2000: A rip off of Apple’s G4 Cube appeared at Comdex last week. While we’ve heard nothing yet from Apple legal, it’s a sure bet that Apple will throw a lawsuit at DA Computing as soon as they’ve researched the matter a little.
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that Apple hardware has been imitated. Apple has a reputation for breaking the design rules, which makes its designs appealing to companies with less than stellar designers on board.
Apple spends plenty of money defending what it has created, and I have no problem with that.
But what can Apple do to profit from its design expertise? People will be creating knockoffs of their hardware products, so why not capitalize on this by charging licensing fees to the would-be copycats? I’m sure that, to avoid a legal mess, DA Computing would gladly sign a licensing agreement (as long as it wasn’t too outrageous).
To head off any arguments that this would simply eat away at Apple’s market share, realize that DA Computing creates Linux servers. While Apple does compete in the server market, the Cube has not been positioned as a server system. DA is competing in an entirely different area, and this machine steers clear of Apple’s existing markets.
While safely tucked away somewhere out of sight, a Komodo server with an Apple-approved design could help Apple in the long run. After seeing one of these servers run, folks may be tempted to buy one for themselves. The answer? “Sorry, it’s not for personal computing. There is, however, a great machine that looks just like it by Apple. Why not check that out?”
Apple could also save on legal fees by using this strategy. Why not make a little money from the knockoffs instead of wasting money on a legal battle?
While Apple maintains a decent market share in the computer industry, imagine if they turned from producing computers to producing designs and software only. Forget the distribution and manufacturing end of the equation. Leverage the great designs and fantastic software by licensing it Bill Gates-style to the highest bidder. Can you imagine if Apple licensed the iMac design to Gateway or Compaq? Potential sales there could be massive.
On the software side, OS X for Intel would have the potential to crack open the OS market, offering a real alternative to Windows.
Of course, all of this licensing would destroy computer sales for Apple. That’s where the meat of the company is, after all: hardware sales.
But I sometimes think it’s too bad that such a fantastic product is restricted to such a small percentage of computer users. It might be easier for Apple to go towards the users than the users coming to Apple.