Back To The Future: Where would we be today with clones?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
I have been thinking a lot (as I'm sure a lot of us have) about Apple's PPC future and what it will mean to their success in the PC market. I have also been thinking a lot about the days of clones and whether or not they hurt the mac side or not. It would be interesting to see the Mac world today with clones still in the picture, and I have a lot of my own theories on what we would see if they were still here.



I think that a lot of Motorola's problems stem from when Steve killed the clone manufacturers altogether. Motorola was mad, and the backlash was probably that whole 500 MHz fiasco. Motorola started making their own StarMax (I think that's what they were called) computers when the clone scene was in full swing, and were probably mad at Apple taking that business away.



When the clones were in business, I think Motorola saw this as a reason to get better processors out the door, especially for its own machines that ran Mac OS. I think this is from competition. These smaller companies were all out to beat Apple with better performing, cheaper PowerPC machines.



I think the clones were good. Why? I remember when the DayStar Genesis was the fastest Mac I think. A lot of the clones were faster and cheaper at the same time. This helped PPC develop move faster and also increased the demand for PPC. I think if the clones were still around today, the Mac OS would've generated a larger portion of the market with it being more wide-spread. With that, software and hardware companies would've been paying more attention to the Mac OS and PPC hardware. That would also mean more games being developed on the platform, and more options.



Without Apple shutting down the clone makers, I believe we would have seen some serious development from Motorola on their processors and would maybe even exceed x86 in MHz. There was once a time when most thought that RISC would reach 1 GHz before CISC. It would be more like the x86 world with more options, better prices, and more performance. Maybe it would even drive Apple to including those little things their machines are lacking. Perhaps we wouldn't see the stunning hardware design that Apple has, but we would see macs in those PC towers that have oodles of expansion and DRIVE BAYS!! Better hardware options too. Cheaper prices.



I think Apple should've just liscenced the OS and made some royalties, and maybe developed more on the software side of things. As long as they were able to keep competitive and stunning machines, they would still make profits on their hardware. The clones would eat into their margins, but the Mac market would expand and maybe even reah x86.



So this leaves us with the ultimate question. Now that Motorola has put us behind, where will PPC go? What is the future of processors for us? I think with Mac OS X, Apple still has a chance to go a lot further. It's just that everything else has to be there as well. Who wants a gorgeous OS if it can't run fast enough? Who wants hardware with less options? These are things Apple needs to seriously address if they are at all serious about hardware.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    macaddictmacaddict Posts: 1,055member
    I've thought about this many times before, and really wish Apple kept the clones. PowerComputing, UMAX, Motorola, et al made some fantastic machines. Did you know that at the pinnacle of the clone years, we had the MHz lead? PCs were poking around with 166, 200MHz Pentiums while PowerComputing was getting 225 and 250MHz 604e's out the door, loaded with SCSI, PCI slots, drive bays, etc.



    If Apple kept the clones, they wouldn't be in good shape as a company, but the Macintosh would be better than ever. We'd probably all be cruising around after buying all sorts of machines that Apple didn't bother developing...like...



    A 604ev, at 400 and 450MHz

    Getting the G3s up to 933MHz

    A G3 with 10 drive bays, 6PCI slots

    A computer with USB, Firewire, ADB, serial, and SCSI



    Right now, there would be clones offering things that are out there but Apple doesn't bother with. Like the Sahara.



    Imagine a $1200 Macintosh tower that used a 933MHz Sahara, 4 full drive bays, 16X DVD, 32X CDRW, a GeForce 2 GTS...mmm. The one thing that was bad about the clone market is that it just ate away at Apple's marketshare while not really increasing the MacOS marketshare. Some steps could be taken though:



    1. Apple could limit the market, for instance, all clones must be sub-$1200



    2. Apple could limit the form factors...i.e., only budget towers, or servers.



    3. Apple could develop OS X for x86 and pull out of the market alltogether.



    One thing we missed in the clone days were cloned PowerBooks. Actually, I believe there were two: one was a 68020 or something, and the other was a giant ugly 604 thing. But now, if we had clones, we'd probably have a subnotebook for escher, a full sized notebook for those craving a 15" 1600 x 1200 with dual CPUs, a tablet, who knows. These companies will be stupid enough to create all sorts of crap we love but don't need.
  • Reply 2 of 27
    g-newsg-news Posts: 1,107member
    Apart from the fact that Apple would probably be dead now, if clones would have been allowed to live, I'd say little would have changed.



