By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2005-06-10 Print this article Print

When people talk about moving to Apple and talk about the problems that they expect the Mac to solve—the Mac is less virus-prone, its easier to use, it provides a friendly portal to Unix and open source—theyre talking not about Apple hardware, but about OS X. What about the much-vaunted, unified hardware and software experience on which Apple hangs its hat? Apple will bill its own systems as the truest path to the full Macintosh experience, and Apple-built machines will remain among the prettiest and best-put-together computers you can find. Whether or not things "just work," however, will depend less on a potential OS X hosts origins (theyre all made from the same parts, anyway) or on the shape of its case, and more on whether OS X drivers are available of the machines parts.
As Linux distributions (with which I now frequently experience better out-of-the-box hardware support than I do with Windows) have demonstrated, driver demand, even from a small slice of the market, has a way of filling in HCL gaps with surprising efficiency.
Will the Pentium M become the next Apple core? Click here to read more. While OS X will run most seamlessly on Apple-built machines, Apple can ensure good hardware compatibility in the same way that every other OS vendor does—through a hardware compatibility list. Finally, you may be thinking that an unbundled OS X would kill off Apples hardware business, and that the Steve Jobs who closed down the clones once before wouldnt allow new ones to spawn. In my opinion, the move to extinguish the PowerPC clones was less a repudiation of the Mac clone concept than a necessary first move to wean Mac users away from PowerPC all together. By making Apple the sole supplier of PowerPC Macs, Jobs freed Apple to make a cleaner break from the architecture, on a time table of his choosing. As for x86 white-box cannibalism, I contend that the same people whove gone out of their way so far to buy Apple-built systems will continue to do so, and that Apples industrial design strengths will keep the companys hardware in demand despite the availability of white-box Macs. The fact that companies and individuals will have the option of standardizing on the excellent OS X platform without having to buy 100 percent Apple-built machines will actually open the doors wider for Apple hardware, because a move to Mac will no longer require throwing away the hardware that companies and individuals already own, and the OEM relationships that buyers have already formed. If Im correct, why is Apple denying it? After the keynote, Phil Schiller said that, although Apple will do nothing to prevent users from running Windows on Apple boxes, Apple would not allow OS X to be run on non-Apple machines. Apple needs to deny its plans to unbundle in order to give itself the head start it needs to ramp up its Intel box production, and to prepare developers to enter the wider x86 world. Until Apple has readied its own x86 offerings, it needs the promise that only Apple hardware will run the flashy and cool OS X to keep people from buying boxes from Dell or other vendors that are already ramped up to produce rival systems. For the longer term, however, Steve & Co. are too smart to allow protectionist attitudes toward one part of their product line to retard sales of another—thats the sort of "strategery" that prevented a Sony too focused on shielding its content properties from the digital age from delivering consumers a worthy, MP3-playing heir to the Walkman—thereby leaving open the door to the now-dominant iPod. Perhaps second to the iPod, OS X is Apples hottest commodity, and millions await the chance to pay Apple $130 every year and a half for it. Now that OS X is queued up to launch on x86, The Steve is way too smart to clip its wings—I guarantee. eWEEK Labs Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on Apple in the enterprise.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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