With only 5 days left before Apple's big Leopard launch Steve Jobs is facing a difficult decision, probably the most difficult decision in his career. He has two different "And one more thing..." announcements sitting it front of him and he has to choose which one to present. He could take the safe path and announce some lame partnership with McDonald's, iTunes movie rentals, or Facebook integration etc. Or he could finally push the button on the big one. The secret weapon with the shiny red button. The one he as been carefully laying the ground work for all these years. The one that will finally allow him to get his revenge over getting sand kicked in his face by that little nerd Bill Gates. I'm talking about cutting OSX free to run on any PC.
Steve turned Apple around, no one disputes that. Once Apple was as good as dead, written off by the entire industry. Today Apple is wildly successful beyond anyones expectations. Apple's transition to Intel is complete, successful and all the kinks are worked out. OSX has proven that you can blend a powerful Unix core with a beautiful graphical user experience. Leopard is the "biggest system update in Mac history". It brings full 64bit, rounds out the OS feature set and pulls ahead with new features like the time machine. Apple hardware has already proven itself to be top notch and affordable. It is so good in fact that it stands on its own even without OSX, as evidenced by people buying Macbooks to run Windows. Apple already dominates the portable music business. Apple successfully released a kicking new phone into a completely saturated market. Steve did what they said couldn't be done do at every turn, that should be enough right? Well except for one thing, Steve's ego. Apple still only owns around 5% of the PC market. That is a significant achievement, but not exactly the world dominating vision he had when he released the first Mac over 20 years ago.
As it turns out the mass market seems content to buy their music players from a single source, but for some reason they seem to be far more diverse in their computer hardware purchasing habits. This is similar to the way consumers purchase cars. It is unlikely that you could get people to standardize on a single source for either of those products anytime soon. Yet the far majority of consumers don't seem to mind using the same operating system. An operating system Steve believes is inferior to his own. It's time for him to prove his is the best. Vista has not been received well by the general market. Sure new PCs are sold with it, but the majority of XP customers are choosing not to upgrade yet. There are six versions of Vista to choose from with a range of prices up to 329.99! Apple brand recognition continues to rise. General market discontent with Windows over security and stability is still generally high. OSX has been running on Intel probably since it's birth, and by now all the apps that mater have been converted to universal binary. Apple's own apps have been sneaking on to Windows for years (Quicktime, iTunes, Safari). When could you ask for better timing?
Yet, it is still a very hard decision to make. One that would very difficult for anyone, even one gifted with super powers like Steve Jobs. Would this decision rocket OSX and Apple to world dominance, or would it sink the sales of Apple hardware? Would it kill the carefully crafted "better than thou" image worshiped by it's loyal fans? Who can say.
In five days: "And one more thing... Starting now we are making Mac OSX Leopard available for every PC! Windows users no longer have to worry about which Vista version to choose. We are giving them the true 'ultimate' upgrade, OSX. Better than Vista and still only 129.99."