• adobe,  apple,  microsoft,  subscription

    Thoughts on Subscription Services and the Rumored Apple One Bundle

    I have been thinking about subscription services a lot lately. Newspapers, cable TV and streaming services, and most recently, podcast subscriptions. The only Apple subscriptions that I currently have are iTunes Match (yes, it’s still a thing) and the iCloud 200GB storage plan so I can share my iCloud storage space with my family using the Family Sharing feature.

    One-Time Transactions vs. Recurring Revenue

    Back in a time before the App Store, consumer software was a one-time transaction. Think back to how you purchased productivity software at the consumer or “prosumer” level a decade ago. You purchased a new PC and the software came pre-installed and you used it. Prosumers might have purchased big packages like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop. You paid hundreds of dollars up front and ran the software until you needed a feature that was in a newer version or would no longer run on your PC’s operating system after an upgrade, at which point, you would purchase the software again. To reward customer loyalty, software developers would often offer customers a discount on the purchase of the current version.

    For businesses customers, the software model worked differently. Business customers would purchase a software license and with it, annual support agreements. Annual support agreements gave IT departments access to frequent software updates and technical support. The annual software maintenance agreements would typically run between 20-30% of the original purchase price.

    Fast forward to today. Subscription services are a lot like the maintenance agreements, where each subscription provides the software developer with a sustained revenue stream in exchange for regularly updated software packages.

    App Store and the Race to the Bottom

    With the introduction of the App Store on July 10, 2008, the consumer software model was forever changed. The iOS App Store was the point in time the popularized the idea of paying for software once and then getting free updates for life. The problem with that model is that it is not sustainable long term. Eventually, you will reach a peak customer base. When no new purchases coming in, there is no revenue to sustain development efforts. The lack of an upgrade system in the App Store further complicated matters. In the App Store, there was no way that developers could release, in effect, a 2.0 upgrade of their product and charge existing users a fee to recoup the development costs for the new features. To try and get customers to buy software, developers kept lowering and lowering prices to the point where many people would scoff at the idea of paying, $9.99, $4.99, $1.99 or even 99-cents for a game or app. This model, several years on, has proven to not be sustainable.

    Subscription Services

    Then, in 2016, Apple introduced the idea of app subscriptions. Rather than purchase an app, you subscribed to the app or a family of related apps from a single developer. You got the software for a monthly fee. Some developers offer a slight discount when a subscription is purchased annually. In exchange for the recurring subscription fee, developers would have the capital to fund the further development and support of their software.

    The notion of software subscriptions are not new. Looking to corporate IT solutions, annual software maintenance programs have essentially been rebranded as subscription services. Software subscriptions are also known as software-as-a-service, or SAAS – because IT loves acronyms. I first noticed SAAS software with the introduction of the Microsoft Office 365 service, now known as Microsoft 365. About the same time, Adobe started talking up their subscription product suite, Create Cloud. The Microsoft 365 and Creative Cloud SAAS subscriptions offer customers a lower annual software cost in exchange for software suites with guaranteed feature enhancements and bug fixes. I happily moved from a retail one-time purchase of Microsoft Office 2007 to Office 365 and Office 2013. Rather than spending $400 every few years, I would spend $99 annually. In exchange for my Microsoft subscription, I could share Office with my family and get additional OneDrive storage space. A lower price with more features. That sounds like a fair trade to me.

    Where’s the Apple Bundle? On the Way, Likely.

    Which brings us back to Apple and their subscription services. Apple, back in 2018, publicly started to talk about “services” as being the next revenue generating product. The iPhone has been the largest revenue generator for the company for many years, however, iPhone sales have stabilized. The company needed a plan for sustained revenue. The answer that Apple has turned to is a synergy between hardware and online products. Customers would by the hardware and then buy monthly subscription services. The hardware plus services model gives Apple a sustained revenue stream like the ones that Microsoft and Adobe have for Office 365 and Creative Cloud.

