As it might have caught the senses of Apple watchers, a number of sites have been discussing, and recently posting detailed information on, how to circumvent the security protocols built into OS X, making it possible to install and boot OS X on non-Apple, Intel based, hardware.
Well, Apple has taken legal action against these sites, claiming that they’re violating the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), by even publishing links to circumvention techniques.
So why is Apple so protective, wouldn’t it be better if Apple started to offer OS X to everyone?
I believe that there are many reasons why Apple has chosen this policy. In my opinion, the main reason is, that such a move could compromise the stability of the platform. One of the reasons Windows is less stable than OS X, is the fact that there is a limited number of possible hardware configurations where OS X runs.
This is a stark contrast to the Windows pc world, where there’s a virtually unlimited choice of hardware configurations, making testing a nightmare. Microsoft must have a huge test lab, where Windows is being tested on 100s of different hardware configurations, in order to ensure compatibility. This must be extremely expensive for Microsoft to maintain. I think that this kind of nightmare scenario is something that Apple wants to avoid at all costs.
Another point is that it would hurt Apples freedom to innovate. There are some clear benefits in having full control of the hardware and the software platform, one of them is that it is easy for the hardware designers, to contact the system software developers, if they need to have system level support of cool new hardware features. Microsoft, on the other hand, is forced to validate that a system level upgrade in Windows, will work across millions of different hardware configurations.
Others have hinted that the reason Apple doesn’t want to go head to head with Microsoft in an OS war, is the fact that Apple depends on Microsoft to supply Office and VirtualPC for OS X. It’s an interesting fact that Apple still hasn’t added a spreadsheet program to the iWork suite, something that would make iWork a direct competitor to Microsoft Office. Is Apple simply too snug with Microsoft? The main benefit for Apple in letting OS X loose, is that it would create a much bigger market for the high-end Apple branded applications. For now Apple is clearly not in a hurry to let OS X loose, but they’re in an enviable position, having the freedom to do so at any time. If OS X is the superior operating system Apple claims, why not prove it in a head to head battle with Windows Vista.
What’s potentially more interesting than OS X running on generic Intel pc hardware, is the fact that the new MacIntel hardware, will be able to run all major operating systems (Windows (Vista – it’s highly doubtful that XP will run), Linux and OS X) on the market. I’m convinced that there will be substantial demand for Windows Vista on Apple hardware, and I’m of the opinion that Apple should actively support giving their users this option.
However…The operating system really is too important to humanity, to be left to commercial companies with highly political agendas. I’m of the opinion that the operating system should be free, and controlled by an international consortium instead. Does such an alternative exist? I believe so, and it’s Linux! The Ubuntu Linux distribution runs fine on my PowerBook G4 12″, as well as on a generic pc, and I find the Gnome desktop environment nicer than Windows XP, especially considering the price. With the endless postponements of Windows Vista, there’s no better time than now, to make Microsoft feel the heat. Competition is great, and Windows needs it, unfortunately it doesn’t seem like it will come from OS X.
A final note:
Now that OS X is available for Intel, Apple actually has the option to exit the computer hardware business all together, and shift their focus to software and gadgets. The shift to Intel has, so far, been a small evolutionary step, and the high-end PowerBook/MacBook Pro laptop design is showing it’s age, and the competition is catching up. It might prove too expensive for Apple to produce a next generation of laptops.
But Apple…I really hope that you’ll prove me wrong, and come out with an innovative new laptop design. Think Different – I don’t want a TabletPC!