9/3/08
10:51 am

Apple Clone Wars

A lot of tech journalists this week are talking about computer maker Psystar’s counter lawsuit against Apple. Psystar has been making and selling Mac clones for a few months now. They put together standard PC parts and install Mac OS X on it. The only problem being that Apple doesn’t allow Mac OS X to be installed on non-Mac computers, according to the license.
So it was only a matter of time before Apple sued to stop Psystar. What’s interesting is that Psystar is fighting back by claiming that Apple has created an illegal monopoly by insisting that Mac OS X only gets to run on Apple-made hardware.
So this brings up the question: Why doesn’t Apple like Psystar and other manufacturers install OS X on their machines? After all, it is a sale for Apple.
Apple did do this for a while in the 90s. And it didn’t help Apple much at all. Those clones were a little cheaper, but quality was an issue. Steve Jobs put a stop to it as soon as he returned to Apple.
I think quality is again the issue. OS X has an advantage over Windows. Windows needs to know how to run on a lot of different hardware configurations: processors, video cards, sound cards, motherboards, buses, etc. But OS X only needs to run using a very finite set of these things. This allows Apple to spend less time getting OS X to work on every possible configuration, and more time getting it to work well on the configurations that they know and control.
I think the plan is to make sure that OS X is a good experience for users, wherever OS X runs. ANd if it is allowed to run on non-Apple hardware, then Apple looses control over that experience.
I think the guys at Apple are smart and have run the numbers. They see they can make a little more by selling OS X to other manufacturers, but that they will loose customer satisfaction in the long run.
I don’t see a monopoly here, I see the opposite. You can choose between Windows, OS X and Linux. The first is a general operating system not tied to hardware. The second is an OS that is built for specific hardware. The third is an open source solution that can be adapted to fit a need. The market has produced three different operating systems that are distinctly different, and yet all allow you to person the same basic tasks on a personal computer.