Will Apple Go All In?

by Chris Seibold Nov 14, 2005

Mac fans desperately want a major Apple win. The tough part of wanting a Mac win is knowing just who the competition is. In the past the major opponents were: Dell, Microsoft and Intel. Obviously, Intel is off the list of companies that should be rent asunder so that leaves Dell or Microsoft. Microsoft is hated by Mac fans because of the widespread, and mostly true, notion that they ripped the Windows interface straight from the original Mac OS. Dell is despised because they sell mounds and mounds of computers. Mac fans in general would like to see both companies reduced to smoldering heaps but, if pressed to choose, most would opt for the burnination of Microsoft over Apple. Here it should be noted that yearning for others to fail isn’t nearly as healthy as hoping for your team to succeed but wishing ill on the competition, unfortunately, seems to be a fact of life.

At this point it is necessary to address Apple’s recent patent filing. The request for patent outlines a method whereby a user could specify three operating systems for the computer to use when booted. For example, you could choose OS X, then Linux then Windows or any combination thereof (OS 9 did not make the cut). It must be noted that this is just a patent filing so reading too much into the legal maneuvering could be an unproductive exercise, after all people will patent about anything if they think it could possibly make a buck down the road. With the idea firmly in mind that there is every chance we are wasting our time let us look a little harder at the issue and see who are the likely winners and losers if the Apple patent is implemented.

Microsoft, as always, wins big. Microsoft winning is no surprise, those guys never lose because they never quit. The reason they win in this case is because to get full operating system functionality you’ll have to pony up for a copy of Windows. Exact profit margins are hard to come by but it would be one of the safest wagers of all time if you gamble that the profit on a copy Windows sold by your local retailer is substantial. So, to Microsoft, the notion of a multi boot Mac must be pretty exciting, they suddenly have access to a market which they never had access to before.

Is the news better for Mac fans that wish to see Dell go the way of Gateway 2000? While the bad news about Dell will likely continue with or without the introduction of multi OSed Macs (there are just so many computers you can sell after all), it won’t be because of new machines introduced by Apple. If you look at what Dell is best at you’ll note they are very good in an area where Apple is performs extremely poorly (perhaps purposely): selling computers that seem to cost next to nothing. That won’t change, people who buy cheap Dells will continue to buy cheap Dells particularly when faced with the knowledge that their Mac purchase will entail an additional purchase of a copy of Windows OS. However, Apple could put a dent into Dell’s recent foray into stylish computers… Uh, scratch that, upon review, Dell and stylish go together like bleach and ammonia.

Even though Dell and Microsoft will likely initially emerge from the Intel switch unscathed or improved there is a hard to resist feeling that Apple is going to pick up a passel of sales from somewhere. They’ll be producing a machine that can run any semi popular operating system and a machine like that will certainly, one would think, be more appealing to the technically aware masses than a computer that is locked into a single (or dual) operating system. Honestly, it seems like a no brainer: if you want to run Mac OS X and Windows you’d be foolish not to pay the moderate premium for a Mac that can accommodate your needs! There will likely be a bump in sales of the new Macs and people will glom onto the sales spike as proof positive that the Mac is ready to retake lost ground and, possibly, a whole lot more. That is the happy scenario; in the gloomy scenario the artificial sales spike is the beginning of the end.

How could a machine that features greater platform utility be either the salvation or long awaited deathblow for Macs? While the scenarios seem diametrically opposed, the answer is simple: It all depends on laziness and parsimony. The notion of seamless multibooting is fine on the surface but requires a lot out the user. Imagine a user who wishes to use AutoCad on the new Intel powered Macs but wants to use OS X for internet connectivity because of security concerns. In the multi boot scenario the user will have to quit AutoCAD and restart the computer just to jump on the net. That behavior isn’t likely to last, soon they’ll be using that computer only with Windows. Admittedly, that is an extreme case but think of all the software that requires Windows that any switcher will likely bring with them. They’ll buy the computer with intentions to go OS X but in the end, most of them will just stay with Windows. Once someone decides to just stick with Windows the allure of the multi boot Mac is gone, the next computer they buy will be a Windows box. As comforting as it might be to think that even short exposure to the vaunted Mac ease of use will convert users en masse history does not bear this notion out. Apple has produced DOS compatible Macs before and they were, predictably, great sellers but users spent all their time in the Windows environment so repeat business was less than stellar.