    Apple has released a scatter shot of services: iTunes Match, iCloud storage upgrades, iCloud Photo, Apple Music, Apple News+, Apple TV+, and Apple Arcade. If you subscribe to a small number of Apple services, say Apple Music and Apple Arcade, the cost is $15/mo or $180/yr. Subscriptions to Apple Music (Family), Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and a bump to iCloud storage can easily coast $336/yr. What is missing is the bundling of services at a lower price. Adobe’s Creative Cloud works that way. So does Amazon Prime. Why hasn’t Apple gotten into the bundle game?

    There have been a number of possible explanations for this this. The first being one that I mentioned earlier, that Apple is just bad at services. Another is that Apple is having trouble with the licensing terms of bundling Apple Music with other services, as suggested by Chance Miller writing for 9to5Mac. In the early days of online music sales, record companies saw Apple become a powerful middleman between they and the music download buying customers, dictating terms of how music could be purchased through the iTunes Music Store. It was a cautionary lesson for the music industry, for sure, and I feel a contributing factor in the rise of direct to customer streaming services like Disney+. Why share revenue with Apple when studios can have a direct relationship with their customers. Along those same lines, it is possible that Apple News+ could be suffering from a similar content licensing and customer relationship headaches.

    Despite the challenges of navigating the legal implications of bundling Apple’s own in-house services (i.e.: Apple Arcade, iCloud Storage, Apple TV+) with services that are built on top of content licensing deals (i.e.: Apple Music, Apple News+), there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Leaker Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg, suggest that Apple could finally be readying a services bundle as early as this fall alongside the launch of new iPhone hardware.

    Apple Inc. is readying a series of bundles that will let customers subscribe to several of the company’s digital services at a lower monthly price, according to people with knowledge of the effort.

    As someone who has been eyeing Apple Arcade as a way to get away from freemium games which require In App Purchases (IAPs) to advance, the idea of being able to get a bundle with more iCloud storage and a games subscription is appealing. I suspect that Apple will focus on the high visibility services of Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple News+ to drive adoption and that the smaller servers, like extra iCloud storage and Apple Arcade will be relegated to “sign up and get them for free” status in the bundle.

    Could we get an Apple One service this fall that includes Apple Music Family, Apple TV+, Apple News+, Apple Arcade, and 200GB of “free” iCloud storage? How much would this service offering cost? Assuming that someone subscribes to those services, one would spend about $38/mo. What would a price that a customer would shrug and automatically subscribe to a service for? My guess is that for a made-up bundle like the one I mentioned, a customer might expect a 20% discount, bringing the cost down to $25/mo. That seems reasonable. You end up paying for the “big” services and get the “smaller” services included in the monthly price.

    Conclusion

    The idea of an Apple bundle, like the recently rumored Apple One, is one that customers have been asking about since Apple first started playing with services. I think that Apple customers will go for a single monthly plan that will enhance the experience and joy of using their Apple devices, particularly the iPhone in the vein of an Amazon Prime service.

    For me, a $3/mo 200GB iCloud plan is sufficient to prevent my family from seeing the dreaded “Your iCloud storage is almost full” pop-up on a regular basis. Being able to play games on all of my Apple devices for $5/mo without questionable game mechanics is nice. While I do not use a streaming music service, my wife and kids do. Being able to add an Apple Music Family subscription would be a nice perk for them to listen to their music ad-free. For me, would an additional $15-20/mo make sense? To give my family an ad-free music listening experience and some extra TV content, I can see myself signing up Apple One this fall.

  • accessories,  apple

    Are Your Lightning Cables and Chargers Legit?

    If you have owned an iOS device for longer than six months, you probably have found a need to purchase additional Lightning cables and chargers. While you can purchase first-party cables from a local Apple Store or apple.com. Many of us, however, will buy those cables from Amazon or eBay.

    But, are the cables you buy from your favorite online retailer a legitimate Apple cable? Maybe, maybe not, according to ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes. That Amazon is chockfull of fake products is nothing new. The Washington Post’s Jay Green covered this problem last year.