    I guess we'd have clones with 6 PCI slots and DDR-SDRAM, but I doubt CPU clockspeeds would be very different. I don't believe in this Motorola revenge crap. we'd surely also have ATA-133 busses and lower priced machines.



    But we'd also have a lot more compatibility problems, and more confused customers.



    In the end I guess it wouldn't be much better in the big view.



    G-News
  • Reply 3 of 27
    matsumatsu Posts: 6,558member
    Mot never made a penny on clone sales. They're making more money on PPC now that they don't have to go through the expense of maintaining a computer line-up.
  • Reply 4 of 27
    macaddictmacaddict Posts: 1,055member
    [quote]Mot never made a penny on clone sales. <hr></blockquote>



    So they sold their StarMax's with no profit margin?



    [quote]They're making more money on PPC now that they don't have to go through the expense of maintaining a computer line-up.<hr></blockquote>



    I would think Moto would make more money on the PPC with a lot of companies buying small quantities (hence, higher priced) than one company buying a bulk load of their midrange CPUs. A bigger market for CPUs = greater development. Plus, IBM would have more sales to. Right now the only G3 in Apple's linup is their iBook and iMac (kinda).
  • Reply 5 of 27
    jcgjcg Posts: 777member
    [quote]Originally posted by radar1503:

    <strong>



    I would think Moto would make more money on the PPC with a lot of companies buying small quantities (hence, higher priced) than one company buying a bulk load of their midrange CPUs. A bigger market for CPUs = greater development. Plus, IBM would have more sales to. Right now the only G3 in Apple's linup is their iBook and iMac (kinda).</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Motorolla would also make more money if they sold the upgrade card manufacturers faster G4's, but they havent broken the 500 mhz barrier there either. I'm sure that the market is there for it, and with past daughter card upgrades as much as $1000 the money is there to support it as well.
  • Reply 6 of 27
    junkyard dawgjunkyard dawg Posts: 2,801member
    Clones are simply unworkable from a business standpoint. Apple cannot survive with clones, because Apple's profits arise from hardware sales.



    And as we saw with the clone debacle, clones do NOT increase market share. Apple's market share remained constant, or even sunk, and every clone sold was one less Mac sold, and less profits for Apple.



    Apple needs large profit margins to fuel their R&D budget, and clones are not the way to do it.

    The ONLY viable business solution would be for Apple to allow clones while giving up their own hardware production to become a software company, ala M$. The problem with this is that the Mac OS would then be plauged by many of the inconsistencies of Windows that arise from M$ having to meet the needs of so many different hardware configurations.



    Also, there are clearly other benefits beyond a stable, plug and play OS that go along with Apple's control of hardware and software. Would Apple have been able to aggresively move into digital video production as a software only company? I doubt it. Apple gains a great amount of nimbleness by controlling both hardware and software, and this is their great strength over M$. If Apple were just another software company, then we'd have less contrast between the Mac OS and Windows, and Apple would have died long ago.
  • Reply 7 of 27
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,125member
    J.D is totally right. Apple with clones would be in ruin by now and Steve new it.





    Clones= Leaches



    They never really spent much on R&D and they never really focused on expanding the market(Powercomputing always adverstised directly against Apples offerings).



    They were shoddy...powercomputing had a defective rate that hovered near 20%



    The Clone Leaches refused to pay a decent amount to license the MacOS..which they offered no advances to.



    I cheered the death of the clones..they sucked and they were the antithesis of what the Mac represented to most consumers. High quality and premium. I had nothing but contempt for those Powercomputing bozos. One side of their mouth said "we're fighting back for Mac" while the other side was making deals to manufacture NT based machines. Backstabbers.
  • Reply 8 of 27
    spindlerspindler Posts: 713member
    There are lots of things wrong with this whole cloning idea so let me try to put it to rest.



