November 04, 2009, 6:25 PM — As the very title of this blog implies, Apple is kind of a culty company, and it encourages you to think of it as, well, different from other companies. Certainly it's not like that awful Microsoft! It makes awesome cool products that you love! It's almost as if it loves you!
Of course, like all publicly traded companies, what Apple actually loves is making money, and in the PC market the way it has chosen to make money is this: you'll buy the hardware at a premium, and in return you get to run an operating system that you'll like better than Windows. This is the reason why Windows PCs are cheaper than Macs -- you're paying for OS X (and I'm always amused that this is highlighted by the company whose OS people are paying extra to avoid). You could look at this as hardware sales subsidizing software development, or as total computing packages having higher-than-industry-average margins.
Implicit in this business model for Apple, of course, is that OS X only work on Apple's own hardware. The company's own foray into licensing ended in disaster and left scars that have lasted a decade. But now that OS X has been ported to x86 chips, it's not terribly difficult to install a retail version of OS X on your own hardware. The target machines for these "hackintosh" jobs are generally netbooks -- a market segment Apple has resolutely refused to enter -- and those who have done the hacking have gone unmolested by Apple (although those who try to sell said hacked machines are a different story.)
But "not suing hackintosh hackers" and "allowing hackintoshes to keep running" are two very different things, which is why reports that the next Snow Leopard update won't support the Intel Atom processors that power many netbooks wasn't a huge shock. Still, the sense of outrage, of betrayal, was palpable -- a trip through the comments on this Slashdot story will be instructive. And, while I do kind of sympathize with those who have purchased legitimate OS X licenses and don't want or expect Apple to support their hardware, they really ought to understand that they are not the customers Apple is after, because they don't make the kind of money off of them that they do Mac buyers.
I have much less sympathy for Palm, which is jerking around its own customers and violating USB specs by spoofing its Pre phones so that iTunes recognizes them as iPods. Apple has struck the latest blow in this desultory war, with Pre users once again shut out from syncing with the latest version of iTunes. Palm is clearly trying to use integration with Apple's products to sell their phone, and that's both kind of sleazy and unfair to users who will expect their Pres to just work with their music. And considering that Palm could go the totally legit route taken by Nokia and BlackBerry to integrate their phone with users' existing iTunes library, it's baffling to me that they're grimly pressing on with their attempt to hack into iTunes.
Still, it seems that many people are going to keep loving Apple no matter what, and getting hurt when the company acts to make money rather than loving them back. And, as it turns out, those rumors about 10.6.2 not working on Atom chips might not be true after all! Fall in love all over again.