Can Apple Truly Tie OS X Down?

Arik Hesseldahl

Is the Apple computing experience one of software or hardware? It’s an old question that dates back to the platform’s earliest days. And since Apple first announced it was moving its platforms to systems based on Intel Microprocessors, Apple has taken pains to say that OS X will run only on Apple-manufactured hardware, not on commodity PCs from the likes of Dell, or HP or Toshiba or anyone else for that matter.

But that reads like a challenge to a certain kind of computer user. Call them what you will: hackers, hobbyists, enthusiasts, tinkerers or geeks. According to an item on the Web site the latest version of OS X for the Intel platform, which is as yet available only to software developers, has been cracked in such a way that it can be installed on non-Apple hardware by someone using the screen name “Maxxuss.”

The timing isn’t good for Apple, because it’s widely expected to start introducing Intel-based notebooks – probably Intel-based iBook and iMacs – soon after the first of the year. And while by and large, most of the people inclined to use Mac OS X will also be inclined to do so on Apple hardware, there will always be folks who will want instead to run it on something else, thus costing Apple a the sale of a computer.

This is looks to me like its going to be a long-term cat-and-mouse game between Apple and legions of smart folks who won’t be able to accept the kinds of restrictions Apple intends to impose upon users of its operating system. I predict that once the Intel transition gets underway in earnest, we’ll be hearing much more about Apple’s efforts to shut down the efforts of people like Maxxuss, both through locking them out in software, and probably using lawyers too.

Or maybe not. Since there’s clearly a pent-up of some kind for the Mac OS on non-Apple hardware (Even Michael Dell has expressed an interest in selling PCs running Mac OS.) might it not be in Apple’s best interest over the long-term to get the OS in the hands of as many people as possible?

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