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Will the Mac OS Now Be Offered by Dell?

Macintel Strategy Leads to Next Logical Step in Thinking

"If Apple decides to open the Mac OS to others, we would be happy to offer it to our customers," said Michael Dell (pictured) in an e-mail to Fortune magazine reporter David Kirkpatrick.

Is the PC industry back where it was in 1981? That is, when IBM first introduced its PC, assembled with a non-IBM operating system and a non-IBM micrprocessor (running at the screamingly fast rate of 4.33Mhz), the world held its breath for months waiting first for someone to "clone" it, and then to see IBM's reaction. Compaq lept into the fray, no suits were filed, and an industry was born, with several hundred serious competitors at one time.

Meanwhile, Apple CEO John Sculley was resolutely criticized for not opening up the Apple Macintosh, freeing its OS from the hardware, allowing clones, and letting the market decide which OS was truly better. As the years wore on, the Mac's market share declined, yet no Apple leader, including the ressurrected Steve Jobs, has ever considered separating the Mac's hardware from its software.

But the recent announcement that Macs will soon be made with Intel inside leads to the next logical thought, will the Mac OS now be offered by other vendors? Jobs apparently made his most recent bet-the-company decision on the Intel chips' performance rather than its potential cloning flexibility. And if Apple were to license the OS, how well would quality control be enforced? Would the pseudo-Macs truly have the same look-and-feel? How would the ports and device drivers work? Would some companies be allowed to, or be audacious enough to "improve" the Macintosh?

The Apple user and developer community seems, on the whole, to be happy with the 3 or so percent of the market that the Mac still commands. Certainly Apple, buoyed by new generations of Mac design under Jobs and by the iPod, does not appear to be the sick man of the industry that it was before Jobs' return. But if there is a logical business opportunity inherent in Apple's decision to go with Intel microprocessors, it's a good bet that Apple will pursue it, and maintain tight quality control over its flagship product.


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