My Plan for Apple: Open Source OS X. Put iOS on the Mac.


Apple’s Mac OS X was a game changer for many reasons.  First of all, it made Apple relevant again.  The days of Microsoft pumping money into Apple to simply have a competitor and Mac being a hobbyist platform were now behind Apple. Secondly, and most impactful, was the effect OS X had on Microsoft.  From a consumer’s point-of-view, Windows was headed down a boring path of features that only mattered in large corporate environments.   The success of OS X made Microsoft reevaluate their strategy that if you used Windows at work, then you would also use it home.  This was true in the 1990s, but not true in the mid 2000s.

Vista helped boost OS X sales. Win 7 only helps Microsoft.

The success of OS X was at a high-point during  the Windows Vista era. During this time, OS X reached a previously unfathomable 7% market share.  Vista, the much anticipated and long overdue upgrade to XP, disappointed many early adopters.  There were so many early disenchanted users that the operating system earned a horrid reputation from which Vista would never be able to recover.  Many of these users decided a change was in order and jumped to OS X. Obviously, this made Microsoft re-think many things and eventually recovered their desktop dominance with the release of Windows 7. (See my previous post how Microsoft took Windows from a Vista flop to a success with 7.) For the year ending 2010, the OS X worldwide market share dropped to 4.13% — that is a significant drop in the 1.5 years Windows 7 has been available.  The entire drop in market share cannot be attributed to Windows 7 alone because a good portion of the drop is from the iPad cannibalizing Mac sales.

Keep in mind that Apple is experiencing record revenues each quarter. When you consider that Mac sales are down, it’s clear that Apple doesn’t make extraordinary amounts of money from its desktop operating system. (Mobile and iTunes, that’s another amazing story.)

So what should Apple do with OS X and their desktop line of business?  I’m glad you asked, here’s my plan!

Step 1: Sell Macs Running Windows

Sell Macs with Windows pre-loaded. I mean Windows only, not a hokey dual boot with OS X and Windows. No, I’m not crazy. This is very simple.  I am not suggesting that Apple stop selling Macs with OS X, but they should give consumers a choice which system they want to buy (yes, I know consumer choice isn’t one of Apples business tenets). Windows is an open system so any hardware maker can create a device and write drivers – even competitors like Apple.  In fact, this is possible today through Apple’s Boot Camp utility. Think about this, inside that cool Mac case is standard hardware. They have used ATI & Nvidia for graphics drivers, Intel for the CPU and so on. These Windows drivers already exist!  I have met several people that buy Macs to dump OS X in order to run Windows 7.  I guess these people like the cool Apple hardware but refuse to give up the conveniences and compatibility of Windows.   Before the iPod saved Apple’s bacon, I had the theory that Boot Camp was a market test to see if people would be willing to run Windows (XP at the time) on a Mac.  The answer was and still is yes.

Step 2: Sell Macs Running iOS (and OS X too!)

I know that many Apple purists would not run Windows based purely on principle. For those people there would be two options:

  1. Run iOS on entry and mid level  Macs
  2. Run OS X for higher-end solutions

Again, you may think I am crazy, but OS X development has seemingly stalled and it appears that Apple is near the end of its innovation road. Recent additions like a Mac App Store and a going back in time animation for Time Machine don’t really count as innovative. These “features” actually make my point for me. iOS (Yes, Apple’s mobile platform) has significantly outsold OS X. Now that iOS has a primitive form of multitasking, it’s not a far reach to think it could power a full featured Mac with keyboard, monitor, USB ports, etc.  This would be an appealing upgrade to iPod and iPad devotees. You could even have a mobile phone in your Mac!

Of course iOS, in its current form, is limited and couldn’t handle the heavy-duty processing required for more intensive tasks like photo and video editing.  For these users, they could opt for a Mac running OS X just like today.

Step 3: Open Source OS X

If the majority of Macs now run Windows or iOS, Apple’s attention to OSX will further decline.  That would be a shame because Apple has done a ton of good work over the last 10 years with the operating system. (There’s actually more than 10 years of coding if you consider they didn’t start from scratch and recycled NeXT.) To ensure that OS X doesn’t become extinct (NeXT and OS/2 come to mind), OS X should become an open source project like Linux.  Can you imagine what the open source community could do for OS X? Excitement for Linux has fallen off year over year, but Open OSX would be a huge hit in the software community.  Just think, within months, you would be able to install OS X on a computer of choice – not just those made by Apple!