    As Kingsley-Hughes points out, Apple has published a support document to help customers spot knock-off products. When purchasing cables and chargers for your iOS device, you should look for the Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod (MFi) logos on the packaging.

    Apple’s modern Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch badge, source: Apple, Inc.

    I encourage you to read Apple’s support document and share if with family and friends. Using fake cables and chargers can damage your Apple products and can pose a fire risk.

    So, what accessories are safe to buy? Obviously, purchasing directly from Apple is one way to be sure your product is genuine and safe. There are other third-party vendors that sell high-quality accessories including Amazon Basics, Anker, Belkin, Monoprice, and Nomad.

  • apple,  iphone

    On the 2020 iPhones Arriving Fashionably Late

    Source: Apple, Inc.

    During Apple’s financial results conference call for Q3 2020, which took place on July 30, Luca Maestri, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, pre-announced that new iPhones will be shipping a little bit later than usual this year as a result of global COVID-19 pandemic. At about the 24:27 mark into the call, Maestri states:

    “In addition, as you know, last year we started selling new iPhones in late September. This year, we project supply to be available a few weeks later.”

    In my mind, “a few weeks” means just that – about 3-6 weeks. Had there not been a global health crisis, we would have expected that Apple would have expected Apple to hold their fall iPhone event on or around Tuesday, September 8. Following that would be the launching of pre-orders on Friday, September 18 and new iPhones going on sale by Friday, September 25.

    With this new guidance on when to expect new iPhones, Apple is telling investors, and Apple watchers like us, that there will be new iPhones this year and that they will be arriving in October (my guess) rather than November or December.

    In my opinion, the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max hardware is so good, I wouldn’t mind hanging on to my 11 Pro until the spring. But I get distracted by shiny things and will order a new and completely unnecessary iPhone this fall.

  • apple,  lifestyle

    The Underdogs – WFH

    I had to laugh when I watched Apple’s new promotional video ‘Working-From-Home Thing’ featuring the likable Underdogs office team.

    Apple’s Underdogs – Working from home

    You see, I needed a distraction from the shenanigans on social media, on cable news, and in newspapers. Apple’s satirical commercial highlights both the challenges we are all facing while trying to work at home while showcasing their products that help make collaborative work easier. With a run time of over six minutes, the video does feel a little long when compared to 2019’s Underdogs commercial. The scene where one of the Underdogs needs to talk to an IT person hits a little too close to home.

    If you want to see what Apple products can do in action, enjoy Apple’s video production values, or simply just relate to trying to work from home when you are used to working in an office, you should watch this short.

  • apple,  business,  dell,  ipad pro,  ipados,  lifestyle

    The iPad Pro as a “Real” Computer

    Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.

    The iPad Pro is a real computer. You might be thinking “Yeah, duh!” right now. Let me explain.

    I was recently working in my office – my corporate office for my job-y job, not my fun-with-computers home office – and I was using my company issued Dell Latitude laptop. I needed to jump on a conference call, so I undocked my laptop, opened the lid, and moved closer to the window for better lighting. I also wanted to charge my work-issued 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I decided to try to charge my iPad Pro from the USB-C cable from my Dell WD19TB USB-C/Thunderbolt dock.

    As expected, my iPad started charging immediately. What I wasn’t expecting was a few seconds after that, iPadOS 13.4 “attached” to the dock and started mirroring the screen, accepting input from my Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse, as well as connecting to the network.

    iPadOS 13.4’s wireless mouse and system-wide pointer support worked with my Logitech Unifying Receiver connected K750 keyboard and M510 mouse just as smoothly as it does on the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard or a Magic Trackpad 2. I am also using a Dell 32-inch 4k UltraSharp U3219Q monitor, which displayed the video output from the iPad crisply. With an Ethernet connection, I was able to use Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Mobile client to connect to Windows 10 and Windows Server machines. Files was able to connect to my frequently used SMB server, and I was able to use multiple FileMaker applications hosted on FileMaker servers with FileMaker Go.

