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Old 08-27-2005, 12:24 AM   #1
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iPod + OS x86 = Microsoft's worst nightmare?

In technology pundit Robert X. Cringely's latest column, Bob throws out a pretty wild but plausible Apple strategy to disrupt Microsoft's domination of the desktop OS: Use the iPod as a bootable device to run OS X on PCs.

"Every one of those iPods is a bootable drive. What if Apple introduces OS 10.5, its next super-duper operating system release, and at the same time starts loading FOR FREE the current operating system version -- OS 10.4 -- on every new iPod in a version that runs on generic Intel boxes? What if they also make 10.4 a free download through the iTunes Music Store?"

While iPods are bootable drives for Macs thanks to Open Firmware, things are a bit different for PCs. The "host" computer would need a BIOS that supports booting from a USB device, or Apple would have to furnish a Knoppix-like bootable CD or DVD that would then run OS X from the iPod. Similar to IBM's SoulPad research project, your entire computing environment including your OS, applications, files, and so on would be available anywhere using your iPod and a suitable "host" computer.

Apple has stated that they are a hardware company, not a software company. This strategy wouldn't undermine their hardware sales as it would drive iPod sales and give the "iPod Halo Effect" a whole new meaning.
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Old 08-27-2005, 02:49 AM   #2
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And what happens when someone gets this 'free download' run-able on a normal USB/Firewire hard drive, and not just an iPod? Apple loses. Big time.

I think it's safe to call false on this one... Yet another rather mad theory...
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Old 08-27-2005, 08:24 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaos
And what happens when someone gets this 'free download' run-able on a normal USB/Firewire hard drive, and not just an iPod? Apple loses. Big time.

I think it's safe to call false on this one... Yet another rather mad theory...
I disagree. Of course Apple wouldn't want that to happen and they would probably use a hardware encryption scheme tying each OS X installation to a specific iPod among other things. There are encryption techniques out there that aren't crackable (at least by anyone other than certain 3 letter agencies) despite Apple's decision to use a rather weak copy protection scheme for the OS x86 developer boxes.

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Old 08-27-2005, 08:40 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by ballistic
Of course Apple wouldn't want that to happen and they would probably use a hardware encryption scheme tying each OS X installation to a specific iPod among other things.
I was specifically calling (probably) false on the download-able thing. The rest is unlikely, but possible... Really unlikely.

Making it download-able and tying it to a specific iPod would be near impossible. And the other thing is, once one person has cracked it, that'd be all it'd take for Apple to lose out on the biggest revenue they have - the hardware. Of course even just going to Intel processors is a risk, but they might not even use BIOSes for the Intel Macs, meaning it'd be quite hard to actually crack that... Plus there's the fact that OSX running on Apple hardware quite possibly will have some specific ties into the hardware, but once you have it running on normal PC hardware, that's not possible. iPods are, after all, just normal external hard-disks when it comes down to it.

And then there's also the implausibility of Apple taking the time to develop drivers for many pieces of not-so-common hardware. That's one reason OSX has the 'experience' of being so simple and flawless with hardware - Apple controls it. The moment they allow OSX onto 'commodity' hardware, is the moment that reputation will be, at the very least, hurt, if not shattered. At least if someone cracks Intel OSX to run on normal hardware, any problems will not be Apple's fault - they can blame it on the fact that it's not meant to run on anything other than a Mac. But as I said, if they want it to run on normal computers, they lose that reason rather quickly.
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Old 08-27-2005, 11:54 AM   #5
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Unlikely and will not dent Microsoft one bit...after all how many ipods are out there? still less than 50 million at most, and not all have a hard disk that's necessary to include a full-blown OS. I don't know the installed base of Windows desktop, but I am sure it will be many many times more than than.

How many will even try to boot another OS? For a year or more, Linux on CD has been available but few in the desktop world had even tried one.

And how about the free Be OS before it was sold to Palm... I tried that and was satisfied with it's user-friendliness, but it didn't hit mainstream even if it was free...

then there's the myraid of hardware configurations available for Intel boxes, to be able to boot on all, the drivers will have to be huge! Or they can try generic drivers but that would disable most of the hardware-accelerations necessary for enhanced graphics, etc.

Next, if you boot from your ipod, you would do your computing on one...all your data will be stored there... what if it got lost? Not only your data but privacy concerns is mind boggling.... ipod's doesn't have any security feature whatsoever... Sure you could include one on the Os, but still hackable for sure...

Lastly, Steve Jobs is not known for genetrosity, and Apple doesn't have its back against the wall, so I don't think he will take such 'desperate' moves...
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Old 08-27-2005, 06:15 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ballistic
What if Apple introduces OS 10.5, its next super-duper operating system release, and at the same time starts loading FOR FREE the current operating system version -- OS 10.4 -- on every new iPod in a version that runs on generic Intel boxes? What if they also make 10.4 a free download through the iTunes Music Store
Nothing much would happen. While you don't have OSX, you have Linux and other Unix variants which come for free. And still Microsoft managed to keep the crown among desktop PCs.

Regarding encryption, while it's true some encryptions haven't been cracked yet, this only applies to data that doesn't have to be decrypted once in a while (like plain data). But if you think of the iPod running an encrypted OS, then at some place the code has to be decrypted in order to be readable to the CPU. Somewhere keys have to be exchanged and somewhere the decrypted data has to be make its way (through the bus system for instance) to the CPU.
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Old 08-28-2005, 04:23 PM   #7
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I think Microsoft has a lot more to fear than just the iPod and OS X ... for instance an Internet-based OS by Google, and all *nix derivates for which desktop distributions are improving day by day.
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Old 08-29-2005, 09:13 PM   #8
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A lot of pundits are making themselves look like complete dorks trying to predict this sort of thing. These were mostly the same guys saying a transition from PPC to intel was not going to happen.

Apple is all about control. They're not going to want OS X running on hardware they don't make - that's why you can plug things into your mac and "it just works". Most of the time, anyway.

Any company that obsesses down to what the packaging looks like when you open the box sure as heck ain't going this direction.

The concept of OS X being a free download made me laugh out loud. iTunes is the only thing they've given away free; sales of OS X still make money. Sales of Mac hardware still make money. Given that Apple still enjoys the largest margin in the business, why would they want to give that up by giving away the OS for free?
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