And now, my statement on OS X for generic x86 boxes…

Now that Apple has started shipping MacBook Pros and iMacs that use Intel architectures, the call to release Mac OS X for generic Intel boxes has intensified, and sites have sprung up trying to work out how to do so. Of course, Apple has been very much against this idea, and have hit such sites with legal threats. On one hand, Apple is trying to make a complete computing experience and they subsidize the development of Mac OS X with their hardware sales. On the other hand, the people wanting to run Mac OS X on generic hardware believes there is a market out there for it and that Apple won’t lose anything in sales. Where do I stand, you may or may not wonder?

I actually side with Apple on this. They do have the right to set out terms for the use of their software via the license (though I believe software vendors should make the license available for viewing BEFORE they sell the software, but that’s another argument entirely), and I do believe that making Mac OS X available for generic hardware will badly affect hardware sales. It’s actually already happened; back in the 90’s, Apple licensed Mac OS out to other vendors so they could make offbrand Macs. The clone Macs’ sales so badly cut into Apple’s that Apple was nearly destroyed.

As for there being a market… heh. It actually reminds me of arguments I get into about Mortal Kombat games being ported to PC. Up until Mortal Kombat 4, MK games were regularly ported to PC. I actually have Mortal Kombat & Mortal Kombat II (the first two games on one disc; this edition is popularly referred to as “Mortal Kombat Duo”), Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, and Mortal Kombat 4 for PC. However, afterwards, Midway stopped developing MK games for PC. When Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was announced, a common question was if a PC version was going to be made. Even to this day, we get that question. The answer is always an unequivocal “no”. I actually asked a couple of people from Midway about it back at E3 2002, and the answer they gave was a logical one: they never made money from the PC sales, so it didn’t make sense for them to keep porting it. Even at Gamers Day in Las Vegas last year, Ed Boon stated it wouldn’t be happening, as he didn’t see a market for it. Yet the fans keep insisting that there is a market. Unfortunately, like I keep telling them, their beliefs do not correspond to Midway’s reality.

As a corollary, my friend Justin (better known to some of you all as ]{0MBAT) had a conversation with someone on #mortalkombat back in 2002 that illustrated another point in the argument beautifully:

(Gah, I can’t find the convo right now. I’ll post it if and when Justin can send it to me. In short, it was someone who came into the channel asking if MK:DA would be coming out for PC, and Justin said no, because Midway didn’t make any money off it. The guy griped that they would, but then sighed and said he’d go play some WarCraft III. When Justin asked if it was pirated, the guy replied, “Of course.” Justin then pointed out that the only reason the guy would want MK:DA for PC, then, was to pirate it… which the guy tried to deny. No one believed him, though.)

I can just see Mac OS X get hugely pirated in the event it’s made to work on generic x86 hardware. At least right now those people who have it already paid for it and helped subsidize it by buying Apple hardware.

In any event, while I wouldn’t MIND having Mac OS X as the OS for my main PC, I would certainly buy an Apple system to run it on. Not only do you KNOW it’s going to work with the hardware, it’ll help subsidize the cost of the OS (considering it would cost much more WITHOUT the hardware sales offsetting the price of OS development). In the meantime, I’ll stick with my self-built machine running Windows XP Professional as my main desktop PC, and my Powerbook running Mac OS X 10.4 as my work laptop.