    There are a few things that I found a little disorienting while using my iPad Pro in place of my Windows laptop. I am confident they will become second nature quickly, but I think that they are worth mentioning in case you, dear reader, want to try your own iPad Pro at work experience.

    First, the iPad Pro will go to sleep a lot faster than Windows will put my laptop to sleep. I am apprehensive leaving my iPad constantly connected to power for multiple hours after 100% charge was reached. Second was getting the K750 keyboard to wake up and work with the iPad was occasionally problematic. The M510 mouse never had an issue. As a security feature, the contents of password fields are not mirrored to the external monitor. I kept clicking into the password field thinking I missed the target for the cursor until I realized what was going on. Finally, I discovered that while the iPad saw the USB powered speaks that are connected to the dock, I was not able to play audio of audio of any kind from the iPad through the dock speakers. I will have to keep playing with the speakers to figure out what’s going on.

    Overall, I had an enjoyable afternoon working on my iPad Pro in place of my Windows 10 laptop. There are few specific tasks that I probably could have done on the iPad, but muscle memory makes those technical IT tasks quicker for me in Windows. Enabling hardware support for USB-C docks and accessories is not a glamorous headline grabbing iPadOS feature, but I’m glad it is there.

  • apple,  education,  enterprise,  wwdc

    WWDC 2020 Sessions for Enterprise and School IT Admins

    Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.

    You would think that Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, WWDC, is just for software developers writing apps for the fruit company’s devices. After all, “developer” is in the name of the conference. Like me, however, you would be wrong.

    This year, Apple has elected to take this year’s WWDC conference online and make content available to anyone who is interested in learning about what’s new in their software platforms. I was surprised to see the Enterprise, IT, and Apps section of talks.

    This year’s sessions include topics for IT system administrators who use Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager. IT admins can learn more about automated device enrollment in mobile device management systems, customized onboarding and account creation, and app and software update deployment. One of the features that I am particularly interested in is “zero touch” device deployment. Zero touch deployments allow business or school IT teams to simply hand out Apple devices to their customers, have them unbox them, turn them on, connect to a Wi-Fi network and be setup in minutes. As an IT operations manager, I am very much interested in ways to improve the speed and consistency of deployments of PCs, mobile devices, and servers.

    If you are an IT administrator who supports Apple devices in the enterprise or at school, you will want to take a look at this year’s Enterprise, IT, and Apps videos near the bottom of the Apple Developer website or by downloading the Developer app.

  • apple,  ipad pro,  ipados,  keyboard

    Portrait or Landscape – Rethinking the iPad Pro

    Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.

    The iPad, and now the iPad Pro, has been positioned by Apple as the Windows PC laptop alternative for the last few years. I feel that the time has come to make the iPad Pro a true laptop alternative. Three things have happened in the last year that has really changed my opinion.

    The first is iPadOS 13.4 and the iPad Magic Keyboard. Since the April release of iPadOS 13.4 I have been using a wireless mouse with my 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It has been a game changer. Excel and Numbers are now usable with pointer support. For the last two and half months, I have been using a wireless mouse with a USB-A wireless receiver. That required that I use a USB-C to USB-A adapter cable. The resulting dongle hanging off the right side of the iPad Pro felt like a clunky solution to an otherwise clean design of the iPad Pro. After purchasing an iPad Magic Keyboard, it felt like a complete work solution that was designed together. The new scissor switch keys feel great and the trackpad is capable of getting the job down without having to carry around another accessory and dongle. I briefly considered buying a Magic Mouse 2 or a Magic Trackpad 2. They would get right of the unsightly dongle, but neither would fix the extra accessory problem. The iPad Magic Keyboard is an integrated clean solution that feels great to use and compliments a 2018 or 2020 iPad Pro nicely. In 2010 Apple said that there is no wrong or right way to hold the iPad. In recent years however, with the release of Apple’s Smart Keyboards for iPad Pro, the iPad has been undergoing a subtle transformation into a landscape-oriented device. The landscape oriented embossed Apple logo on the back of the iPad Magic Keyboard is further evidence of the acceptance that the iPad Pro is a landscape-oriented device.

