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12. Apple: Software or Hardware Vendor?

Apple has recently been going through the throes of the question of whether they are a software vendor or a hardware vendor.

They have had several spin-off companies that have gone through the same dilemna. First, there was NeXT, that first sold a cool-looking computer that made a "Black Monolith" statement, but then concluded it was better to focus on their GUI development software.

More recently, Be was started by ex-Apple employees that designed a neat SMP PowerPC machine with a neat multithreaded POSIX-compliant GUI OS. Similarly to NeXT, they concluded that they would be better off focusing on improving and selling BeOS.

Apple had a longer legacy of selling hardware, and making quite a lot of money off of it, and thus is left in a continual state of indecisiveness. From whence came recent confusion when they bought NeXT and announced Rhapsody, thus somewhat supporting the "software is king" notion. And shortly thereafter bought Power Computing (a "Mac clone" vendor) and essentially "nuked" the clone makers, supporting the "hardware is king" notion.

Many people feel that they should spin off the hardware business and become primarily a software vendor. There is probably at least some internal support for that notion. But the long standing tradition of being a successful hardware vendor certainly gets in the way of that.

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