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What if?
Windows and MacOS merge?!?

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

This article is built on RUMORS upon RUMORS, with me filling in the blanks (guessing and speculating). Some from Mac OS Rumors, others from AppleRecon, and others from my own sources and lots of speculation (and piecing together). But there was inspiration from many other articles as well.

This is awful thin stuff (as far as support or proof), so repeat after me -- WHAT IF? (This is not MacKiDo says)

Also See Related Article -- RE:What If.

What if Apple and Microsofts deal last year was a lot more than people realize? (1)

(1) I thought that the deal was a little thin, and that there is usually something "more" going on than we know. The other shoe is going to drop, it is just a matter of what that shoe is going to look like.

Apple is busy making blue-box for Rhapsody (the MacOS running on a Kernel). Apple wants to converge OS's to reduce costs -- so using the Mach Kernel as the basis for Mac OS 9 (code named Allegro) makes a lot of sense. Yet some of the rumors leaking out are that Apple is using something else. That is perplexing. What could inspire NOT using Mach?

Apple could be using NuKernel (the Kernel Apple built for Copland). It was fast, light and powerful. Supporting a Kernel is not that hard (if all your code is designed well) -- but building all the drivers takes time (this is what allows the machine to talk to all sorts of video cards and peripherals). So you don't make Kernel changes lightly. NuKernel was supposed to be fast and light and very good... but I also suspect it is dead. Lets face it, 10-20% better is not good enough (for most people) to be "non-Standard". I think Apple learned that lesson years ago, and is getting better at not doing it.

So what?

Convergence - MacOS and Windows become one!

What if Microsofts deal with Apple includes allowing Apple to use the WinNT for PPC code (especially the Kernel) as the basis of Mac OS 9.

Imagine Mac OS 9 coming out and it running on WinNT Kernel for the Mac. Imagine your next Mac being able to run Mac OS Apps (BlueBox), Rhapsody Apps (YellowBox), and Windows Apps (RedBox) -- all native (or emulated).

NT Kernel is probably tight enough that there would be no (very little) performance penalty. Microsoft could offer, or give away, the Win32 and Win16 libraries to Apple (to run Windows/DOS Apps on a Mac), or sell them separately. Apple could allow PC developers to push button compile to run their Apps on the Mac, or there would be an x86 emulator for those not compiled directly. Think of what that means to many of them, and to the Mac. This could be really neat for developers, and a users dream. Freedom (to chose environments), and convergence in one.

If that sort of deal is going through, then what about the other side? Imagine WinNT 5 being able to run YellowBox apps on the PC, or maybe even BlueBox apps (via the MacOS being compiled native to PC's). Complete convergence.

I would imagine that each company, (Apple or MS) would sell the OS on their platform, with the personality presented -- then the other company would be allowed to sell their "sub-OS" or entire OS (as boxed software) on the others platform. So we would get Yellow/Blue boxes with MacOS (running on NT kernel), but be able to buy a Windows for MacOS (to ride on top, or replace), and Windows users could buy Blue/Yellow Boxes for the PC's (MacOS for PC's).This allows MS into the Mac space, and allows Apple into the PC space.

Even better yet, they might just include all the functionality in both. When you buy Mac OS you get the WinNT kernel, but also BlueBox, YellowBox, and RedBox (and get to install what you want)... when you buy NT you get Win32 API's (RedBox), but also get YellowBox and BlueBox included. I'm sure they could figure out the cross licensing.

Drivers are chewing peripheral developers apart. This could offer a unified driver model, so that all peripherals would cross all boundaries (with very little effort). There are many technical issues, but this is all feasible and the poroblems are solvable. Trust me on this one -- this would be a developers dream.

What about Rhapsody?

I don't know what Apple would do with Rhapsody (as far as the "Mach Kernel"), I would suspect that it would disappear. Why waste all that time and money on supporting a different Kernel (and all the drivers) if the rest of the deal is worked out, and cross licensing is a "no cost" deal. Kernel's have little value (as far as being sold by themselves), so there is little reason why there would be royalties for the Kernel -- but if there is some costs with licensing the Kernel, Apple could keep Mach (Rhapsody) around as a way to sell a server only version of their OS.