Basing Apple’s failure on the laziness and aversion to adaptability of previous Windows users neglects the cheapness factor. People generally don’t like to spend money on computers but they positively loathe spending money on programs. Apple has a clear advantage in this case. You can do a lot with a Mac straight out of the box using only Apple applications. So while the switcher may intend to get around to buying a copy of Windows it will likely be the case that before the part with the cash they decide they can live with what Apple gives them with the price of admission. Or, put more succinctly, laziness works both ways.

Multiboot boxes would be a huge gamble for Apple, made possible only by the success of the iPod. Still the bet wouldn’t be the equivalent of a string of numbers on a lottery ticket, the wager is more along the lines of going all in with a pair of jacks. There are many ways to lose that hand but there is a decent chance of winning as well. The strategy, if followed, is well founded even if it results in an ultimate failure. If the goal is retaking a significant segment of the computer market Apple’s bold moves are required.


  • If Apple included a native program to run Windows, sort of like vpc or x window, on the OS X desktop, that will take away the need of setting up a dual boot machine. That would avoid the above scenario. You do require a decent box to do this, but with Apple’s standard specs, that shouldn’t be a problem. Just add lots of ram.

    dleboubon had this to say on Nov 15, 2005 Posts: 17
  • Apple shouldn’t include windows standard. As long as they prepare the OS to support VM at a base level they’ll be fine.  Apple doesn’t need to instantly become Microsoft’s biggest reseller. Companies like VMware and Xen will get around to bringing their virtualization programs over to OS X now that the hardware is the common denominator.

    Dual Boot is slow and crude. Intel just announced the Pentium 4 662 and 672 processors with Vanderpool hardware virtualization support. Future versions of PCI Express will support Virtualization down to the I/O.

    We need to stop thinking of computers in terms of OS/Hardware platform linkages but rather OS is going to be distinct from the hardware and you’ll be able to use the best of OS X, Linux and Windows simulataneously.

    In 2008 your high end desktop configuration will be SMP 4 core processors. Thus you’ll have 8 total cores. Perfect for running multiple operating systems simultaneously.

    Combine that with the proliferation of FB-DIMMs that will support huge amounts of serialized DRAM modules and you have a recipe for a true supercomputer in every home.

    hmurchison had this to say on Nov 15, 2005 Posts: 145
  • The only way I was able to buy a Mac was the ability to use Windows under VPC.  I had to be able to demo a small Win only app and VPC took care of that - even if it was a bit slow (we’re talking a 667 PB here).

    I believe that MS will be developing a new version of VPC that will be far faster than the current version and allow Windows to fun at almost full speed.  The dual core Macs will be more than fast enough for those that want to run both and it is faster switching to VPC based Win that a dual boot approach.

    There is also the ability to isolate Win from the internet under VPC, keeping the computer safe.  In this situation only the Mac has access to the internet.  That’s the approach I’ve taken.  I’m now on a 1.5 PB, the current VPC and 2000 Pro and it’s working fine for me.

    MacKen had this to say on Nov 15, 2005 Posts: 88
  • Apple’s patent implies running the extra OSes in “virtural” mode, avoiding the need to reboot.  You would also be able to keep their running applications alive.  This will make instantaneous use of the different OS applications.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the data could also be transfered to an appropriate application named by the dominant OS as “associated” with the data type.

    This capability will, no doubt, be enhanced by dual processors, allowing background tasks to run on one OS while you’re working with an application of the other.

    I’ve been using Autocad on my Mac for years after they abandoned their Mac version.  The new machines are going to make things much more productive for me.

    REB had this to say on Nov 15, 2005 Posts: 8
  • Skipping ahead… I never once thought Apple showed intentions of including Windows as a standard software feature on a Mac. That would be un-Apple on so many levels.

    My understanding of this multi-OS patent was to allow multiple OSes on one machine, on one drive, on one partition. For some reason, I also got the feeling it meant they could all run simultaneously. Think about it. I’ve heard rumors of trying to find a way to get the Intel Macs to handle AltiVec (which is sort of OT, but it’s a nice backwards compatibility thought), OpenDarwin.org is working on Darwine (if you don’t know about OpenDarwin.org or WINE, do some homework), and Linux is just Linux (you can’t hate it, no matter how much you try).

