10 Scenarios That Could Make Apple License Mac OS X

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-11-16

10 Scenarios That Could Make Apple License Mac OS X

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.

Even Apple Can Change Its Mind About Mac OS

5. Vendors Make an Offer Apple Can't Refuse

Vendors could also play a role in whether or not Apple decides to license Mac OS X. Dell and HP have both indicated in the past that they would be more than happy to license Mac OS X. So far, those companies haven't been able to make it happen. But if Windows 7 turns into another Windows Vista, it could. Vendors would have no other choice but make major concessions to get Mac OS X running on their computers. If those concessions are good enough, it could cause Apple to consider licensing its software.

6. A
Change at the Top

Steve Jobs has said time and again that he doesn't believe Apple should license Mac OS X. As long as he is at the top of Apple, it's likely that the company will maintain that policy. But once Steve Jobs steps down, a new power structure will emerge with new ideas. It's tough to say now, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the new leaders believe it might be in Apple's best interest to license its software. Time will tell.

7. Psystar
Overturns Court Judgment

Although Psystar was dealt a deadly blow that probably means the end of its operation, there is a slight glimmer of hope for the company. If it can somehow overcome the ruling, appeal, and find a way to win out, it could cause Apple to rethink its position of licensing Mac OS X. After all, if another company has been allowed to license its software, what will stop hundreds of other companies from doing the same thing? Apple's best strategy in that case might be to license its software to make the cash those small firms would have otherwise taken.

8. Apple
Shifts Gears

Apple might be a hardware company today, but it's becoming increasingly clear that its software is helping it dominate the market. Why is the iPhone so successful? Its OS. Why is the iPod so successful? iTunes. The list goes on. Apple provides outstanding software in all of its products. Its applications provide an experience that bests the competition across several industries. If Apple decides to focus more of its attention on its software, the company might find more financially advantageous opportunities with its operating systems.

9. Google
Gets Involved

As Google prepares for its entrance into the operating-system space with Chrome OS, it's entirely possible that the search giant will send shockwaves through the software business. It could also affect Apple. At first, Chrome OS probably won't have any measurable impact on Apple's bottom line. But as it gains in popularity, who knows what it could do to the operating-system market? Will it force Microsoft and Apple online? Will it gain significant market share? A strong Google could put Apple in a tight spot that might make it more amenable to licensing Mac OS X.

10. Customers
Change Their Minds

Apple relies heavily on its customers to push its products. Apple has done a fine job of getting those who own its products into the selling business. And it has made the company billions of dollars. But if those users start to move away from Apple products, Apple will be nothing more than the typical technology firm. It will need to find ways to uniquely position itself in the marketplace to attract customers again. And perhaps that might happen solely by offering Mac OS X to other vendors. It might not be ideal or even expected. But it's certainly possible.

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