    The second thing is that the iPad Pro needs to change the front facing TrueDepth camera from the top bezel to the right bezel when the iPad Pro when held in portrait orientation. There has been a debate about the iPad for a long time. In keeping with the theme that the iPad Pro is a landscape device, having the TrueDepth camera along the left bezel, results in webcam video that is off center. With many people still working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, webcams and video conferences are going to remain an important tool for working and learning collaboratively. Embedding the TrueDepth camera along the top bezel, when docking in the Magic Keyboard, where it is on the MacBook, means that you will center centered video in tools like Microsoft Teams without negatively impacting the Face ID feature. For the non-Pro iPads, I would leave the camera right where it is. The camera location would then become another feature that distinguishes the two iPad lines from each other.

    The third thing that I would change with the iPad Pro would be the addition of a second USB-C port. The iPad Magic Keyboard, with its charging-only USB-C port attempts to mitigate this change. The USB-C charging port, on the left side of the Magic Keyboard, is nice. I can plug-in the charger and not have to worry about the iPad battery while I’m working at my desk. My personal preference, however, is that the USB-C port for data and input devices shouldn’t be so high along the right side of the device. I feel that using USB-C to A dongle adapters or hard drive cables up that high on the right is inviting disaster. By having the ports and cables lower on the iPad chassis, there is less chance that the iPad Pro or accessories will be damaged while reaching for something that is on my work surface.

    I have always thought of the iPad as a portrait device that goes landscape when being used for content creation. The 2018 and 2020 iPad Pros and the iPad Magic Keyboard are challenging me to think differently about how these devices are used. Taking into account the new design language of the iPad Pro models and the impressive utility of the iPad Magic Keyboard and the enhancements in iPadOS 13.4 for pointer support, I consider the iPad to be a device that fits the user’s needs, regardless of which way the logo appears on the back.

  • apple,  wwdc

    Online WWDC 2020

    On Monday, June 22, Apple is set to hold its annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). An annual event since 1987, this year’s event will be unlike any other. Due to COVID-19, WWDC20 will be a completely online event this year.

    The WWDC conference is an opportunity for developers of applications on Apple’s platforms to come together to learn about new features, attend technical sessions, and have one-on-one appointments with Apple engineers who are responsible for building and maintaining the operating systems and platform features that application are built upon. In previous years, developers would enter a lottery to purchase a $1,600 ticket to attend the weeklong conference. Anyone one has attended a business software user conference already has a good idea of what’s packed into WWDC week.

    There are two important keynote presentations during the week. The first is the morning’s Special Event Keynote lead by Apple CEO Tim Cook and his lieutenants. This presentation is intended for the media and customers as it focuses on the flashy new software that will start rolling out in September and throughout the coming 12 months. In short, this is the sneak peek at what will be included in the next release of iOS and Apple’s other operating systems and online software services. The second is the afternoon’s Platforms State of the Union keynote address. This is the first developer-y presentation of the week. This presentation lead by the software engineers lacks all of the glitz of the morning’s session but is the meat and potatoes that software developers who write for Apple platforms are here for.

    In addition to all of the first-party Apple events that take place during WWDC week, an entire cottage industry has sprung up around WWDC. During the same week, third-party conferences, most notably, Layers and AltConf take place. There are the live shows for popular Apple-focused podcasts such as The Talk Show Live, Accidental Tech Podcast (ATP) Live, and Relay FM’s Connected Live. These are all great conferences and podcasts to be sure and I enjoy watching them each year. For me specifically, a non-developer tech enthusiast, the proposition of attending WWDC, third-party conferences, or podcast live shows is just too costly. I really do miss the regional shows, like MacWorld Expo and New York Tech Expo. In 2020, holding large independent consumer shows just isn’t economical anymore when so much tech news is available online. (I also miss the printed MacWorld, MacWeek/PCWeek, and ComputerWorld magazines, but now I’m just showing my age as a cranky old man.)

