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Cloning Revisited
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

Complaints against complainers --

This site is about me (and others) expressing opinions and analysis (based on facts at hand). That means being objective and complaining when Apple does stupid things (which they frequently do), as well as rooting them on when they do the right things (which they also frequently do -- but is seldom reported).

Often I try to balance out the presses biased bashing and extremism -- remember, sensationalism sells, so the press sensationalizes. We need to remember that they are being irresponsible when doing so -- that their reactions hurt people, and harm our industry.

We have to stay fair and open minded -- and look at the facts (even when they don't reflect well on Apple) -- but not get caught up in either extreme; neither the delusional "Apple is Dead" propaganda, nor the "Apple is deserving of saint-hood."

In engineering there are always "trade-offs" -- good and bad in every decision. I'll try to look at both -- but as usual, remember that these are my opinions, based on the information I have at this time.

If you can only see one side of these issues, then grow up! Open your mind, and really think about what is going on. I (you) may not agree with Everything that is being done -- but not every decision is the "make or break" for Apple.


Apple acquired Power Computing's assets for a song. For $100 million, Apple got a company that was selling probably half a $Billion per year. By my measure, that is a bargain and good for Apple (and Macs). Apple did it in a pretty shitty way (by threatening to revoke PCC's cloning license, driving their value down, then picking up the remains of PCC for bargain basement prices) -- but that is sometimes how business works. I also don't think it was a preplanned strategy, more of a convenient side-effect. I suspect that Power Computing, Microsoft, or others, would not have hesitated to use similar means to achieve their ends -- so lets not act like a bunch of whining primadonas on this. Apple did something that was definitely in Apple's best interests!

Steve Jobs complaints that, "cloners [Power Computing] are leeches" has a strong element of truth. Power Computing did NOT grow the Mac market much, according to Jobs (not always the most trustworthy of sources) only 1% of PCC sales were to new customers -- the rest were pirated Apple Customers. What Jobs does not mention was how many of those customers would have left the Mac market if PCC hadn't offered them superior price performance -- nor does he mention the less immediate benefits of more choices, the price battles that brought the cost of Macs down, nor driving innovation by their pressure, and the consumer boost of having a second source. But we'll give this one to Apple. PCC was pirating Apples sales, offering little back, doing little real innovation, and costing Apple a fortune. Power Computing seems to have been using Macs as a way to launch themselves into the larger PC market. Remember, all the hype about "Fighting Back for the Mac" is just a way to generate sales -- PCC was not saintly in all this, and had they behaved differently (and not been such hard-asses), they might have had a license BEFORE Jobs ever took over.

  • Now (after the purchase), Apple gets into go direct market sales, with much more expertise, and a separate product line (hopefully a separate division). They grey access to PCC's customer base, and a successful "direct sales" business model.
  • Apple gets to reduce the slide of their market share in the Mac market (much of which was to PCC), and increase their sales. Apple needs to do this!

As Apple has expressed to me (and others) --"The BEST THING Apple can do for the Mac market, is get profitable, and remain profitable. Once that happens, the whole Mac industry is better off."

You may not like the methods, but they ARE doing what is right. I am actually impressed that they are mature enough and ruthless enough to follow-through and improve their stance so well. Even Wall Street and the media have not crucified Apple on behaving like a business (for once) -- though the trades and the advocates have done more harm than the mainstream press. There is a little to complain about on the PCC deal -- but overall, it was in Apples best interests, and in the Mac Markets best interests. This is not the end of the world, Apple is not doomed, and it was a good business decision for Apple.


As you read, I am not the slightest bit concerned over Power Computing's fate. Sorry guys, they made a good product, the people may have been nice/good, but their business model was to pirate Apples sales. That's the risk of having a parasitic business model -- sometimes the host swats back, and it hurts. But the other side of this is CHRP (PPCP) and Cloning in general.

Just because Power Computing's business model was that of a parasite, does not mean that UMAX and Motorola and others was as well. In fact, UMAX is doing good things in low-end and in Asia, and Motorola opened up a whole new market for Macs (the quality small branded clones, vertically configured boxes, custom machine market, as well as Asia, and some businesses). Swatting them is different than swatting PCC.

Apple can not be all things to all people. So the only question left, is will they allow others to fill in the gaps in a open market, or in a very piecemeal way? I think PPCP is the best way to get there, and be open about it.

CHRP (PPCP) is an open platform for the PowerPC processor and the Mac. And in my (not-so-humble) opinion, it is THE FUTURE of Macs, and PowerPC's <period>. Apple, for NOW, is saying that they delaying (indefinitely) licensing these machines. If this delay is just until Apple has products that can compete with the StarMax 6000's and Tatung PPCP box (the Gossamer or PowerExpress -- targeted for later this year or early 1998), then I don't have a problem with the delay (I don't like it, but I understand it).

Everything that has gone before CHRP, is just "the warm up laps" -- the real cloning race begins when CHRP is out the door. Apple can delay the race, but if they stop the race for fear of losing, then they may lose me (and many like me) as a customer.

So hopefully, Apple is just stalling. If they are not, then they had better have some pretty compelling reasons for me to stay a Mac user. I'm writing a related article on the "History of CHRP" for more information, but it is not yet finished. (IBM and Motorola have certainly done as much as Apple, to screw up the PowerPC Platform -- so all sides are a little mucked up).

I want to be able to choose from many different cases, many different motherboards (with different specs), to have parallel ports, PC Serial Ports, USB, and many custom options. Clone makers were going to make replacement motherboards (upgrades) for older Macs (like Quadra 700's, etc.). There were going to be many more choices than Apple can afford to offer. PPCP gives me that -- and Apple just took PPCP away again! That had better be temporarily!

Apple has promised PPCP since '92 or '93 -- I am sick to death of waiting. Many business are hurt because of Apples broken promise on this issue (and others). This variety (customization) will allow people to do more with their computers. It will give more peripheral support to the Mac, and is good for the market as a whole. Yes, Apple will get around to adding the same functionality, eventually, but I've been waiting 5 damn years -- and their broken promises are destroying what remains of Apples credibility.

Apple employees that I've spoken with seem to think that Apple is just stalling, and will license PPCP. I hope they are right.

Jobs is trying to make people believe that cloning is just a monetary issue -- but I have a tough time with that bullshit. If Apple wanted PPCP to be out, they could require a Mac ROM to work, and charge $250 (for $5 in parts) -- on TOP of the $99 (or more) for the Mac OS (and even more for Rhapsody) -- not counting the software upgrade revenue. Apple has not put much hardware R&D dollars into CHRP -- the clone makers did almost ALL OF IT! So Apple could license the Motorola machines, and would easily make $350 + upgrades (which could be $100/year for Mac OS, and $500 initially and a couple hundred a year or more for Rhapsody). IF APPLE WANTED, they could have done this 1 year ago, 2 years ago, or maybe even 3 years ago -- if they were motivated to do so! So I have a tough time believing this is about money, when it smells like Jobs B.S. (see lie) -- it seems to be an issue of control.

Every indication is that Apple is closing their markets, and allowing VERY limited cloning. This is not good for the Mac long term (in my mind). We need the competition, the innovation, and the choices -- or people will choose more PC's. Cloning still is the key to LOTS of growth, and does entice developers (hardware and software) to get involved with Macs.

But again, many reporters (and Mac enthusiasts) go overboard. Apple had a successful business model being a sole source (until the press scared off the customers with stories of doom and gloom). There are many companies that are doing just fine in their own world -- like Sun, IBM, HP, DEC and others. There is no reason to think that Apple can't do the same. So Apple can, and likely will, be a very successful niche (or many niche) company, even if they collapsed back to their Jobsian 1984 business model. But I feel for more growth, they shouldn't.

Fortunately, Apple is not talking about going back that far -- at worst, the most likely objective, is that Apple is going to continue to allow cloning of certain models, by certain companies, and that Apple will label many of the machines, and allow companies to go forward on a case by case basis. That will help Apple be profitable (and stay profitable) and guarantee R&D money to make the Mac better, which as we remember, is Apple chief concern right now.


Lets talk about Steve Jobs past actions.

He scares me -- a lot. He has been a smart, visionary, single minded, binary thinking, egomaniacal, immature tyrant, with style. I imagine that after you achieve your wildest dreams (and your first $100 million) you stop maturing -- and Jobs did that in his 20's. He has good and bad points, but his bad points (and history) scare many off.

Jobs has been pretty proprietary in his designs. Mac128k's weren't supposed to be expandable beyond 128K(1). Jobs made sure early Macs weren't open or expandable, and devoid of slots (2). Jobs created NeXT Cubes -- which again were proprietary, had proprietary slots, proprietary drives, and were high cost elitist machines sold only in the high end (3).

(1) Thanks go to Burrel Smith for going against Job's wishes, and for allowing Mac to be upgraded to 512K. Thanks to Jobs for punching holes in some early Mac motherboards -- to prevent individuals from upgrading their machines.

