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Dell was able to make macOS PCs, but Steve Jobs tried to get too much cut

In 1997 Jobs returned to what was always his home, and he did so with many surprising ideas in mind. One of them: let Dell license Mac OS and pre-install it on their PCs.

The idea was striking and there are those who claim that it could have changed history, but Michael Dell now tells in his biography how in the end he and Steve Jobs they did not reach an agreement because the latter wanted to be too smart.

First try: “Hey Michael, how about you install NeXT on your PCs?

Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell published his bio ‘Play Nice But Win’ recently, and in it tells how was his relationship with a Steve Jobs whom he met when he was just 15 years old.

Dell

They ended up being friends, and when Dell was beginning to stand out Jobs met with Michael Dell to make a proposal. It was in 1993, and by then the founder of Apple was still “exiled” from Apple and had created NeXT.

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Michael Dell claims that Jobs went to his Texas home several times that year to try to convince you to use the NeXTSTEP operating system on your Dell PCs. He argued that it was better than Windows and could win the battle over the workstations that Sun Microsystems sold at the time.

For Michael Dell this was not a good idea: there were no applications for the NeXT workstations, and no matter how fantastic they were, the interest of the customers was nil. That first attempt by Jobs was useless, but Dell ended up working with NeXT and used its WebObjects technology to create its first online store in the mid-1990s.

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Four years later the panorama changed. Apple bought NeXT for $ 429 million and Steve Jobs returned to become CEO of the company he had created.

Dell 1997
Dell 1997

Jobs and his team had managed to get the NeXTSTEP Mach kernel to work on the Intel x86 chips that then ruled Dell’s computers. He showed it to Michael Dell and proposed to license Mac OS for Dell computers, thus giving users the option of installing Apple’s software or Microsoft’s Windows.

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At Dell they believed the idea was not far-fetched, says Michael Dell, and offered Jobs to pay him a license for every PC they managed to sell with Mac OS. Steve Jobs, who bargained like nobody else, wanted to get more cut: his idea was to pre-install Mac OS on all Dell computers, and then let the customers decide whether to use that system or use Windows.

For Michael Dell the play was too favorable for Apple. “The royalty he was talking about would have been hundreds of millions of dollars and the accounts did not come outBecause most of our customers, especially large enterprise customers, didn’t want the Mac OS operating system at all. “

The creator of Dell was clear that “Steve’s proposal would have been interesting if he had only said” OK, we will pay you every time the Mac OS system is used, but pay him for all the times it wasn’t used … well, nice try, Steve!“.

Steve Imac G3
Steve Imac G3

Besides that, Michael Dell added that Jobs it did not guarantee that later those PCs would be able to access future versions of the operating system even accepting “those same bad conditions”, which would have made that users who bought Dell computers with Mac OS could not update their software.

For Dell that deal “could have changed the trajectory of Windows and Mac OS on PCsBut they obviously went in different directions. “Michael Dell’s relationship with Jobs was in jeopardy shortly after: At a conference in October 1997 he was asked what he would do with a company that, like Apple, was in serious trouble, and he said”I would close it down and return the money to investors“.

That statement went viral and made for many Dell was the arch enemy of Apple, but Michael Dell says that he then spoke to Steve Jobs, who had obviously taken it very badly, and the waters calmed down although his products and strategies certainly rivaled.

And to the third, either: In 2005 we could see Sony VAIO laptops with Mac OS X

Sure enough, Jobs ended up launching the color iMacs in mid-1998, but also nipped the Mac OS licensing program in the bud, which between early 1995 and mid-1997 led to the appearance of several computers not manufactured by Apple (especially Power Computing and UMAX) that had Mac OS 7.

Vaio1
Vaio1

The decision not to license Mac OS became a perpetual … or almost. In 2005 Apple made the famous transition from PowerPC to x86 architecture, and although Steve Jobs had no intention of offering it on third-party equipment, was about to make an exception.

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So said the president of Sony at the time, Kunitake Ando. He and Steve Jobs had been playing golf and chatting in Hawaii in 2001, and they commented how Apple didn’t want to make clones of their equipment, but “with Sony they could make an exception“as they admired the results of their work with the then prestigious VAIO family.

In 2005 Jobs spoke with Ando about license Mac OS X on high-end VAIOs, but according to the Japanese manager the thing came to nothing, partly because sales of Windows-based laptops were doing really well.