Steve Jobs wanted Dell to run Apple’s Mac OS but PC CEO said there was ‘zero consumer interest’

‘It could have changed the trajectory for Windows and Mac OS on PCs,’ Dell says

Adam Smith
Thursday 07 October 2021 10:45

Apple founder Steve Jobs wanted the company’s Mac software to be shipped on Dell computers but CEO Michael Dell said there was zero consumer interest.

Dell, who recalls he was once seen as the "the archenemy of Apple”, said that he met Jobs at a computer user group, with Jobs wanting Mac OS X to be sold on Dell’s low-priced, Intel-based computers.

Jobs had been ousted from Apple after conflicts with the company’s board in 1985 and, by 1993, had started a new company called Next. Next computers had its own operating system and software called WebObjects for web-based applications.

Jobs tried several times to convince Dell to use the Next operating system on PCs, arguing that it was better that Microsoft’s Windows and could undermine Unix. However, Dell told Jobs that there were no applications for it and zero consumer interest, the CEO recalled in his new book Play Nice But Win.

When Jobs rejoined Apple in 1997, when it acquired Next, he offered Dell a license for Mac OS, saying that he could give PC users a choice between Apple’s software or Microsoft’s software.

"He said, look at this – we’ve got this Dell desktop and it’s running Mac OS," Dell told CNET. "Why don’t you license the Mac OS?"

Dell told Jobs that he would pay a license fee for every PC sold with Mac OS, but Jobs responded that such a scheme would undermine Apple’s own sales due to the reduced price of PCs.

Jobs’ counteroffer was that the Mac OS software would be loaded alongside Windows on Dell PCs and customers could choose the software – with Dell paying Apple for every PC sold, no matter whether customers used Mac OS.

"The royalty he was talking about would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, and the math just didn’t work, because most of our customers, especially larger business customers, didn’t really want the Mac operating system," Dell recalled.

"Steve’s proposal would have been interesting if it was just us saying, ‘OK, we’ll pay you every time we use the Mac OS’ – but to pay him for every time we didn’t use it ... well, nice try, Steve!"

Jobs also, reportedly, would not guarantee access to Mac OS in the future "even on the same bad terms", which meant that users on Mac OS could be left struggling as the software developed. Apple did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment before time of publication.

"It could have changed the trajectory for Windows and Mac OS on PCs," Dell says. "But obviously, they went in a different direction."

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