(2) Burrel Smith camouflaged an Expansion Port as a Diagnostic port (that sat on the bottom of the machine, with a knock-out panel) -- that would have allowed Mac128K's to sit on top of a card-cage and be very expandable. Jobs found it, and it was removed. It wouldn't have cost anything, and users would have had a primitive MacII, 2 or 3 years earlier, if it once again hadn't been for Jobs proprietary moves.

(3) I suspect the only reason NeXT STEP was built on Unix, and not some fully proprietary OS, was that Jobs didn't have time (money) to do it all himself.

Now Jobs is running Apple. That proprietary historical trend scares me -- especially with his actions of late.

I am scared he is going to make the Mac into his usual proprietary penis extension, that only does what he wants, how he wants it.

Jobs has always been the OPPOSITE of customer driven (or team oriented) -- and only for free choice when people are following him. It is Jobs way, or the highway -- and that scares me. He not only doesn't care about the customer (as much as his own power or vision), but he would (historically) destroy anyone that is a TRUE customer advocate -- if they contradict him.

Think of these issues (I will) --

  1. I wanted my Mac to be different than he saw it -- I couldn't get it, because of him.
  2. The Mac would have existed without him -- the only question is would it have been better or worse. I suspect both, but that Apple could have been far more successful without HIS proprietary attitude and immature(?) emotional-artist influences (at the time).
  3. I would have bought a NeXT cube if it had been cheaper and less proprietary.
  4. I would have picked up OpenStep if it hadn't cost thousands of dollars.
  5. His perfect Mac may not fit MY desires -- and his history is that I can buy it his way, or not at all.

Think about some of that.

That isn't to say that we don't have a "new" improved Steve Jobs, but he has a lot of history at Apple. We (long time Apple people) are the ones that remember him from before -- and why people panic when Jobs looks to be in control. Jobs (of the past) would kill anything (project) or anyone (metaphorically) that got in his way. I don't know the Jobs of the present -- some say he has changed, many are complaining that he is the same as ever (or worse). That is my (and others) concern. Killing cloning, and seeing cloning as black and white, and making extreme statements, only feeds my fears.

What if the MacOS is in the way of Rhapsody or the NC's? What if another cloner starts increasing sales? What if Newton is a success and draws attention away from his pet project of the week. History says that he will destroy them -- and use any back stabbing two faced methods to do it, though tantrums were a preferred method. Hopefully, he is a newer, more mature Steve -- but he is sure feeding his protractors lots of ammo, and not behaving like an adult business person come CEO (uh, excuse me, "Consultant").

Before Amelio, Apple needed Adult supervision. Amelio is the first person to actually be the adult, and get Apple in line (some discipline). You may not agree with his vision (or his lack there of), or his specific actions -- but he did get Apple to act like a business. Now Jobs is in charge -- the man who's spirit made Apple into the artistic-prodigy-children they behaved like for years. The board, or a CEO needs to be appointed to neuter Jobs (or at least soften the impact he has). (I'm not saying get rid of Jobs -- but do not let him run wild and completely out of control. Many think that he is out of control -- and that drives many away from the Mac). If Jobs has matured, than he can tollerate playing by someone elses rules -- yet, so far, he got Amelio and Ellen fired -- and is making his own rules, and he seems to be uncontrollable (which is why Apple had to get rid of him the first time).

Closing thoughts

Apple and Jobs probably has a vision of where they are going... and we will learn about it -- eventually (I expect Everything will be clear around January Expo). As customers, we have little choice but to be patient. But I think APPLE should start communicating their directions and intents (and stop this).The Mac industry is feeding on its own hype, and chewing itself up -- I feel that it is a PR depts. responsibility (to respond to that, and help prevent it). I beleive the harm done by NOT telling us, outwieghs any supposed business advantages or elements of surprise.

Even the bad news (and Ugly actions) are tempered with reality -- even though I don't like many of Jobs decisions, I wouldn't say he is stupid. Nor would all the other board members (of THIS board) let Apple go down a REALLY stupid path. So there likely is something coming.

Boycotts and other temper tantrums will not help. The "advocates" are hurting the Mac industry (this time), far more than the mainstream press. It doesn't hurt to remember that "the press" gets paid to sensationalize and make a story "interesting" story (vaguely related to facts). Of course, the same is true of many Advocates -- the more extreme they make things seem, the more attention they get, the more pressure they can apply, and the more people they can get riled (and more readership they get). Many don't even realize they are doing it -- but we need to!

So don't buy into the presses hype, don't buy into temper tantrums -- if it sounds ridiculously extreme, then it probably is. Think about the trade-offs, and the balances. Think for yourself.

Created: 09/07/97
Updated: 11/09/02

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