Some economic analysis of Apple's move to x86

Scott Ritchie scott at
Sat Jun 11 22:22:34 CDT 2005

On Sat, 2005-06-11 at 20:55 +0100, Mike Hearn wrote:
> On Sat, 2005-06-11 at 12:36 -0700, Scott Ritchie wrote:
> > Well, increased Mac-only API usage would only be caused by an increase
> > in Apple's marketshare.  But if Apple's marketshare is going up because
> > it is more useful now that Wine works in more instances, then Linux
> > would be experiencing the same growth in utility.
> Well, I am not sure I agree with this proposition. The problem is that
> MacOS would now be Windows compatible, Linux/BSD compatible and Mac
> compatible. But there is no Mac emulator and probably won't be one for
> many years, if ever. So Linux can't match that level of compatibility,
> neither can Windows, therefore Apples utility would increase faster.

This is true.  However, Apple still has their main disutility working
against them - much higher prices, both due to software and hardware
costs.  That's something they'll never be able to compete with Linux on,
since Linux is free and hardware costs are at most the same as Mac.

> Basically the classical supply/demand based free market can't cope with
> the idea vendor lockin at all, it seems to degenerate into monopoly.
> Same is true in the digital TV market for instance.

No argument there - monopoly creates dead weight loss felt by all
consumers.  We're feeling it first hand, even if we don't pay for

> > Even if Linux doesn't grow that much during this period (which would
> > be unexpected given its rapid growth and the increasing utility of
> > Wine), I'd still rather Apple be gaining ground instead of Microsoft.
> Hmm, why? I don't see them as being any better than each other, really.
> Microsoft has good points Apple lacks, Apple has good points Microsoft
> lacks ... it's a bit of a wash.

Yeah, I suppose there's ups and downs to both.  However, the best thing
for Wine and Linux other than increasing Linux usage is probably a
marketshare distribution between two extremes of Apple and Microsoft
such that neither has a monopoly - in other words, more in the Apple
direction than it is currently.

> > People switching from MS to Apple helps Linux too, in an indirect way -
> > it lowers Microsoft's ability to break standards (standards that Linux
> > wins on), and it is slightly easier to make things Apple/Linux
> > interoperable than Windows/Linux interoperable.
> I'm not sure I agree with this either. Why is it easier? Mac apps are
> not written to POSIX, they are written to the old Mac (Carbon) or NeXT
> (Cocoa) type APIs. 

Well, code-compatibility is harder with the Mac APIs that don't have
their replacements, but interoperability also includes other stuff
Microsoft likes to break regularly, like network integration.  Just ask
our friends over at Samba :)

> > In the unlikely event Apple becomes big enough to become the next
> > Microsoft and Linux users have to start worrying about how to run Cocoa
> > apps without equivalents, well, there's already a wine-like project to
> > get them working :)
> If you mean GNUstep, they chose long ago not to go for Apple
> compatibility. Many interesting apps (like Photoshop or iTunes) also use
> Carbon not Cocoa. So I think it would be a Wine scale effort. Like, 10
> years to get something that can run a few popular apps. Well 10 years is
> a long time ... in that period (the 1990s) Microsoft grew from being a
> small company into a really big company.

And many interesting apps, like Photoshop and iTunes, are also ported to
Windows.  Good examples too - ones that work in Wine :)  I suppose
you're right about the difficulty of providing an OSX compatibility
layer, though it'll probably slightly easier than Wine since the Apple
environment is a bit more open.

Scott Ritchie

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