hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley

It comes in many forms

Forget ARM: Just send in Mac clones

Apple’s rumored plan to move away from Intel processors in its Macs did not light up the comments section on LinkedIn like I thought it might.

That’s because the Mac has already lost so much relevance.

Sure, they’re still pretty to look at. But, for what you get, they’re what they’ve always been–overpriced and underpowered.

Moving to inhouse manufactured ARM chips doesn’t change any of that.

Perception of Apple’s hardware lineup of Macs will remain what it is whether or not they stay with Intel.

It’s easy to assume control is largely the reason behind any eventual shift in processor for its iconic desktop computers.

But, I still yawn at the prospect.

Don’t get me wrong.

I’d really love for Apple to make the Mac matter again.

I just don’t think they have it in them to get there.

Plus, who knows what the future will hold for desktop computers in general.

Apple can try to shape what that market looks like beginning in 2020 or whenever they’re supposed to get the new Macs featuring ARM chips into the fold.

But, as technology is moving so fast, I doubt the Mac will be able to make a comeback any more than newspapers will by that time.

Back in the day the Mac was known for revolutionizing the desktop publishing world. Creative types flocked to use them. Newspapers across the country turned their composition departments into Mac-outfitted meccas of computing. Aldus PageMaker, Quark Xpress et al were the software packages that ran first and foremost on the Mac.

These programs were always better on Mac until Windows PCs caught and passed Macs while they floundered on underpowered PowerPC chips by IBM and Motorola.

Sure, we Apple fanboys would tout the Mac’s ease of use and also the leap of faith belief that a 500 MHz PowerPC processor was the equivalent of a 1 GHz Pentium 4 by Intel.

We were living a lie that became harder to live with once Adobe made PC versions of its software that blew by their Mac counterparts stuck in the slow lane.

Send in the clones

Before Steve Jobs came back to Apple, there was a brief experiment with cloning undertaken by the Cupertino giant.

Names like Power Computing, Umax and Motorola Starmax all featured Mac clones during the period Apple was licensing its operating system. That was a period of Mac and Mac clone popularity and resurgence desperately needed at a time Apple was mired in a serious fiscal funk.

I never got my hands on a Mac clone during that time. And once Jobs returned, he effectively killed the clone–leading Apple back to a renaissance of sorts featuring fruit-colored, egg-shaped iMacs that remained driven by underpowered PowerPC chips.

Matters weren’t helped by Apple’s propensity to equip its Macs with the bare essential amount of RAM to run its less-than-nimble OS X.

PowerPC take two or Hackintosh death by clone?

All of the rumored talk of Apple abandoning Intel to begin producing its own chips for insertion into future Macs has me thinking they’re missing the mark again.

People love macOS more than they love the Mac itself. Just Google “hackintosh” if you don’t think so.

People don’t want a Mac. They just want the Mac’s operating system to be able to run legally on PC hardware driven by Intel processors.

Sure, occasionally, and in the course of Apple history, a company or two has decided to make its version of a Hackintosh. They initially experienced a run of success. The promise of cheap, facsimile Macs makes people crazed. And, unfortunately they don’t come to their senses until Apple’s legal department makes them.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think Apple using its own chips is going to create large buzz around Macs again.

Desktop computers are becoming more and more irrelevant (except to people like me who won’t ever use a tablet other than when they’re on the road). There will always be a place in the heart for desktop Macs and PCs for types like me.

I suppose it has something to do with what I learned on back in the day.

It also has to do with the familiarity of the operating system itself. Windows has remained Windows over the years. And the macOS, while it’s changed more dramatically than Windows ever has, is still familiar.

That is what I want. But Apple never really cared about what I desired.

I never saved the funds for a new Mac other than in 1995, when I plunked down $2,000 (well, $1,995 at Best Buy) for the crippled CPU that was the Mac Performa 5215CD. This was a really bad computer and anything but a “performer.” But, it helped incite my strange love and fascination for optimizing hardware and software to their greatest capacities.

So, Apple now wants me to give it a couple of years while it performs processor transplant surgery on its Mac line. I hope the Mac is venerable enough to survive this change.

While change is never easy, Apple risks losing sight of the forest for the trees.

I don’t want or need overpriced Macs with underpowered Apple processors.

To the contrary, what I and countless others would love to be able to do is not build a hackintosh, but to be able to buy a PC desktop that runs the macOS legally.

I know macOS is pretty bloated these days. But still. It’s the OS, damn it, and not the processor or box.

Let the OS be the crown jewel it once was. License it. People would pay a little more to buy generic, ugly boxes running macOS. It’d work.

And everyone–including Apple itself, would end up realizing value in the process.


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  1. The promise of frequent updates because they were using the Intel architecture never materialized, in fact, it’s languished. They don’t need to engineer the computer from the ground up anymore, but they let computers go out of date by years now. I don’t see the value in buying a Mac laptop unless you really need Final Cut Pro or other Mac only software.

  2. “To the contrary, what I and countless others would love to be able to do is not build a hackintosh, but to be able to buy a PC desktop that runs the macOS legally.”

    You are probably too young to remember what happened the last time Apple licensed its OS to PC manufacturers. It almost brought the entire company to bankruptcy.

    It was only Steve Jobs cancelling all of those licenses, on his return to Apple, that saved the company. If those licenses had been allowed to continue, there would have been no iPods, iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, etc., since there would have been no Apple Inc.

    To someone unacquainted with the Mac clone era, it probably sounds like it was a good idea. But I can tell you, even from a consumer’s point of view, that it wasn’t.

    I bought one of the Mac clones because the price was too good to resist… But I regretted that purchase. The price was “cheaper”, but the quality of the product was also “cheaper”. Buying the Mac clone, I finally understood why Apple products cost a bit more, and learned that I was glad that I never chose to buy a Windows PC due to the terrible product design and execution (as well as the Windows OS) in the Mac clone.

    The Mac clone was cheaply made. The outside case was flimsy, and the internals looked like they were put together by a teen as a school project, with wires and loosely held low-quality components all over the place.

    The Mac clone ran well, initially, but I ran into software and hardware problems much more often than I ever did with an Apple-made product. And making things worse, there was almost no support (which was needed often) from the company that made the Mac clone!

    My Mac clone didn’t last very long, and I replaced it with a real Mac from Apple.

    Yes, you pay a bit more for Apple products, but in the long run you actually save money!

    Apple’s computers are built to last, so they are kept and used for more years than the average Windows PC (or Mac clone). Also, Apple provides the best software and hardware support… By far. And when it comes time to upgrade to a newer Mac, you get a good portion of your money back, since Apple’s Macs retain their value much more than any Windows PC.

    You might imagine that having Mac clones is a good idea, but those who actually bought and used them, as well as Apple corporate, know that it has been and would be a very bad idea.

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