Let OS X free!

I use a PC with Windows at work and a Mac with Mac OS X at home and I like them both. They each have their distinct benefits but also shortcomings. What does annoy me in the computer market is when one company, no matter which company it is, gets such a monopoly that it can basically do or produce anything and the end users have no choice but to happily get into line and accept it.

So, therefore I urge: Let Mac OS X Free!

Let me explain what I mean with free. I don’t think Apple should give Mac OS X away, but rather free in the sense that, now when it’s Intel-based, being able to run on any PC as well. We need a balance out there and the only way to achieve it is to offer PC users other operating systems that will really give Microsoft a match. We won’t get rid of this monopoly by the means of the European Union performing a witch hunt on Microsoft or any other ridiculous legal ways trying to get to them.

The only way to make the operating system market more balanced is through competition! Offer well-known and worked-in alternatives to Microsoft so people actually have a choice.

Sure, I know, Apple sell their fair share of hardware because of the Mac OS X tie-in, but I don’t think that sales would decrease so dramatically if they offered Mac OS X for regular PC machines well. Most people who buy Apple hardware today would still buy it in the future, but in the mean time Apple can reach loads of other users who are just dying to switch from Windows but who aren’t ready/can’t afford to change from their existing computers.

According to Apple there are 15 million active Mac OS X users out there today. Imagine if that number would rise to 1 billion! Wouldn’t that result in enough revenue to make up for any eventual lack of sales of hardware?

So, Apple: do you want to keep on being this closed-in company for only die hard users, or do you want to create a more stable and balanced world when it comes to operating systems? It’s your call.


Updated October 20th

Gartner states: Apple should quit hardware business


  • trovster says:

    The problem with this is that it'll ruin the 'it just works' scenario. Because Apple can control the hardware, they can virtually guarantee it working. Opening this out to the plethora of hardware you can find on PCs, and you're in to some trouble.

    I am in the same scenario as you, PC at work, Mac at home (which has replaced my PC, infact).

  • Matt Round says:

    Driver support would be hard work, it'd dilute the brand, and Microsoft would probably kill the Mac version of Office.

    So while I'm sure Jobs has occasionally been tempted to go for it, it would be an immensely risky move that doesn't fit in with the current control-freak strategy of supplying integrated hardware, software and services.

  • Apparently it's not that hard to get OSX running on a Dell or whatever, according to the articles I've read at least.

    There are also rumours that Dell are developing dual boot OSX/Windows machines for 2007. But aren't games by far the biggest reason why people don't switch to OSX, even more so than Apple's hardware prices?

    Either way, I'd like my PC to run OSX with an 'out of the box' solution, so I too vote Free OSX πŸ™‚

  • Stephen Last says:

    I too use Windows at work and OS X at home, both from my MacBook pro. Not being able to run OS X on a PC bought from a shop is a big disadvantage when looking at the overall usage of operating systems worldwide, but Matt's points are very good ones – OS X has a big one-up on Windows in terms of stability which might possibly be lost by setting it 'free'.

  • angelo says:

    As already noted by 'trovster', such a move would probably hobble the "Just Works" advantage of the mac, but that's not the main point, which is:

    Apple. Is. A. Hardware. Company.

    Corollary: as long as that's true, "freeing" OS X is most likely a Bad Idea.

    See for instance J. Gruber analysis.

  • Ed says:

    As mentioned, drivers for varying hardware would cause all sorts of problems, something Microsoft have experience of, putting OSX on the back foot before it's started. Aside from which, what should I do with my right mouse button on my Logitech if I use MacOS?

  • Ed: Right click, perhaps? πŸ˜‰

  • Ray says:

    I absolutely dont like the costly updates or mac OSX. Each year you pay 140 euro for an update. Customer service is really like you gotta take all or nothing. Now Adam bit that apple right.

  • ACoolie says:

    The reason Apple doesn't license 3rd parties to use Mac OS X is not to influence hardware sales (Although that is part of it), it is mainly that Apple thrives under the ability to optimize OS X to run on only certain computers and OS X would end up losing popularity since people without Apple computers who use OS X will get a product designed for a different, probably higher-end computer.

  • Wayne says:

    I thought that Apple was a hardware company… Wouldn't it defeat the purpose of selling the software when it really gets it's money from the hardware?

