10 Scenarios That Could Make Apple License Mac OS X

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-11-16 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Apple might be a hardware company that turns big profits on computers and gadgets, but that doesn't mean that issues won't arise forcing it to license Mac OS X. Change is constant in the computer industry and even Apple can't say it will never change its mind about retaining exclusive control of the Mac OS platform.

Now that Apple has won an important legal battle with Psystar, the company is on top of the world. It not only has some of the most coveted hardware in the tech industry, it might soon have the right to stop any and all companies that want to install its operating system in their own computers. It's a highly valuable ruling to have. It ensures that going forward, only Apple will be able to decide if Mac OS X should be featured on another company's hardware.

Of course, the chances of that happening are slim. Through its actions and the comments of its executives, the company has made it abundantly clear that it has no intention of licensing Mac OS X right now. Apple believes that Mac OS X is a key reason why it has enjoyed so much success over the past few years. It's hard to argue with Apple when one considers its financial performance.

But that doesn't mean that it will stay this way forever. The tech industry changes rapidly. Quite a bit can happen. And in the meantime, it could cause Apple to rethink its position on licensing Mac OS X. So let's take a look at some scenarios that might cause Apple to license its operating system.

1. Apple Hardware Sales Plummet

One of the most likely ways Apple would consider licensing Mac OS X would stem from a steep decline in hardware sales. For now, Apple is enjoying so much success because its iPhone, iPod, and Macs are appealing to consumer desire. But if the company makes mistakes and other firms in the space start stealing Apple's customers, all that can change. In order to maintain its financial performance, Apple might need to license Mac OS X.

2. Apple's
Financial Performance Declines

In the course of any public company's life span, financial performance will not stay at record levels forever. Eventually, a company makes a few bad decisions and its financial performance slips. That's not to say that it will happen to Apple anytime soon, but if it did, Apple might have no other choice but to license Mac OS X to attract shareholders. Apple's stock price is at record levels today because shareholders believe in the company's ability to improve. If its financial performance slides, Apple will need to do everything it can to get them back. And licensing Mac OS X might just be its best bet.

3. Windows 7

If Windows 7 hits the rocks and both consumers and the enterprise decide it isn't the ideal software option, Apple might have an opportunity to capitalize. Vendors, consumers, and businesses will be looking to replace their aging computers. If Mac OS X is still secure, it still boasts many enterprise-friendly features, and it continues to appeal to consumers, Apple might have a cash cow on its hands.

4. Windows 7
Dominates the Market

On the other hand, if Windows 7 dominates the market and steals precious market share away from Apple, Steve Jobs might be left with a tough decision. He can't simply allow Mac OS X to slink lower in the market, since that would cause his hardware sales to slip. At the same time, if Apple's focus is on hardware, licensing Mac OS X might be a stretch. It puts the company in a bad position. But it could ultimately push it to license Mac OS X for the sake of Apple's bottom line.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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