OS X and DRM . . .

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For many, many moons, this little conversation has been lurking in PCdom:

“Why can’t Apple bring its OS over to the PC side?”

“Because if they did, Apple would never sell another computer; people would just marry the Apple OS to a cheaper PC.”

Now that the Mac is a PC, and MacOS X runs on an x86 processor, that conversation is getting louder.

To me, this is now a very simple matter, with one little caveat.

Apple could now sell copies of OS X to PCdom without jeopardizing their hardware sales. All they would just have to charge a lot for it, say $299 rather than $99 for it.

Many, if not most of you are probably thinking, “Ed’s gone insane. If Apple charged $299 for a PC MacOS X, can you say “warez?”

That’s where the caveat comes in.

Apple could do this provided bulletproof DRM was available to protect their copies. Otherwise, it would be . . . insane.

If you go here and poke around a bit, “bulletproof” is close to the last thing you could describe current MacOS X protection. True, these installations aren’t working perfectly, but under any serious DRM protection, they shouldn’t be working at all.

While Apple can tolerate a relative handful of hobbyists hacking their OS X to the point where it almost works fine; they’re not going to put out anything that WILL work fine.

For one thing, it would take a ton of work for Apple to write even a decent fraction of the drivers for OS X that MS has to provide for Windows, and plenty of time for the average hardware maker to do it.

Yes, if Apple were getting $300 a pop for an OS, that gives you plenty of money to write drivers. But Apple’s caught in a Catch-22: the more they charge for the package to compensate for loss of hardware profits, the more likely it is people will steal it, and Apple gets nothing. If they don’t charge more, we’re back to the age-old dilemna: they’ll get more MacOS X sales, but again, hardware sales go down the tube.

In the past, that would be a showstopper. Today, it’s still a showstopper.

In today’s world, given what Apple always has wanted to do, only bulletproof DRM would let them have their cake and eat it, too.

If, in the near future, out of the blue, Apple does come out with MacOS for Everyone, rest assured that bulletproof DRM does exist.

Tomorrow might be a little different, though . . . .

Unlike three or five years ago, the notion of a luxury PC market now exists. It’s still pretty small, but it’s possible it will get much bigger, and spread beyond the gamer audience.

A few years from now, if Apple finds itself selling, say, 10% of the world’s computers rather than 3%, and market research indicates this greatly expanded user base won’t budge from them even if they can get it from Dell for a few hundred less, Apple might try OS X for everybody.

How likely is this to happen? Not very, but pretty inconceivable is a step up from completely inconceivable.

For this to happen, though, Apple is going to have to get a whole lot stronger, and that’s not going to happen in the next six months.

Before Apple even starts thinking about MacOS-E, they’re going to do everything they can to expand hardware sales and establish themselves as a superior choice in Joe Sixpack PCdom.

Please, spare me the “But Apple could make a lot more money if they just sold MacOS X.” This is like me telling you, “You know, if you just changed your sex, I bet you’d get a lot more dates.” Even if it were absolutely true, you wouldn’t do it.

Apple sees itself as a hardware company; it’s part of their DNA. To think they’re going to change any time soon is just wishful thinking. A lot is going to have to happen before it becomes anything more than that.



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