The Devil's Advocate - MacWindows: The New Trojan Wars
by - April 4th, 2006

In trying to make some sense of Apple's joining BAPCo, a Windows benchmarking group, I've been thinking history may be repeating itself.  The great Trojan war, as everyone probably recalls, was waged because a beautiful woman, Helen, was swifted away from her people.  As is not uncommon when issues stemming from affairs of the heart turn sour, a war ensued that was a long drawn-out and nasty affair.

The Greeks were not doing too well and everyone was getting tired of dying. Being brilliant Greeks, they devised a cunning plan.  Just when they looked defeated, they set up a very pretty, shiny, horse-shaped box filled with the contents that would bring on the demise of the Trojans; namely a bunch of bad ass, long-abused and suffering soldiers that were thirsty for some payback.

It was a risky and stealthy plan, but when the Trojans brought in the pretty horse, they were not prepared for the contents that lay in wait.  And the rest is history (or poetic, if you prefer).

The Plan

Which brings me back to Apple.  I'm not of the mind, like some, that believe Apple joined BAPCo just so it could benchmark the Windows support that is rumored to be built into OS X 10.5 through some sort of virtualization.   Nor am I on the same page with my favorite pundit bad ass, cranky geek John C. Dvorak, in his thought exercise that Apple could abandon OS X and sell Windows.  But I do think there is another option, namely, that there is some likelihood that Apple will start selling Windows boxes in addition to Macs. Perhaps not much of a likelihood (say a 5-10% chance). The idea is that, in addition to selling Macs that run OS X, Apple would sell Macs with Windows pre-loaded and a bunch of nice drivers to make it all work well.

The marketing slant will be something like, "people love how our machines look, they work well, and they will make the best Windows boxes out there for those that need to work in Windows; but of course they run even better with OS X and they can do that too."

Apple will sell a lot more machines to executives that want the swank look of Macs on their desktop. I mean what posh techy or executive could resist those shiny pretty boxes? And because they are so pretty and shiny, Apple will not bother competing on the low end; it'll go for the BMW-of-computers segment and maintain both its nice designs and fat margins.

Nevertheless, such a move would let Apple fit into the purchasing calculus of a lot more IT departments.  Further, Apple might reason that this will not cut into their sales of Macs or adoption of OS X.  In fact, it would increase adoption rates.

The Motivation

When the Mac took off, it was through the "back door" of Desktop Publishing.  People snuck Macs into work to do page layout, and there they remained in graphics departments for decades.  Desktop publishing was Apple's original Trojan Horse into the corporate world, but Macs never went much further than the creative markets for a slew of reasons that are tangential to this particular flight of imagination. Suffice it to say that Microsoft did a bit of user interface kidnapping in Windows and Apple has been locked outside Bill's gates for quite some time. 

So the questions are, how bad does Apple want to get back what is rightfully theirs, i.e., the desktop?  And how "out there" is it willing to go to get it back? How much is it worth to Apple to get a back door right onto the desktops of corporate America (and world-wide for that matter)?  

I'd say the potential rewards might make such a move worth a shot.  With many requisitioning Macs running Windows, you know a fair number of users would take the opportunity to start using Mac OS X right in the heart of the corporate world.  At first they would dual boot in secret, and with time, many of them would start using Mac OS X regularly. 

Even if Apple were to take this Windows plunge, I think it will keep Mac OS X booting only on Macs for quite some time. The pitch to calm the faithful will be that "only Macs can run OS X, and only Macs can run Windows better than anyone else's computers (if that's what you have to run); and that makes Macs the best computers in the world." Besides, father Jobs can sell the faithful anything.


The brilliance of this risky move would be that Apple actually buddies up to Microsoft. After all, Apple would be selling a fair number of Windows licenses for Microsoft.  Getting up nice and close to its "partner" waiting for its chance to sink the dagger deep. And all the sudden, when there are enough Macs out there, with enough "soldiers" laying in wait, there may come a time when Apple flips out the hatch and starts licensing OS X to others.