There you have it — Joey’s road map for Apple’s operating systems. Yes, I know you Apple fans think I have committed the ultimate sin, but let’s face it.  Apple has shifted itself from a software company to a gadget and media company.  in the process, many resources have been shifted from the OS X product group.  If this trend continues (and it looks like it will) OS X will continue to be an afterthought in the Apple portfolio. If Apple sold Macs pre-loaded with Windows then sells would increase making yet even more money for the company.

16 thoughts on “My Plan for Apple: Open Source OS X. Put iOS on the Mac.”

  1. Wow! At first I thought this was crazy talk, but then I thought about it and your ideas make some incredible sense. Of course, ios is designed for ARM and not Intel so it’s a jump to think that ios could run on a mac. ..and while I’m not a huge OSX fan (I think it’s good for fun home and student use) the idea of an opensource osx is VERY interesting. People don’t dislike Linux because it’s opensource, they dislike Linux because it is an overwhelming complex beast. OSX, while a little complex for most Windows users, could see greater adoption if it was opensource and opened up to other computers not named Apple. Solid ideas, joey.

  2. should also tell you I enjoyed this article. This is the first time I stumbled across your site. I am an XP user turned OS X user turned Win7 user. I think OS X has gotten unmanageable for Apple — that is partly caused by design flaws and party by choice to focus on higher revenue products like itunes and i-devices. I had my time as an Apple fan boi (I am recovered now) and I wouldn’t be surprised if you start getting hate mail from the others. However I think your article is very fair and defensible.

  3. @frankwick, thanks for the tip on the Betanews story. I agree that the timing is suspicious since it appeared the day after mine showed up in Digg. However, I think at best I just sparked an idea for the author. I’ll take it is a compliment.

  4. @wu tang (Mr tang), true that ios is an ARM based OS and not Intel CISC. Keep in mind that Microsoft is working with Intel to design an Intel ARM. In fact, Microsoft has proposed to Intel how a 16 core ARM would work. One could easily imagine ARM taking the place of CISC in a few years. So my original point still is valid — iOS could run on an ARM based Mac. Did you know that Windows 8 Milestone 2 (an internal build) is already running on ARM processors?

  5. Someone sent this link to me and I found the concepts facinating. I too (like Frankwick) am a recovering Apple user. Don’t get me wrong, I really like OSX but Win7 is such a breath of fresh air. You can run it out of the box, customize it a lot, or customize it a little. You can use ANY piece of hardware and the software options are unlimited. I can use Win7 at home, at work in a ‘real’ corp environemtn, it is a media hub, it is a DVR. I cannot say those things about my Mac.

    My justification for buyig a Mac was security of XP and the reputation of Vista. I don’t think that’s much of a justification anymore. The security structure in Win7 is as good as anything on the desktop and according to Secuina is actually more secure than my Mac or any Linux distro. I used to claim that Windows required system burdening anti-virus, anti-spyware, apps. Today, that is far from the truth. I run the simple Microsoft Security Essentials and it has no effect on my performance. Some people say you DON’T NEED antimalware at all. Althought I think Win7 is secure (if you don’t open it up) I still can’t get over the hurdle of running naked.

    Anyway, thanks for the though-provoking ideas. Steve Jobs may get his lawyers after you for getting out of line and thinking out of the box.

  6. @Beck, thanks for the comments. I too run Security Essentials as my malware engine. I don’t visit sites of “illrepute” so I haven’t gotten a security alert since 2004 ish. Be that is may, I still wouldn’t run any OS (Win, Linux, or OSX) without protection.

    True, Win7 may be more secure than OSX now, but I do believe they leapfrog from time to time. Plus, malware authors are always trying to break through barriers. When OSX was considered the most secure by the general public, it was the first OS to be hacked at CanSecWest hacker conference multiple years in a row. At this time, I’m not certain Apple has the committment to OSX to do any leap frogging.

