CNet’s Connie Guglielmo, writing about a bit from Michael Dell’s new autobiography, Play Nice But Win:

In 1997, Jobs rejoined a struggling Apple after it acquired Next
for $429 million, and he pitched Dell on another business proposal
(as Jobs was evaluating Apple’s Mac clone licensing project,
which he ultimately shut down). Jobs and his team had ported the
Mac software, based on Next’s Mach operating system, and had it
running on the Intel x86 chips that powered Dell PCs. Jobs offered
to license the Mac OS to Dell, telling him he could give PC buyers
a choice of Apple’s software or Microsoft’s Windows OS installed
on their machine.

“He said, look at this — we’ve got this Dell desktop and
it’s running Mac OS,” Dell tells me. “Why don’t you license
the Mac OS?”

I’m not saying Dell is lying, but the timeline on this doesn’t add up. In 1997, Mac OS X hadn’t even been conceived yet. In the ink-was-still-drying period after the Apple-NeXT reunification in late 1996, the next-gen OS based on NeXTStep was codenamed “Rhapsody”, and, well, it wasn’t in any shape to be licensed to anyone in 1997. Apple itself didn’t ship anything based on NeXT’s software until Mac OS X Server in 1999 and the subsequent “developer previews” — releases that still used the classic Mac OS Platinum appearance. (Which looked pretty good.) If Rhapsody wasn’t ready for Apple customers in 1997 (or 1998!) how in the world was it going to work for Dell customers?

To me it just sounds like Michael Dell spinning up a tale that makes it seem as though Dell has been the least bit relevant in the last 25 years.

Dell thought it was a great idea and told Jobs he’d pay a
licensing fee for every PC sold with the Mac OS. But Jobs had a
counteroffer: He was worried that licensing scheme might
undermine Apple’s own Mac computer sales because Dell computers
were less costly. Instead, Dell says, Jobs suggested he just load
the Mac OS alongside Windows on every Dell PC and let customers
decide which software to use — and then pay Apple for every Dell
PC sold. […]

Dell smiles when he tells the story. “The royalty he was talking
about would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, and the
math just didn’t work, because most of our customers, especially
larger business customers, didn’t really want the Mac operating
system,” he writes. “Steve’s proposal would have been interesting
if it was just us saying, “OK, we’ll pay you every time we use the
Mac OS” — but to pay him for every time we didn’t use it …
well, nice try, Steve!”

Now that sounds like Steve Jobs.


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