repair.

Frank Bruno

Is it possible that our notion of x86 hardware is dated, especially vis-a-vis hardware incompatibility issues? If Apple, working with Intel (and this may be another reason they didn’t partner with AMD), developed a “Plug-and-play” spec, with very specific minimum hardware requirements, and a decent certification plan, there’s no reason to believe that the system wouldn’t be perfectly stable.

I like John Siracusa’s formula: take the number of geeks who try to run OS X on Intel hardware, multiply that number by the inverse of the ratio of geeks to normal folks in the world, multiply by the cost of an OS X license. If the resulting number is greater than Apple’s hardware revenue, then chances are Apple will license their OS!


Although Dell may make high end systems, I think that if people are going to spend that much on a computer to run OS X, there really isn’t a reason not to buy Apple

Chris Holland

Dell does make high-end systems, many of which are bought by professionals. Their “target audience” is *vast* and wide-ranging in nature. They heavily target corporate customers who are currently grapling with infected Windows machines that can’t be effectively locked-down. I’m sure there are plenty of IT managers who are jonesing to switch to OS X, but until now, couldn’t tell their superiors with a straight face that they wanted to switch everyone to Mac. Now they can tell them they’re switching them to different machines, built by a name they already know and trust, Dell that is, that runs a stronger operating system with UNIX underpinnings, which promotes security on shared workstations. BLAM.

All in all, i just don’t see Apple ever compromising the integrity of their operating System.


So? This post is marked as commentary. I don’t neccisarily have to agree with everything I link to! ;)

Chris Holland

by the way, what i just rambled on, is exactly what’s mentioned in the second half of the article you link to ;]


Its not an issue of x86 hardware, its an issue of Dell’s normal hardware quality. I’m sure Dell could make a suitable system, but I doubt the would, because the price would be prohibitive for their targeted consumer base.

Chris Holland

Now why do you assume that if Dell licenses OS X, it would, in fact, run on crappy hardware?

It is perfectly possible for Dell to build a system from scratch that will run Mac OS X flawlessly. All Apple has to do is say “listen, this is what we’re going to support, take it or leave it”. As things stand, Apple does not HAVE to spend a single more hour of engineering resources to allow Dell to ship OS X Machines. With the right specs, and that is the key, they likely already could.

From here, Dell could very well build a higher-end system that’ll run Mac OS X, it just wouldn’t sell for as cheap as your typical Windows PC.

Then it’s a matter of Dell figuring out whether or not it makes business sense for them to build and sell Mac OSX Compatible machines, which could also be “Mac OS X Certified Machines. Some of those machines could even ship with Windows XP, or even come pre-configured with both operating systems installed in dual-boot mode. This would weary switchers users to ease themselves into an OS X World.

Possibilities are endless.

I welcome all those developments as this can only help Mac OS X and Apple get more of the mindshare they deserve.

My main reason for switching from a Dell laptop to an Apple TiBook 400Mhz back in 2001 was, indeed Mac OS X. From here, all i care about hardware-wise, is that OS X runs flawlessly.

As Steve proved to us at the Keynote, and throughout the WWDC sessions, this is very-much achievable on X86 hardware.

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