When will Apple set OS X free?

I believe our entire computing world will become virtual. OS X will not be immune.


With iOS leading the charge Apple has become an enterprise company. Enterprises naturally want to migrate to Macs (why else do they ask IBM to sort this out for them), but equipment budgets are limited. Isn’t it time Apple provided OS X as a virtual machine to help enterprise users migrate?

Think about it. Already as a result of the huge seismic shift to iOS devices among Fortune 500 firms Apple has built a huge opportunity to flog Macs to big enterprise clients. But there’s a snag – enterprises are limited by available budgets and Apple wants them to buy iOS devices, so why not offer virtualized OS X desktops on a per seat basis through approved suppliers? That would enable large enterprise clients to migrate thousands of staff to OS X today on a path to major Mac (or even iPad Pro) deployments later along the road.

Cost isn’t the only prerogative. Enterprises everywhere are beginning to embrace SaaS, DaaS and other service-based infrastructure deployments. Not only do these solutions pass responsibility for maintenance, software updates, and security protection (in part) to third party service providers, they also enable enterprises to easily add or remove users or services in response to business need.

Also read: The Apple-Cisco deal may change the world (not just the enterprise)

You’ll read about this trend in hundreds of reports from hundreds of analysts including some most consumer users have never heard of that CIOs trust slightly more than they do their own mum.

Growing business case

This digital transformation means digital now sits at the heart of almost every transaction. Why else do you think almost everyone in the world is permanently connected to their smartphone?

While we know it can be done, Apple doesn’t currently allow customers to run OS X in virtualized environments. You can’t legitimately install it on a Windows PC, can’t access it as a virtualized desktop and can’t access it in the sense of desktop as a service/software as a service models. This has helped Apple maintain its pristine brand and avoid the pitfalls of supporting fragmented ecosystems, until now. But the environment is changing.

Apple’s growing enterprise market share means it will feel the pressure to offer solutions in line with those enterprises already use, and that includes embracing virtualization of applications, desktops, and operating systems.

One way in which Apple could enable such virtualization might be to license OS X to key partners who will OEM virtualized online access to the OS for other platforms (for a shared fee). This would enable end users to access feature-limited virtual Macs from any device, while freeing Apple from user experience concerns. Much of the technology with which to achieve this exists in OS X Server. (Of course, Apple could provide this service itself, using its existing server farms).

Memo: Hell already froze

Purists will say Apple will never do this. History is on their side, but Tim Cook’s Apple makes large-scale changes – did you see the IBM or Cisco deals coming? The new Apple does lots of things people said it would never do. And there’s no better way to convince people to switch to Mac than giving them a chance to use one every day. Even a virtual Mac on a PC would help convince people to migrate to the platform.

It seems true that making virtual Macs available in this way would damage Mac sales, but I think Apple would still sell many Macs. Could it happen? When it makes sense.

Will it happen?

If I’m honest I believe our entire computing world will become virtual, available wherever we happen to be using whatever device is available.

OS X will not be immune.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon