There have been a lot of pixels spilt on the Internet lately; blog posts from industry professionals who want Apple to change its secretive ways and be more “open”—a magic word, it seems, because they all agree that being more “open” would make Apple a better company. “Better” more or less translates into Apple telling us what secret projects it’s working on, responding to every rumor about products that haven’t been announced, and letting people write and sell whatever software they like for the iPhone and iPad.
And you can see, especially in that last case, how that might be good for other companies, programmers, and perhaps even for users.
But will Apple change? Let’s analyze three campaigns that tried to change the way Apple did business:
Part One: OS X on Intel
Success or failure: Failure
At the turn of the century, a group of Mac-curious PC users tried to grow grassroots support to convince Apple to port their new operating system, the Unix-based OS X, to run on Intel chips. And it was a total failure.
“Wait, what?” I hear you say. “What are you talking about? They were right. Apple did switch to Intel chips, ending the constant ‘Macs are slower than PCs’ arguments that had dogged the platform. This movement succeeded!”
No, they didn’t. Because OS X on Intel (Archive.org link) wasn’t about migrating Macs to Intel. It was about making OS X bootable on cheap PC hardware.
“Most either cannot or will not buy the Apple hardware necessary to run this operating system.” Says it all. The pitch is that what Apple really needs to do is become Microsoft, forget about making money off hardware and try to get as much market share in the software world. There’s even a hint of a threat, earlier: “You know, perhaps the open-source crowd could come up with some nice OpenGL interface over BSD if Apple won’t come through :)”
I’m not sure the emoticon helped.
Instead, Apple did something of the opposite, making it possible to run Windows on Mac hardware (via Boot Camp). Not only did it give Windows users an excuse to buy a Mac without abandoning their software, it gave those people a chance to see how amazing the Mac hardware was. The common refrain I heard from my Windows-using friends who bought a Mac “to try out” was that it was the best Windows machine they’d ever had.
Nevertheless, there are always those who think that what’s holding Apple back from being really big is going cheap, cheap, cheap. You could hear echos of this movement in the next campaign…
Also see “Dear Steve: Campaigns that tried to change Apple (and failed):