Michael Dell: 'We Would Be Happy to Offer the Mac OS'

by , 2:55 PM EDT, June 16th, 2005

Fortune writer David Kirkpatrick opens his column this week with a stunning revelation: "Michael Dell is interested in licensing Apple's Mac OS." He reveals that while many PC company executives have expressed interest in selling computers loaded with Mac OS X, none would publicly identify themselves.

Mr. Kirkpatrick points out that Dell, though, "has for several years fearlessly -- and lucratively -- sold servers loaded with Linux, the operating system Microsoft reviles and dreads. And as the industry's top dog, it wields more bargaining power with Microsoft than other PC-makers." So he decided to e-mail Michael Dell, who responded: "If Apple decides to open the Mac OS to others, we would be happy to offer it to our customers." He would not elaborate on the record, however.

But many of Mr. Kirkpatrick's readers think "it made little sense for Apple to license its OS to the PC universe, because one of Apple's advantages is that it has complete control of the specs for both the hardware and software." One, however, thought "Apple should license the next version of its operating system, known as Leopard, but only to PC vendors who agree to put it on systems with certain specifications. He also speculates that Apple would, in such a scenario, insist on a minimum system price. PC vendors, he says, would be pleased to oblige, since making money in that business is so tough."

His readers also expressed surprise that Apple went with Intel and not AMD, considering the perception that the latter's x86 chips are better, so Mr. Kirkpatrick called AMD Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Henri Richard, who revealed that Apple never talked to his company. Mr. Richard surmised that it all came down to the cost of porting the Mac OS to the new processors: "The amount [of money] Apple can get from Intel is vastly greater than what it could get from us."

Mr. Richard also told Mr. Kirkpatrick that "if there was any motivation in this deal from the Intel perspective it was just to keep Dell on its toes. It's a cat and mouse game between these guys. This is a subtle way for Intel to remind Dell that there are alternatives that could be pushed."