    Imagine being able to run all three major operating systems at once, each protected from the other in terms of applications and system resources (but files could be inter-OS-able)... I think that should be a next step in computer development. If I had Linux on my Mac now, I’d either only use it, or never use it, because rebooting to switch OSes is LAME.

    Waa had this to say on Nov 15, 2005 Posts: 110
  • I’m confident it would be implemented in the same way as user switching.

    Would be very interesting the results if everyone had Mac OS X, Windows and Linux at their hands to startup as easy as. Even I think I would log into Windows occasionally to try Win only programs. I think it would be quite weird…

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Nov 15, 2005 Posts: 299
  • Pardon me, but I still believe that the key to Apple gaining some ground and truly having a chance to win isn’t opening the hardware up to other OS’s, but opening OS X up to be able to be used on other hardware setups.

    Let me paint a picture: You’re a Dell, Gateway, VAIO, ThinkPad user and one day while walking around in your local computer retailer you see rows and rows of a black box with a big, metal simulated X. Hmmm? Apple OS X 10.5? You hear so many of your artsy friends talking about how easy it is to use OS X and how much better applications look on OS X and on and on and on. So you decide to plunk down the $199.99 for the thing so that you can take it home and try it out. And lo and behold, a month later, akk you;ve been using since you bought it is OS X.

    The above scenario gives several benefits:
    A) Allows users to experience the OS X experience without having to learn a new hardware achitechture (meaning different keyboard layout, etc.)
    B) Apple gains a bigger market share and a higher profit margin based off of sales of the OS while not losing any ground on hardware sales because Apple machines are made for users who rely on more robust machines than any of the previous manufactures except Alienware or Sony are able to provide.
    C) Application developers who previously never ported the Apps to the OS X platform now realize that they should or they’ll miss out on the additional sales market.

    I know you’re also noticing that in the scenario that OS X is priced at $199.99 instead of the usual $130.00 that we Apple users are used to. The reason: The money to pay for the extra development to port OS X to x86 achitecture that has only used Windows, Linux or Solaris has to come from somewhere. And honestly, let’s face it: I’d rather pay $200.00 for an OS that works ALL THE TIME than damn near $400.00 for an OS that only works SOMETIMES. So there you have it: A win-win strategy if I ever saw one. What do you think?

    Frank 'viperteq' Young had this to say on Nov 15, 2005 Posts: 32
  • Viperteq, the subject of how much one would pay for Apple hardware was discussed in yesterday’s article where many an Apple user stated that he would buy other hardware for a certain price. The benefits of using third party hardware for power users, like expandability, were also taken into account.

    martunibo had this to say on Nov 15, 2005 Posts: 37
  • ” So you decide to plunk down the $199.99 for the thing so that you can take it home and try it out. “

    Never.  Gonna.  Happen.

    MOST people will never plunk down $199 for an OS if they already have one that came free with their PC.  Only geeks update their OS.  Most people just buy a new PC once theirs gets too slow.

    There’s a much better chance of getting Dell, HP and Sony to pre-install OSX.

    bomalley had this to say on Nov 16, 2005 Posts: 4
  • Apple will never endorse running other operating systems on their hardware.  Ever.  Why the hell would they make their own OS if they just said you could run whatever you wanted on it?  And if they truly thought it was the best OS in the world (as they do and should) why would they say, “but go ahead and run windows anyway?”  Apple is selling an experience, not hardware.  That experience is the sole product of the OS combined with the machine, separated neither will be worthwhile.

    Isaac Smith had this to say on Nov 16, 2005 Posts: 3
  • “There’s a much better chance of getting Dell, HP and Sony to pre-install OSX.”

    Bomalley, you’re absolutely right. And for some of you readers who checked out my post, I was referring to OS X, not the hardware. But Bomalley, you’re right: Having OS X pre-installed on an x86 machine would be a better scenario for ‘non-geeks’ to experience OS X. I couldn’t really see Dell going for it: I think MD would be to scared to piss off BG, but if Steve jobs could convince the people at SONY, Alienware and Toshiba (the three best desktop/laptop manufactures after Apple) to pre-install OS X and not charge them huge licensing fees then that would be the win-win situation. You think those three companies really want their machines using Windows? Hardly. SONY is more Microsoft’s competitor than partner and they already see themselves as makers of high end, advanced systems.

    How does that saying go? The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    Frank 'viperteq' Young had this to say on Nov 16, 2005 Posts: 32
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