    I think turning OSX to the open source community is more than academic excercise. I believe that had IBM opened up OS/2 it would be more relevant today — at least as popular is Linux if not more so. Instead, OS/2 is a chapter in a computer history book.

  7. BTW, I just noticed that both commenters so far are Mac users who switched back to Windows. I figured I would be blasted by Apple purists.

  8. Deep thoughts, Joey! I guess I haven’t given much consideration to Apple’s roadmap but I agree that they have shifted their focus from a mainline computer company to a gadget company. I have to hand it to Apple in that they are brilliant marketers. If Apple manufactured snow shovels, Hawaiians might even consider buying one.
    I’m a recent Mac convert (within the last 3 years), but am a Windows IT guy by profession. Macs were always an interest of mine but I viewed them from afar. When I found it was possible to run Windows on one, that sealed the deal. Had to have a Mac. I’ve been nothing but pleased with mine. It is the most stable OS I have personally encountered, though Windows 7 is very close to it. I do find the newer Microsoft OSs to be cumbersome to navigate, but that is only because I am so familiar with their predecessors.
    So where does Apple go from here? That’s an easy answer: Right for your wallet! 😉

  9. I read your post a month ago and thought you were a lunatic. Now, I think you may beon to something. Did you see the IOS 5, Lion and iCloud announcements yesterday? Talk about running out of steam. Apple is blatantly copying Microsoft with Windows Phone, Live Mesh, Skydrive, on and on. I am a pseudo Apple guy, but without Steve they are simply relaying on their cash cow (itunes) and repackaging the same technology they have had for several years. I’ve read other blogs stating that the innovation train at Apple has run out of gas. I’m starting to think the same.

  10. Apple has given up on Mac and OSX. It’s not that it is a money pit but let’s be honest, they poured EVERYTHING they had into OSX, spent millions in advertising and product placements, Microsoft delivered a dooooooggggg in Vista, yet OSX barely saw a 10% marketshare. That was the peak!! Now Windows 7 is selling like crazy and there are talks of a Windows 8 beta. Apple has their sights on something they can actually make money at — pushing people to buy stuff through itunes. Even the latest version of OSX will only be available from Apple through online sales and delivery. Any OSX partners that remain just shut their doors.

  11. @old-mac-nut, your comment is what I’m talking about. Apple has a very lucrative biz selling apps through their app store. This is really an awesome business model. Apple provides the platform and since they require all apps to go through the appstore, they get a cut of each one. This is why they are putting much less effort into the Mac these days. I PREDICT you will see a Mac sized iOS in the very near future. If true, Apple will finally have a full sized touch screen device. If they can provide iOS on a platform that will drive your TV (Think Windows Media Center) then imagine how many more apps will be created.

  12. OSX Lion was demoed recently and did you notice the iOS type stuff they’ve integrated? I wouldn’t call this iOS on the Mac yet, but this is proof they are headed that way. The Launch Pad looks just like an ipad. They’ve added multitouch. Did you see Full Screen Apps and the App Store? Before the Windows people beat me and say these are already present in Windows, that’s not my point. My point is that iOS features are starting to make their way into OSX as I predicted would happen last year. It won’t be long until the Mac as we know it is endangered. Time to make OSX opensource.

  13. WOW! This is exactly what I was looking for to support an argument. I thought I was alone in the universe wanting an open source OSX. I am a huge Apple devotee but I know that OSX is not the future of Apple. It’s impossible to know how much money Apple does or doesn’t make on the MAC but I would guess it is barely enough to pay for itself. It seems that recent buyers are really iphone developers who are required to code on a mac.

  14. The author was right on track with most of the article!! I don’t see OSX becoming opensource any time soon, but that’s ok. OSX is somewhat old fashioned these days anyway. The Apple die hards are more focused on iOS. Apple knows this, this is why you were so close to the target when you said Apple should put iOS on the Mac. They aren’t quite doing that but they are trying very hard to make OSX on the Mac look and act like iOS. IMO, this is a good move because of the legions of iOS users, but it actually hurts the functionality of OSX and makes it look like a hobbled together mess of randomness. This illustrates your point that Apple doesn’t really care too much about the Mac/OSX these days anyway.

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