I would suspect that the ultimate goal would be convergence. Mac OS 9, would be BlueBox on the NT Kernel, Rhapsody would be YellowBox on NT Kernel, and WinNT/PPC would be RedBox on NT Kernel. Rhapsody and MacOS would converge in '98 (instead of later) and this reduces costs for Apple.

What is in it for Microsoft?

  1. Microsoft does not make serious money OS's -- they make the big money on Apps. So giving up some of WindowsNT to Apple is not a big cost to them, and since the profits are in making Apps, Microsoft could compile for Macs much easier, and make more money.
  2. The companies get to converge technologies. Apple and Microsoft had a bit of a feud over ActiveX (OLE) and OpenDoc. Well that battle has ended. is dead. It makes Microsofts life a lot easier, if they can push certain technologies to the Mac (and then use them).
  3. Microsoft might get out from under some of the anti-trust pressure they are under. (On the other hand, it might increase it a little, but I doubt the latter). Lets face it, this would be a MAJOR help to Apple, and would guarantee competition in the future.
  4. This would let Microsoft further their "Windows Everywhere" strategy. In a BIG way! This is part of convergence, but also part of mind-share. Microsoft gets to say "we're everywhere". It gives Apple the same, but we all know that the sheep (IS/IT and the Press) are used to following Microsoft, so they get to continue to be "leader".
  5. OpenStep (YellowBox). This is a big technology. Bigger than people realize. Microsoft wants to be able to compile their Apps once (and deliver many) as much as Apple does. If they get to use this on PC's, this is a big win for them.
  6. Apple owned 80% of the patents for "Fat" Applications. NeXT owned the other 20% (and Apple bought NeXT). Microsoft probably gets the rights to use FAT Applications, for PPC/x86 compatibility (neat for Apple) -- but more importantly, for x86/EPIC (which is coming). Microsoft really needs this technology to make the transition of x86 to EPIC go much smoother.
  7. Java. Java right now is the promise of write-once run anywhere. If Apple-MS make this deal, then THEY can deliver on this promise -- but with native Apps, or emulated apps, which probably both can outperform Java's interpreted Apps. Microsoft fears losing mind-share (control) to Sun/Java -- this ends that. It stops Java as a Platform/OS in its tracks, and turns it into a neat language and a development platform. Still useful, but not able to wrestle mind-share (or any control) away from MS.
  8. Browsers. I would imagine that Explorer would become the default Browser for both OS's. In fact, I would suspect that it could be integrated into the OS's. Microsoft gets to further their vision of the future, increases their mind-share, and gets to reduce another threat to their dominance -- Netscape. Navigator will still be a nice "3rd party App", but Explorer becomes the automatic standard. This means Netscape must follow Microsofts lead, instead of the other way around (which makes MS feel much better).


I am not sure that this is what is happening. This is wild-speculation -- but it is also logical.

There are a lot of risks for both companies in this deal -- but a lot of rewards as well. It would be great for the computing industry as a whole. In some ways it would level the playing field for Apple, and give Mac users access to a lot more technology. But there is also some "safety".

Intel and Microsoft aren't that lovey dovey. If IBM/Moto have something big up their sleeve (say multi-processing PPC's), then Microsoft definitely wants to hedge their bets. Currently the PPC's are doing a good job in the portable market, and that will likely only get better -- more and more people are going to use "Portables" in the future (as portables become faster/more powerful, etc.). Microsoft doesn't want to lose this potential. If IBM/Moto don't do something BIG (relatively soon), then they are out of the mainstream processor game -- and they don't want that, so something is coming (just what and when?). So Microsoft gets insurance for PPC's.

I think the Apple benefits are obvious and huge. Apple gets to prove that they have grown up and can play with others. They get many more Apps, and get instant acceptance by IS/IT (and the press). They get to revitalize the PowerPC space (2).

(2) What was the deal that made IBM and Motorola go quietly away from cloning? This deal could mean far more PPC's sold in the future than cloning was going to offer them, so it's possibility (being negotiated at the same time) could definitely be enough of a carrot to make IBM/Moto drool and do whatever Apple wanted.

So I am not sure if this is "THE" deal, or if this will ever happen... but it would certainly be in Apple's and Microsoft's best interests to make this happen. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Created: 12/06/97
Updated: 11/09/02

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