    The first thing is that Apple's prices are dramatically lower and more competitive with PCs than they were when the clones existed. i don't know that much about it but did the clones ever match PCs pricewise? If you ignore the x86 processor advantage, at times the iMac, iBook, and Powerbook have been on par or within $200 of PCs.



    In early 1998, before the iMac, the cheapest Mac you could buy was $1599 without a monitor. That would be $1899 with a monitor and a 56K modem. The iMac was introduced at $1299 and was the first Mac priced competitively with PCs. I remember when the high end Mac cost like $5500 and Steve Jobs knocked the top price down to $3499. People may forget that chapter when Macs were priced in the stratosphere because of Apple's ridiculous arrogance. In fact I would guess that much of the flamewars and the hatred of Apple by PC bigots grew out of arrogant Apple was in pricing their stuff $1,000-$2,000 above a similar PC. So Macs are more competitve pricewise then ever now even if the selection is limited.



    The next problem is that lowering the Mac's price by $200 doesn't raise sales that much. People are used to Windows and Steve Jobs knows that the only way to get them is to DIFFERENTIATE the Mac. So you have the iMac which let you get on the internet in less than 15 minutes, the iPod and the iApps. There needs to be a distinct reason for the person to buy a Mac. This will get more customers than simply lowering the price.



    You have to remember why cloning was successful for PCs. At one time an IBM PC cost $1800. That's a tremendous amount of money just for a hobby or moderately useful tool for most people. But every $100 you knock off the price will allow another 5% of the population to think about buying one. When PCs got down to less than $1000 for the whole setup, that put it in a reasonable range for everyone but the poorest.



    Macs are already reasonably affordable. There isn't an untapped audience that is going to now be able to buy the Mac because it's priced cheaper. And Apple has tried the idea of a $799 iMac. It may bring in a few more sales in the bargain area of the marketplace, but it really has not busted things wide open. If they sold 250,000 $799 iMac per quarter, that would show customers were eager to buy Macs but don't buy them because of the high priced. But if the $799 iMac is less than 10% of Apple's sales, it shows that price is not a major factor for buyers.



    [ 03-05-2002: Message edited by: spindler ]</p>
  • Reply 8 of 27
    metacommetacom Posts: 32member
    They could have become a software company and beat microsoft at their own game. It's hard to think of Apple not making hardware, but if they focused all their attention on software and let others make the hardware, things would be so much different. Who knows, Apple could have contributed some resources into influencing a manufacturer into building hardware that they desired, such as an all in one, super thin powerbooks.. etc. Look at how intel makes concept pcs and hopes that manufactures are influenced by them. Apple could have done the same, except work with the manufacturers to make sure that they are made.
  • Reply 10 of 27
    tarbashtarbash Posts: 278member
    I don't think any manufacturers are stupid enough to incorporate Intel's designs. Didn't they do that a while back with a pyramid or something?



    I don't see any pyramid computers now...
  • Reply 11 of 27
    tigerwoods99tigerwoods99 Posts: 2,633member
    I'm sure I probably wouldn't mind a regular 'ol PC case if it had dual 1.6 GHz G5 w/DDR333 and 5 5.25" 2 3.5" drive bays.
  • Reply 12 of 27
    metacommetacom Posts: 32member
    [quote]Originally posted by Tarbash:

    <strong>I don't think any manufacturers are stupid enough to incorporate Intel's designs. Didn't they do that a while back with a pyramid or something?



