Apple is in the hardware business
I admit, I don’t fully understand where Jeff is coming from
when he says “When you buy a new Mac, you're buying a giant hardware dongle that allows you to run OS X software.”
Apple is not in the operating system business. Apple is in the hardware business. Steve Jobs famously said that Apple views itself as a software company. And indeed, they do a great job of writing software. But nevertheless, they are in the hardware business: that’s where they get the overwhelming majority of their revenues.
Put in that light, the licensing restrictions on the operating systems that come pre-installed on their hardware are exactly the same as the licensing restrictions on the operating systems that come pre-installed in Windows PCs from manufacturers like Dell and Sony
It is appropriate to lambaste Apple for selling their product—hardware—with a non-free OS pre-installed. However, they offer the exact same Freedom Zero as the PCs you can buy from Dell.
Arguing that we ought to be able to install OS X on a white box PC is analogous to arguing that we ought to be able to purchase a Sony Vaio, then take the OEM copy of Windows off the laptop and install it on a white box laptop. Or that we ought to be able to purchase an upgrade
copy of Windows and install it on a white box PC. I say upgrade copy, because the standalone copies of OS X for sale are licensed for upgrades only, not for new machines.
People who think of the argument as being Apple vs. Microsoft
think of the two companies as being in the OS business. But Apple is not in the OS business, and hasn’t been in that business since Jobs returned and quickly killed the OEM Macintosh market. Think of an iPod touch
. Would anybody argue that when you buy an iPod you are buying a copy of OS X with a dongle that happens to play music attached to it? Seriously? is anybody complaining that they can’t transfer their copy of OS X from an iPod touch to whatever lame music player
Microsoft is peddling this week?
Revolution in the Valley
tells the incredible story of the creation of the Macintosh—from the perspectives of the people who were actually there. It’s packed with behind-the-scenes anecdotes and little-known secrets. Much of the material is available on line for free
A dongle exists to prevent you from using a piece of software twice without paying for it twice. Apple is hardly even trying to prevent you from using OS X twice without paying for it twice. I can demonstrate this for you: I have a copy of Leopard. There is no copy protection on it. It does not phone home. Why is that? Ah! It is because it is only supposed to run on Apple hardware. Exactly. If Apple lose a few sales of Leopard to Macintosh owners that illegally copy Leopard, that is too bad but it is no big deal to them. Of course, if you hack it to run on non-Apple hardware
, you are going to wind up on a first-name basis with Apple’s lawyers. That’s because—are you tired of hearing me say this?—they are in the hardware business, not the operating system business.
In that light, it is appropriate to lambaste them for selling their product—hardware—with a non-free OS pre-installed. However, they offer the exact same Freedom Zero as the PCs you can buy from Dell. You can modify them without incurring Apple’s wrath. You can install another operating system on them, even Windows. It’s true that their hardware is bundled with non-free software, and that’s too bad. But the product they sell—hardware—is free of encumbrances. If you want to compare and contrast them, compare them to another hardware company Dell: In addition to selling hardware with non-free operating systems, Dell also sells hardware with Linux pre-installed
I could end this with a cheap shot about Microsoft only selling non-free products, but I won’t. I can’t. The point here is that comparing Apple to Microsoft is almost completely meaningless in this context, because Apple is a company in the hardware business that happens develop and bundle an insanely great—but non-free—OS with their hardware.