  • Kai says:


    You make some very good points in this article, and I have felt the same way since Apple switched over to Intel CPUs. With that said, however, I still feel that Steve Jobs and the rest of the folks over at Apple are not only too perfectionistic about Macs, but also still view themselves as a hardware company.

    Case in point is that you can now get a new Intel Mac from PC Mall with a free copy of Windows XP, but everytime a hacker tries to port OS X onto regular PC hardware or release a software package to do it Apple sends them some nasty legaleze threatening to shut them down.

    Seems to me that while the folks at Microsoft need to stop trying to totally dominate the software market, the folks at Apple need to relax a little and accept the fact that their OS kicks butt and should be out there on other equipment besides their own.


  • Johan says:

    Would that be the tiger or panther version, Robert?

    Animals need to be free, perhaps we could open up Safari and see we can find any clues there.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your opinions!

    I'm very aware of the fact that Apple is a hardware company, and I'm not saying they should lose that focus. But in the long run, to reach a much wider audience (if that's their goal), maybe letting OS X free can be an alternative side-by-side option with their work with hardware.

    And, exactly as Kai states above, Microsoft are now much more loosened up and cool than Apple; not really the image any company might want, right? πŸ™‚

    Johan, you start some liberation movement for animals (and fruits)… πŸ™‚

  • Andy says:

    Or we could all just switch to Mac Pro's when Apple releases their new Mac OS X Leopard along with a stable version of Bootcamp.

    Bootcamp being a program that enables dual boot of Mac OS and Windows XP. Though, it's been reported that in the BETA, it's possible to run virtually any OS. Those tested are XP, Linux and Vista (as far as I know). I'm unsure if it will be possible to run operating systems other than XP in the stable version though.

  • Johan says:

    Johan, you start some liberation movement for animals (and fruits)… πŸ™‚

    Yeah for animal crackers and fruit cakes dancin on Hare Krisna backwards. I think it's time for one of my mean burgers with lettuce, baguette, ketchup, mayo. fried onions and a slice of good cheese. A tasty end, would you not agree/

  • Robert Nyman says:


    The idea is to give the end user freedom and not to be locked down to Apple hardware. Also, I already run both Windows and Ubuntu on my MacBook Pro at home through Parallels Desktop for Mac, a far more interesting option than Boot Camp.


    Yeah, go for it… πŸ™‚

  • Chris says:

    I have run OSX and OSX server "cracked" on whitebox systems and it works flawlessly. Especially 10.4.7 and 10.4.8.

    While "freeing" it to be run on the whitebox even without support would be great, honestly as discussed it is a bad business decision as it will reduce the sales of hardware, Apples bread-and-butter.

    But on another note, Apple hardware is definately superior to all others (dell etc) in my opinion, and as they are continually dropping prices to compete with other hardware retailers its making the swap even easier.

    Of course the big issue with OSX is its lack of current IE (Internet Explorer) support, as so many companies are creating their websites to function properly only in IE, it is absolutely essential for use in a business envrionment.

    I dont disagree that OSX is a far far far far far far far (far) superior Operating System than Windows, but until it is able to "run" windows based apps (which it actually can with the use of WINE, a windows emulator) that are requred for business, it will not be widely adopted in business envrionments.

    I can financially justify the difference in initial costs of a Mac (OSX) for most of my clients, especially with the absolutely extensive ongoing costs of running Windows (virus scanners, spy-ware control, etc, etc). Amortize the costs over a few years and its almost dead even.

    So.. in summary to my long rant. Yes I agree it would kick ass if Apple allowed the use of OSX on whiteboxes, even in an unsupported fashion, and continued to sell fully supported OSX on Apple-Mac hardware, the sticky point is still selling the hardware & software to business clients, and giving it the ability to function properly in that envrionment (IE6+, Office 2007, etc).


    Chris Fazekas


  • Robert Nyman says:


    Thanks for your comment.

  • Anonymous says:

    Pretty good point. The posters that have mentioned that Apple does not license because it would effect stability have fallen pray to sly marketing. There have been many examples of operating systems that maintain consistent stability and usability without being brand locked. Prior to 1998 their was a plethora of Mac compatible computer brands that all ran consistently stable and maintained the goals of an integrated system. Other examples include Sun Solaris and NeXTSTEP.