    I don't see any pyramid computers now...</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Exactly, Intel is no good with hardware. While Apple knows what they are doing. With an emphasis on software and a strong influence on hardware, I think that they could succeed. They could even have "Apple Approved" designs. I'm sure manufacturers would love to have the Apple seal of approval on their computers.
  • Reply 13 of 27
    airslufairsluf Posts: 1,861member
  • Reply 14 of 27
    gigawiregigawire Posts: 196member
    Yes the clones should have stayed. At worst, Apple becomes a software company alone, which is really where their strength lies. The hardware now is so so, but nothing really to rave about, nor to settle for like so many people here do. Clones would have gotten Mac OS into the hands of people that really don't care that their PC is ugly. When it comes to business leadership, I think steve-o spends about 4x as much time on Cloud 9 as he does dealing with the reality of consumer desires. I think everyone here wants an Apple to be proud of, but right now, that's kind of hard (excluding software). Clones would be fun simply for the ability to upgrade left and right, and for any component, which is the reason I still use a windows based PC. It's just fun tinkering with.



    [quote]The problem with this is that the Mac OS would then be plauged by many of the inconsistencies of Windows that arise from M$ having to meet the needs of so many different hardware configurations.<hr></blockquote>



    The problem with Windows is poor, bloated programming, not the hardware configurations. What I like best about apple's OS's is that there is basically 1 one to do something; with windows, some things are done one way, while others are done 5-6 different ways. I mean how many ways are there to rename a file? I count 6 off the top of my head. Windows is just a freaking mess, and therein lies its problem. This repetitive lament that the instability is hardware related is simply hogwash. Sometimes it is, but most errors are poor programming. How about the XP problems? All of the wonderful holes? It's not like the extra time was spent making the OS hardware compatable as many upgraders soon discovered.



    [ 03-06-2002: Message edited by: Gigawire ]</p>
  • Reply 15 of 27
    metacommetacom Posts: 32member
    [quote]Originally posted by Gigawire:

    <strong>Yes the clones should have stayed. At worst, Apple becomes a software company alone, which is really where their strength lies. The hardware now is so so, but nothing really to rave about, nor to settle for like so many people here do. Clones would have gotten Mac OS into the hands of people that really don't care that their PC is ugly. When it comes to business leadership, I think steve-o spends about 4x as much time on Cloud 9 as he does dealing with the reality of consumer desires. I think everyone here wants an Apple to be proud of, but right now, that's kind of hard (excluding software). Clones would be fun simply for the ability to upgrade left and right, and for any component, which is the reason I still use a windows based PC. It's just fun tinkering with.







    The problem with Windows is poor, bloated programming, not the hardware configurations. What I like best about apple's OS's is that there is basically 1 one to do something; with windows, some things are done one way, while others are done 5-6 different ways. I mean how many ways are there to rename a file? I count 6 off the top of my head. Windows is just a freaking mess, and therein lies its problem. This repetitive lament that the instability is hardware related is simply hogwash. Sometimes it is, but most errors are poor programming. How about the XP problems? All of the wonderful holes? It's not like the extra time was spent making the OS hardware compatable as many upgraders soon discovered.



    [ 03-06-2002: Message edited by: Gigawire ]</strong><hr></blockquote>



    I agree. Apple's software is where the strength is at. Take the iBook, if dell wanted to copy the ibook to a T, they could. It's pretty much composed of off-the-shelf parts. I think the only thing they cant copy right now is the iMac because of it's form factor (I dont think motherboard manufacturer makes anything that can fit in that little dome).

    The software is what sets a mac apart from PCs when it comes down to it. The simplicity of the interface, the approach used to complete tasks. And if all of the focus was on making sure that the software was compatable with different components, stability wouldnt be a problem.

    Any computer with the MacOS on it would be special. I dont think the cool plastics make much a difference in the end.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    g-newsg-news Posts: 1,107member
    You're all losing the big picture:

    Apple's strenght may be software to you, but in fact their software is only better than others, because they also have the machines to run it on.

    It's like in the console market where you have a closed system that behaves the same in every case, and you can tickle way more out of the software than on an open platform. Now the Mac isn't closed, but it's tight, and that is an advantage that Apple has. Without that they'd have to fight similar problems as MS and co. There's a point to haveing control over hardware and software, as it enables you to deliver new hardware along with new software and vice versa, stuff that works together.



    Had the clones stayed, CHRP, PPCP or whatever you call it emerged (beyond the current situation) and Apple dumped out of the hardware business, Apple would most likely be dead now, and maybe BeOS would rule the PPC market (they had a wonderful OS on that platform, and where way ahead of Mac OS X (time whise).



