Apple Beige Box

I’m getting a little tired of the gross over simplification of Apple’s decision to use Intel processor to mean that this directly equates to beige boxes flooding the market running Mac OS X. I don’t pretend to know the full ramifications of their decision, but I think the very notion of flies in the face of what makes Apple an attractive alternative to any other PC platform choice.

I think I’ve expressed the notion before that at least part of the stability and security of Mac OS X stems from the limited hardware footprint on which it runs. It’s not hard to conceive of the easier task Apple has of burn-in testing of each revision of their existing product lines, versus the challenge Microsoft faces ensure some reasonable fraction of their insanely large hardware footprint runs reasonably well.

If Apple were to start producing beige boxes, a conceit that doesn’t necessarily follow from the simple announcement that they will be using Intel processors, they would lose some if not all of their stability advantage. Just like Windows, and Linux to be perfectly honest, they would then have to contend with every revision and variation of the BIOS, all of the variations of the standard system components, i.e. the drive controllers, the system buses, the memory controllers, etc.

Why would they do that?

Why doesn’t the idea of Apple beige boxes logically follow the announcement? Well, think about what a beige box is. It is a no-name PC built by a commodity OEM out of commodity parts. Read that again. Apple has never been a commodity vendor nor have they ever used commodity parts. In fact, one of the nagging criticisms is the premium price for their systems.

Just like Windows, to have Apple beige boxes, the 3rd party vendors would just need the OS from Apple. Nowhere in their announcements have they mentioned licensing the OS to third parties. I am not saying it won’t ever happen, I’m sure speculation will continue to run rampant. I’m just saying that using Intel processors is not the same thing as licensing the OS.

What is more likely is that there will be less purchase for the criticism over premium pricing. Ideally Apple will capitalize on the more commodity pricing available for Intel processors and pass that on to the consumer.

Regardless, the next year will certainly be very interesting.

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