    This year, COVID-19 has completely turned the tables for the week’s plans. The all-online format for WWDC should be more inclusive for everyone. The online format, for this year at least, eliminates the expensive ticket price. To gain full access to pre-release beta software and one-on-one sessions, a very reasonable $99 annual fee must be paid by serious developers. The added expenses for hotels, meals, and travel are also eliminated this year. In year’s past, being selected for the privilege to buy a ticket and then having to pay for all of the extras made attending WWDC a very costly endeavor. This year, the online format is a much more equitable situation that reduces costs and should allow more developers to participate. And that is a good thing for everyone, in my opinion.

  • apple,  lifestyle,  macintosh,  newton,  vintage

    These Old Macs

    One of the things that I have been doing to keep myself busy during the craziness that is the COVID-19 pandemic (please keep wearing your face coverings in public) is to refurbish some of the old Macintosh computers in my collection.

    In particular, I am working on a PowerMac G4 Quicksilver (2001) restoration and a PowerBook G3 (1998) repair. Neither machine is working right now, which is understandable since they are 19 and 22 years old, respectively. Rather than talk about each repair project, I figure it would be more helpful to share some of the resources that I have found online to help others repair and overhaul their vintage and obsolete status Macs.

    Repair Information and Manuals

    When many Mac enthusiasts think of repair guides and tear down instructions, we think of iFixit.com. They offer a great service for sure and I have ordered my share of repair kits from them. But they are not the only game in town.

    If you are looking to repair or restore an old PowerBook, you will want to take a look at PowerbookMedic.com. They have repair guides and reasonably priced spare parts to get your old MacBook back in top condition. They also offer some parts and repair services for the iMac and Mac mini.

    Another great site is AppleRepairManuals.com [http://www.applerepairmanuals.com/index.php#tools]. They have a wealth of information in the form of Apple service guides as well as other helpful tips that you will need while servicing your new and old Mac, iPod, Newton, or Lisa.

    Finding Spare Parts for Your TLC Project

    Once you have found the part number for the component that needs replacing, sure, you can use eBay. Many of my component searches start there. But there are other online retail options that specialize in vintage hardware. Depending on the Mac, Other World Computing (OWC) might have the part. I recently purchased an inexpensive PRAM battery from them for the G4. OWC also has a neat IDE/ATA to SATA adapter and SSD conversion kits. Once I have the G4 booting again, I plan to replace an old spinning hard disk with a 120GB SATA SSD. That should give that old boy a nice little speed bump.

    One of my new favorite sites for spare parts is UsedMac.com. Need a replacement IDE drive for your Mac, a floppy drive for your PowerBook, or an external Jaz drive? No problem. I just recently ordered a 6GB 2.5″ IDE notebook drive from them. It was super cheap.

    The Newton

    I came to the Newton late in its life. Like weeks before Steve Jobs came back to Apple and killed it late. I am still intrigued by the Newton and how cool it looks. Old Newtons and eMate portables can still be found on eBay. But sometimes you need that special part. For all things Newton, you will want to check out these great resources.

    Newton Research offers a modern version of the Newton Connection Utilities that will run on modern versions of Mac OS. I was able to connect my Newton MessagePad 2100 to my Macbook Pro 2016 with Mojave.

    Chuma.org has a good write up for how to get Ethernet working on your MessagePad.

    Don’t forget UGreen’s USB 2.0 Type A to RS232 DB9 serial cable. This UGreen cable has a built-in FTDI serial converter so you won’t need a driver on the Mac / Windows PC side to get your Newton to connect and sync.

    Software

    Restoring hardware is only half of the equation. Once you have restored your computer, you may need to download and OS for it. Let’s face it, 1.4MB floppies, in my collection at least, aren’t holding up well. CDs are holding up much better. Regardless if you are the victim of bit rot, scratched discs, or may not be the most organized person in the world, the Internet has you covered.