    Steve had his reasons to kill the clones, had he seen benefits for the platform as a whole, they'd live, that's for sure.



    G-news
  • Reply 17 of 27
    hh Posts: 16member
    And would clone manufacturers ship all of their computers



    -AirPort-ready

    -with FireWire

    et al?



    One huge advantage for Apple is the fact that the built-in FireWire support that all Macs have had for quite a while now has enabled Apple to achieve a great position when it comes to DV editing and accessories such as the iPod.

    It would be much harder for Apple to successfully launch software like iMovie if, let's say, 40% of the clones lacked FireWire. The i-apps and the iPod are great examples of the software-hardware integration of the Mac platform.



    Apple also (rather wisely, I'd say) decided to replace legacy connection standards in favor of USB and FireWire, and they could do it because of the fact that they *control* the hardware. Getting 15 clone manufacturers to do the same thing would be very hard.



    Oh, by the way, would Power Computing come up with something like the new iMac? Or even the old? Or the neatly engineered, easy-to-open "El Capitan" case?



    I don't think so.
  • Reply 18 of 27
    outsideroutsider Posts: 6,008member
    When the clones first came out, I had high hopes for them. We bought about 40 PowerComputing clones. Today, we have none of those out on the floor. They weren't very durable and the ones that were had odd behaviour at times with 3rd party hardware. I'm glad the clones are gone. Apple never had worse times like when the clones were around.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    eric d.v.heric d.v.h Posts: 134member
    If your going to reminisce about what it would have been like if Apple had made clones. why not go back to the Macintosh's glory days.1987.



    Apple authorized some 3rd parties to make laptops(Since the closest thing Apple had at the time was the Macintosh luggable). like the <a href="http://www.everymac.com/systems/dynamac/laptops/dynamac.html"; target="_blank">Dynamac</a>, the <a href="http://www.everymac.com/systems/colby/walkmac/walkmac_se.html"; target="_blank">WalkMac</a>, the <a href="http://www.everymac.com/systems/outbound/notebooks/notebook_2000.html"; target="_blank">Notebook</a> and the <a href="http://www.everymac.com/systems/realtech/traveler/traveler_880.html"; target="_blank">Traveler</a>. but. despite constant urging at the time from Mac fans to do full. IBM style cloning. nothing more became of it.





    Eric,



    [ 03-06-2002: Message edited by: Eric D.V.H ]</p>
  • Reply 20 of 27
    amyklaiamyklai Posts: 29member
    The clones should have stayed.



    The problems Apple had was that it didn't distinguish itself enough from the clone makers. Apple should've concentrated on the OS + software and some hardware segments, like notebooks and stylish stuff.



    They were the ones who distributed the cards, because they gave away the licenses. They could've found lots of ways to use the clone makers to increase market share and release cheap macs while concentrating on certain profitable hardware segments. They could've adjusted the price of a mac os license. There were lots of possiblilities.



    However, Apple ****ed it up. They just gave away licenses and started to compete head to head with the clone makers. Because they were one of the least efficient hardware companies at the time, that strategy was bound to end in a fiasco.

    Which brings me to another point : Did Apple have any strategy at all? To me it seems they just gave away licenses without thinking about the implications.



    Anyway, once Apple was sinking, they had to pull the licenses, otherwise they woud've gon belly-up. However, the mistakes had been made earlier and killing the clones was only a short term solution, as we can see now : marketshare is dwindling.

    We're under 3% now and if nothing happens, we'll be under 2% in a few years. Where's this going to bring us?



    OS X has been out for a year and it hasn't helped much.

    The hardware line is fairly attractive (apart from the towers) and it hasn't helped much, either.

    The lack of highseed processors is a direct result from the low marketshare. We're stuck with processors designed for embedded use because neither moto nor ibm have any incentive to develop a high performance desktop processor when they can only sell relatively few of them.



    I think that clone makers that would develop inexpensive macs would help a lot. Continuing the current strategy of high-priced stylish computers will only make Apple fade into oblivion. A mac? What's that?
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