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John Dvorak: Apple Needs to Make OS X Open-Source

John C Dvorak is bang on the money with his examination of the current OS X/BootCamp state-of-play:

The Boot Camp product is pure test marketing. It’s so obviously test marketing that it’s hard to believe that people are foolish enough to get worked up about it. You watch a test-marketing scheme to see the results. You use the results to make predictions. We do not have enough results yet to determine what’s going to happen next. The test-marketing scheme is likely to be carefully orchestrated and segmented as follows:

Step 1: Testing for level of interest. Will this initiative … increase or reduce [Apple] computer hardware sales?

Step 2: Determining functionality without risk. Does Windows works well on Mac hardware, or not?

Step 3: Blowback analysis. Apple needs to analyze the reaction to Windows on a Mac. … In other words, can the community at large live with the idea of Windows running on a Mac?

He goes on to suggest that the next ‘test’ will be getting OS X on ‘non-apple’ X86 architecture (Dells, etc). I think he’s right that it will happen – after all there’s nothing physically limiting OS X running on non-Apple hardware other than the software being programmed to prevent it. Apple can supply it at a hefty premium to compensate for the loss of revenue on the hardware sale (and there are still loads of people who will continue to buy the shiney silver Apple hardware, regardless).

However, I’m not sure whether OS X will be Open Sourced as part of the process. For a start, if an Open Source OS X was to run on my Dell, where would the revenue stream occur for Apple? I’ve not bought any Apple hardware, and there’s no reason for me to buy any further Apple software (like iLife, iWork, etc) or Apple services (.mac, etc).

Sure, Apple might suddenly gain massive critical mass, but if it’s with zero-revenue then the benefits are small – bearing in mind Apple is a commercial company with shareholders, etc. I’m mindful there are other commercial vendors that offer Open Source software – IBM, Sun, etc – but these are enterprise-orientated companies that are geared around revenue streams from consultancy and hardware sales.

Regardless of what happens, one thing is for certain: With the news that less than 50% of computers are “Vista Ready” and XP becoming pretty long in the tooth, the launch of Microsoft’s new OS in Feb 2007 is a great opportunity for Apple, Google and anyone else making an Operating System to offer a viable alternative to the millions and millions of computer owners for whom Vista is simply a distant view.

(Check out this alternative view to Dvorak)

What do you think about an OS (Open Source) OS X?

Published in Thoughts and Rants


  1. there’s a strong case for Apple to base their offering around peripheral services that ‘enable’ you to ‘play’ – music [itunes], movies [imovie], stills [iphoto] and to get invoved in making those services default and partner with peripheral hardware manufacturers like motorola, nikon whoever to provide better ways to access and utilise those services. in that sense the OS is just a more pleasant, easier, environment in which to do stuff and is give away as a means to market the peripheral stuff. they are the intermediaries, the enablers, between the ‘hardware’ and the ‘practice’.

  2. Jim Jim

    Open source OS X will never happen. Apple have zero monetary reason to do this. OS X for a standard PC, more than likely and if not there are hacked versions floating around (osxproject).

    My wish, someone creating an Apple Type UI for linux. It has to happen, that along with a standard installation for programs would take linux in the real joe public OS arena. Linux has been screaming for this for so long. Just because Gnome and KDE are the current kings doesnt mean that they should remain that way. They lack the finishing touches and design which makes a “complete” normal user OS.

  3. Bob Thedino Bob Thedino

    Last year 85% of Apple’s $14bn revenue was from *hardware*. Their software products and services are principally to drive hardware sales (Macs, iPods, etc.) which is where they make their money. Allowing Mac OS X to run on any old PC will seriously dent Apple’s revenues, so they won’t do it. (This is basically what Jon Gruber said!) Dvorak seems like a bit of a fool…

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