    MacintoshRepository.org has a wide selection of Apple system software for the Mac, Apple //, and the Lisa. WinWorld’s library of Apple-related software is rather extensive with disk images for System Software 0-6, Mac OS and Mac OS X. You can also download A/UX and NeXTStep.

  • apple,  hackintosh,  mac,  mac os x,  vintage

    Apple Clones and the “Hackintosh”

    In the world of technology, there are clones and then there are hacks. Depending on who’s point of view is being used and when, clones and hacks can have both positive or negative connotations. Take for instance the well documented case of Samsung outright cloning, or copying, many aspects of early iPhone hardware and software. When talking about personal computers, Macintosh and Apple // clones are fully licensed machines while “Hackintosh” PCs are unauthorized illegal work-alike machines.

    In Apple’s long history of making computer for the rest of us, few companies have received special status from Apple to make Macintosh clones. In the mid-1990s, PowerComputing’s PowerWave 604/132 and the UMax SuperMac S900/200 are two examples of favored status Macintosh clones.

    A Hackintosh computer on the other hand, is an unlicensed personal computer built from commodity hardware and modified in such as way as to boot the macOS/MacOS/OS X operating system. To do so, one must bypass Apple’s licensing restrictions and copy protections. Hacked copies of Apple’s computers are nothing new. Dating back to the 1980s, the VTech Laser 128 and the Franklin Corporation Franklin Ace 100 were two popular, and unlicensed, Apple // clones. The name “Hackintosh” itself is an amalgamation of the words “hack” and “Macintosh”. In Apple’s view, a Hackintosh is a very bad thing. From the point of tech enthusiasts, a Hackintosh is a call back to the early days of computing when tinkering with hardware and software to make something new or work in ways that were not intended by the original thing is exciting and challenging.

    In my view, having worked with both PowerComputing PowerWave “Macs” and a “Hackintosh” or two, the experience is a little bit of both. While PowerComputing boxes were fully licensed clones of the Apple PowerMacintosh PCs of the day, and could boot and use current versions of classic MacOS, I always felt that the commodity hardware was inferior to the more expensive components in Apple’s PCs. For example, after ordering a fleet of 12 PowerWave towers, six of them were defective right out of the box.

    Tinkering with a Dell Mini 9 netbook to coax it into running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was both a fun science project and an oddity in the office after many of the Macs had been replaced with Windows PCs. The amount of hacking the Dell netbook to install a modified version of the computer’s BIOS and hardware driver software was not for the uninitiated.

    One the plus side, a Hackintosh offers an enthusiast a number of configuration and optimization options that are just not possible with an official Macintosh. The ability to use any case style or video card are just two examples. One big draw of a Hackintosh PC is price. Hackintoshes offer a means to get the same or better raw computing performance out of readily available hardware at a much lower price. I remember the point about price being promoted in an old computer book I purchased in the early 1990s titled “How to Build a Cat Mac”. Remember the time when we actually went to a book store to buy books? The premise of the book is that you would take the motherboard out of an old Mac and retrofit it into a PC case and use PC components with it. Unable to afford a Mac as an early teen, let alone take it part to tinker with it, building a Cat Mac was not an option back then, even if I did find the idea of building my own customized Mac fascinating.

    However, there are some significant downsides to using clones and Hackintosh PCs. For one, Hackintosh computers are not legal from a software licensing perspective. While not usually a serious issue for a home enthusiast, trying to build a business around selling Hackintosh computers to consumers is a precarious position at best. Such was the case for Psystar Corporation and OpenCore Computer currently. For me personally, inferior battery life on the Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh was a deal breaker as was having to wait for authorized clone makers to update and release their modified versions of MacOS and driver software after Apple released the software for the Macintosh. For me, not having the latest and greatest software bits to play with is a deal breaker. While I am glad that Hackintosh computers exist from a hobbyist standpoint, I much prefer to have a computer and operating system that just work. While I don’t have my Laser 128, my Dell Mini 9 netbook, or even my old Cat Mac book, I do remember all three fondly and am grateful that I was able to learn from and tinker with them.