Clones and Licensing

After I linked to Jack Wellborn’s article on Microsoft’s growing hardware business, Jonas Wisser sent me a text, which he’s given me permission to quote here:

Kinda surprised you didn’t make the connection between licensing killing a quality OS problem and Old Apple.

There are two really good points here: first, that the degrading of Microsoft’s reputation due to licensees making crappy products is similar to Apple’s situation in the mid-’90’s with the Macintosh clones; and, second, that it’s surprising that I didn’t make that connection.

He continued:

The problem for Microsoft is that they _can’t_ win back control of their consumer product the way Apple did.

Their enterprise and embedded footprint is way too big.

IMO, the only way they could do it would be to turn Windows into a legacy product and ship their own hardware running a new OS.

I think this is a really intelligent point, but there is one niggle I have: Macintosh clones were never really big business:

Hard numbers are not available for most brands of clones, but it’s generally estimated that they accounted for about 15% of all Mac OS computers sold in 1997…

As numbers are hard to come by, it’s conceivable that Macintosh clones could have accounted for a much larger percentage of Mac OS sales at their peak. I doubt, however, that they ever had a market share as great as Windows licensees enjoy today.