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Dvorak: Will Apple Adopt Windows?

This would be the most phenomenal turnabout in the history of desktop computing. There's just one fly in the ointment.

The idea that Apple would ditch its own OS for Microsoft Windows came to me from Yakov Epstein, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University, who wrote to me convinced that the process had already begun.

I was amused, but after mulling over various coincidences, I'm convinced he may be right. This would be the most phenomenal turnabout in the history of desktop computing.

Epstein made four observations. The first was that the Apple Switch ad campaign was over, and nobody switched. The second was that the iPod lost its FireWire connector because the PC world was the new target audience.

Also, although the iPod was designed to get people to move to the Mac, this didn't happen. And, of course, that Apple had switched to the Intel microprocessor.

Though these points aren't a slam-dunk for Epstein's thesis, other observations support it. The theory explains several odd occurrences, including Apple's freak-out and lawsuits over Macintosh gossip sites that ran stories about a musicians' breakout box that has yet to be shipped. Like, who cares?

But if Apple's saber-rattling was done to scare the community into backing off so it wouldn't discover the Windows stratagem, then the incident makes more sense. As does Bill Gates's onscreen appearance during Apple's turnaround when Jobs was taking a pot of money from Microsoft. The Windows stratagem may have been a done deal by then.

This may also explain the odd comment at the Macworld Expo by a Microsoft spokesperson that Microsoft Office will continue to be developed for the Mac for "five years." What happens after that?

This switch to Windows may have originally been planned for this year and may partly explain why Adobe and other high-end apps were not ported to the Apple x86 platform when it was announced in January. At Macworld, most observers said that these new Macs could indeed run Windows now.

Bigger companies than Apple have dropped their proprietary OSs in favor of Windows — think IBM and OS/2. IBM also jumped on the Linux bandwagon over its own AIX version of Unix. Business eventually trumps sentimentality in any large company.

Another issue for Apple is that the Intel platform is wide open, unlike the closed proprietary system Apple once had full control over.

With a proprietary architecture, Apple could tweak the OS for a controlled environment without worrying about the demands of a multitude of hardware add-ons and software subsystems.

Windows, as crappy as many believe it to be, actually thrives in this mishmash architecture. Products, old and new, have drivers for Windows above all else.

By maintaining its own OS, Apple would have to suffer endless complaints about peripherals that don't work.

As someone who believed that the Apple OS x86 could gravitate toward the PC rather than Windows toward the Mac, I have to be realistic. It boils down to the add-ons.

Linux on the desktop never caught on because too many devices don't run on that OS. It takes only one favorite gizmo or program to stop a user from changing.

Chat rooms are filled with the likes of "How do I get my DVD burner to run on Linux?" This would get old fast at Apple.

Apple has always said it was a hardware company, not a software company. Now with the cash cow iPod line, it can afford to drop expensive OS development and just make jazzy, high-margin Windows computers to finally get beyond that five-percent market share and compete directly with Dell, HP and the stodgy Chinese makers.

To preserve the Mac's slick cachet, there is no reason an executive software layer couldn't be fitted onto Windows to keep the Mac look and feel. Various tweaks could even improve the OS itself.

From the Mac to the iPod, it's the graphic user interface that makes Apple software distinctive. Apple popularized the modern GUI. Why not specialize in it and leave the grunt work to Microsoft? It would help the bottom line and put Apple on the fast track to real growth.

The only fly in the ointment will be the strategic difficulty of breaking the news to the fanatical users. Most were not initially pleased by the switch to Intel's architecture, and this will make them crazy.

Luckily, Apple has a master showman, Steve Jobs. He'll announce that now everything can run on a Mac. He'll say that the switch to Windows gives Apple the best of both worlds. He'll say this is not your daddy's Windows.

He'll cajole and cajole, and still hear a few boos. But those will be the last boos he'll hear, for then the Mac will be mainstream. We will welcome the once-isolated Apple mavens, finally.

Go off-topic with John C. Dvorak.

Copyright © 2006 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ziff Davis Media Inc. is prohibited.