    Solaris is not only made for Sun computers, but Sun compatible computers, such as those by Fujitsu and Tadpole, and IBM Compatible (x86) computers. Other than brand and platform specific hardware advantages between different hardware options, Sun Solaris maintains its integrity as an integrated, well designed operating system. NeXTSTEP, which Apple claims is the predecessor to Mac OS X, ran consistently stable and maintained its integrity as an integrated, easy to use, powerful, and well designed operating system not only for NeXT brand computers, but NeXT, Sun, Sun compatible, HP-PA RISC, IBM, and IBM compatible all without effecting stability or program compatibility. These examples rebut the statements of any operating system company that claims that an operating system must be locked into a specific brand to maintain consistency.

    There are two reasons to brand lock an operating system. The first is that it is much less costly to bundle software with a computer than it is to improve the hardware. The goal with brand locking is to be able to bundle software that cannot be included with a competitor's products. The second reason to brand lock is the same reason ISPs give so many e-mail addresses to subscribers. If an ISP subscriber uses the e-mail addresses given by their ISP, then it becomes very inconvenient to switch ISPs later because you would have to alert everyone of your new address. For this reason it's advisable to never use the e-mail address provided by your ISP. That way when you switch to another company, your e-mail address won't change. ISPs hate it when people don't use the addresses they provide. Apple is the same way. They would love it if, like they have done with Mac OS X, every application maker would brand lock their software. Since most companies have too much integrity to scam their customers in this way, Apple can do it for them by brand locking the OS for which the application developers develop. So, if someone starts by getting an Apple brand computer, uses it for a few years and during that time purchases $1,000 of software, they would have to repurchase that $1,000 software if, for example, that person decided to upgrade to something higher end, like a Fujitsu or Panasonic. If Mac OS X was not brand locked a user would only incur the charges of the computer, but the added expense of purchasing software licenses that you already own just because you happen to like the hardware or customer service advantages of another brand of computer is hugely restricting. The companies mentioned above did not have to resort to these sleazy tactics to lock people into their brands because they made equipment that was genuinely superior and they were not afraid of it being compared to other companies. Apple has made a choice to sell by trickery and sleazy tactics instead of just making better equipment. There is no functional reason for an operating system to be brand locked.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Thanks for your comment.

  • michael says:

    What about if you can set it up on your own by hacking it, you can.

  • John says:

    the apple OSX licencing forbids the use of its software on any other machines than its own. But it is possible, if you can get your hands on a copy of OSX 10.4 Tiger Intel version to run it on a PC,


    Also there are commecial emulators letting windows run on OSX (MS VPC), why can't there be one the other way round, thats commecially viable (unlike the hard to use PearPC PPC emulator).

  • zeusx64 says:

    I have used Windows since Win95 & continued up to Vista RC1, which actually boots in 200 seconds flat on my MSI K8N Neo f/ AMD64 FX X2 @ 2ghz per/ 2 gb mem/etc. I have many computers, some Linux, some Windows (all XP Pro), and my 20" iMac/Intel, which is dual booted with XP Pro.

    After quitting Windows for a while and only using open source, I found only one reason to return, GAMES like Unreal Tournament 2003 but as usual, Windows does the same old trick, it shuts straight down in the middle of a game. I would not want to be in the middle of something on a PC with OS X installed and have it shut down like that.

    Steve Jobs knows exactly what he is doing and making OS X for PC is just really a bad idea. Yes it would be cool to get off on replacing Windows with OS X for PC, that I would agree on but I have a MAC and that is that. Out of the BOX freedom in itself. Lets keep it that way. I vote "NO"!

  • zeusx64 says:

    Sorry, that was supposed to be 20 seconds, not 200. LOL

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Good perspective! And yeah, 20 seconds sounded more right… πŸ™‚

  • Verwaal says:

    I have only one thing to say x86 project

  • […] And, to be honest, I think it could be a possibility, if Apple were to let OS X free!. […]

  • Who would vote yes to a PC-friendly OS-X (plus licensing/consent) but no to a PC-friendly crippled OSX? Serious question, is it an acceptable idea if it's crippled in some way?

    What if it's only crippled in terms of support and/or warranty?

    I've never owned a Mac (with OS X), but the more I look into it the more I like the idea. We used Mac OS 8 and later Mac OS 9 on every computer at school. Maybe it was because I was a user with basically no rights on the system, but it seemed to really suck compared to Windows. I got my hands on a PowerPC eventually and I was even more disappointed.

    Today I'm really thinking about getting a Mac.

  • EDIT: Gartner's article's comments are a definite must-read!

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