Maybe it’s time for Apple to bring back the Mac clone programs (at least for desktops)

After returning to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs attempted to re-negotiate the clone manufacturers' license agreements. When the clone makers refused, Jobs refused to license later versions of the Apple hardware and operating systems to the clone vendors, effectively ending the clone program. Perhaps it’s time to bring it back.

Why? Read Chance Miller’s excellent editorial at 9to5Mac. As he mentions, with the Mac Pro and Mac mini both lagging significantly behind in terms of upgrades, lots of us are really starting to question Apple’s commitment to the Mac desktop market. And there was no mention of those two desktops or iMacs at last month’s Mac-focused “hello, again” event, which makes Phil Schiller’s comment that “We love the Mac and are as committed to it, in both desktops and notebooks, as we ever have been” sound a bit hollow.

Here’s what Chance recommends: “One possibility here would be for Apple to set macOS free and license it to be installed on the hardware from other companies.  Apple could work closely with the companies to ensure that everything is up to par, but this still seems like a long shot.  Apple of course ran a clone program as its fortunes waned in the 90s at the hands of Microsoft. After fighting off fakes for years, the company launched an official clone program for Mac OS that saw it license the operating system to other manufacturers in order to help it penetrate the market at a faster rate. Mostly, clones just cannibalized Apple sales and undercut its pricing. One of the 1st things Steve Jobs did when he came back to Apple was kill off the clone licensing program.

“But Apple doesn’t seem care about its waning desktop Mac numbers (or so it would seem). If Apple could create a lock in system on its own terms, it could stand to make a lot of money with very little effort (even less than it is exerting now).”

I think he’s right. If Apple does indeed have real plans for the Mac line-up, it needs to reveal its “grand vision.” The company can do this without giving specifics since Apple doesn’t, as well all know, “talk about unannounced products.” 

Of course, it’s possible that Apple does have long-term plans for the Mac desktop and laptop. I’d bet that the company plans to move its personal computer line to Apple-made processors in the future to eliminate its reliance on Intel. But the company owes it to long-time users to at least give us an idea that something is coming. 

And while we’re at it, Apple also needs to:

Tell us if/when we can expect Time Capsule and AirPort updates; they’re starting to look a bit long in the tooth.

Tell us what’s coming with automation technologies since the position of product manager of Automation Technologies has been eliminated.

I’m not asking for transparency regarding Apple’s plans. But less opaque-ness would be nice.