Some economic analysis of Apple's move to x86

Scott Ritchie scott at
Thu Jun 9 13:59:59 CDT 2005

Hey team,

After thinking about it a lot and discussing it extensively in IRC and
with a few other knowledgeable people, I think it's time to share my
economic analysis of the impact of Apple's decision to move to x86 as it
relates to us.

In short, Apple's move is nothing short of a tremendous potential boon.
Getting Wine to work on OSX-x86 is probably one of the easier projects
to do, and most of the work has been done already by the Darwine
project, such as a Cocoa layer in XCode for the various graphical pieces
they've created.

While XCode objective C isn't importable to the main tree, most of Wine
is portable to OSX-x86 very easily. X11, while not installed by default,
works just as well on OSX as it does on Linux, and unlike most projects
we don't need to worry too much about adopting the OSX look and feel,
since we can't do that for applications that need to look and feel like
Windows to behave properly.

That said, Darwine needs to remain a fork, though perhaps a more
closely-related one. We might want to host or link them more from the
main page. What's needed for Darwine that isn't needed for Wine are some
OSX specific things - OSX doesn't use the standards, for
instance, so it will have to be specially coded for. I hope to soon be
working on some of the freedesktop things for Wine (such as getting that
infernal start menu working in Gnome), but that's a different matter for

Anyway, Apple's decision has fundamentally changed Wine's market
environment in a way that's extremely friendly to us. With the Mac users
going to Intel, the number of potential Wine users has somewhere between
tripled and quintupled, and all we have to do to get them is some
relatively easy Cocoa work that's mostly done already.

More economically visible than the user base, however, is the almost
overnight growth in Wine's potential market Apple's decision has caused.
Right now, there are quite a few small firms roughly the size of
Codeweavers that make a majority of their money JUST porting games from
Wintel to OSX on PowerPC. As we know, porting these programs with Wine
is far more efficient than rewriting the code from scratch to use
completely different APIs, even if we have to expand Wine a little in
the process. Moreover, as Wine gets better and better it becomes
increasingly easier to port applications - I'm sure our users (and
Transgaming's customers) wouldn't mind games working better in the free
version of Wine. In economic terms, that not only means that our
production technology is much better, it means we face increasing
returns to scale: we can provide the same service cheaper, and the
advantage is increasingly ours the more we do it.

Simply put, with Apple's move to x86 companies using Wine now have the
potential to displace these small porting firms very quickly. Since
Codeweavers is currently the only company of Wine experts out there, I
can't think of a better firm to enter this newly changed market. If I
were Codeweavers, I'd strongly consider investing in a Cocoa developer
and a development kit, and put him to work making a Cocoa version of the
Crossover interface. At the very least, I'd give Apple a call and see if
they have any desire to help.

And Apple should be helping a lot. Now, I can't be sure if Codeweaver's
don't have a secret agreement with Apple already (it would certainly be
Apple's style), nor can I be sure that Apple isn't already secretly
forking Wine (much like they did with Konqueror). However, the point
still stands - in about a year's time, when Macs on the x86 are being
sold, Longhorn still isn't out, and Wine is a stable, functional, and
usable piece of free software, things are really going to shake up. 

Now, firms that stand to lose out by this shakeup may be in a bit of a
daze right now. They might try and deny it will ever happen, claiming
Wine will never be good enough, or usable enough, or whatever, but we
can all see the writing on the wall from here - the Mac Porting firm is
fundamentally doomed unless they embrace our new, cheaper technology. If
I had a bit of capital or a rich friend, I might even buy one of those
firms myself, turn them into Wine people, help perfect Wine's gaming
support, and conquer the world of porting software to OSX on the cheap.

Scott Ritchie

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