Things Macintosh

Try to Take Over the World

Why Apple should buy Xtools, Handspring, etc.

Rodney O. Lain - 2001.06.13

"...the same thing we do every day, Pinky: try to take over the world!"
The Brian from the "Pinky and the Brain" cartoon

Fundamental change is overdue. As individuals and organizations everywhere scramble to take advantage of the Web, the Internet, and a myriad of new gadgets, they want to know what they should do. The media, vendors, and pundits respond with advice, trends, possibilities and opinions in the thousands. Yet the overwhelming outcome of this frenzy is a feeling of profound confusion by ordinary users and specialists alike.
  - Michael Dertouzos, The Unfinished Revolution: Human-Centered Computers and What They Can Do for Us

Regardless of Apple's public comments on the topic, its road to market share growth may not be paved with bricks from the enterprise sector, but there's at least a smidgen of the brick comprising the asphalt mixture.

The current message coming from Cupertino is that its growing line of Apple Stores is the main effort to increase the number of Mac users. I applaud this goal and am confident that it will bear out to be a smart move. The armchair quarterback in me, however, can't help but to think out loud about my wishful plans for the company.

One of the best ways in which Apple can position itself into a better position of public perception is to create a full(er) line of software and hardware that, when viewed in toto, will present Apple as the "Sony of the computer industry," as Steve Jobs has alluded to on occasion.

Now, there's two main ways to do this:

  1. Apple can continue birthing great products from its Cupertino House of Ideas
  2. Apple can acquire some of the great products that are currently on the market, so that the company can complement Apple's current product offering in instances where creating its own, similar product would reinventing the proverbial wheel.

Number Two is a strategy that is relatively new for Apple. Remember, Apple was infamous for subscribing to the "not made here" philosophy, in which the company only incorporated proprietary technologies. Nowadays, Apple's success is owed to some technologies that the company acquired: iDVD, iTunes, Final Cut Pro, to name a few.

This is nothing new. Microsoft did the same thing with Internet Explorer; Intel did the same thing with USB.

I'm sure that Apple has its sights set on other acquisitions; the most commonly known one is Mr. Jobs' off-the-cuff comment that Apple approached Palm, Inc., with the intent to buy them out.

There are a multitude of products on the market, many that are doing quite well, that Apple could use in its software and hardware arsenal. I just want to mention a few to give you an idea of the limitless potential Apple has in acquiring a portion of the brain trust in the Mac and Unix communities:

  1. Xenon Intersystem's Xtools, a Mac OS&
      - ;X implementation of MIT's X Window System. Xtools will prove to be one of the most important OS&
      - ;X apps for the scientific and education communities. Hell, Apple should just buy Xenon outright.
  2. Handspring. Since Apple's intention to buy out Palm is dead, as far as we know, Handspring could be a better choice, since the Palm's creators head this upstart handheld maker. (My choice would be for Apple to buy out Palm, so that Apple could get its mitts on the Palm OS, in addition to the PDA hardware).
  3. Microsoft. I just wanted to mention that one for fun. Hey, you never know how things can work out. :-)
  4. Fill in the blank with your favorite shareware app. I could spend all day talking about this one. After all, there are features of the "Classic" Mac OS that started off as shareware. The one I'd nominate for inclusion in the Mac OS&
      - ;X would be BrickHouse, a freeware app that allows mere mortals to configure the firewall built into OS&
      - ;X.
  5. AMD. At least purchase a stake in the company. I know that I'd want to hedge my bets against Motorola's lackadaisical work on the PowerPC line. Buying a stake in a competitor would at least get their attention.

I'm sure that Apple is in constant review of up-and-coming products, as well as showing interest in the companies that make them. And I'm sure that you can add to the list.

The idea is to explore the possibilities that lie ahead for the Mac universe and show that, through acquisition, Apple can improve the OS, the hardware line, the market share. There are numerous current and emerging technologies that could make the Mac a formidable computing platform. Couple this with Apple's cutting-edge industrial design and product innovation, and Apple can one day be not only a formidable platform, but the preeminent manufacturer of consumer appliances in the Western world.

Further Reading

Rodney O. Lain (1968-2002) called himself a fashion victim: He liked wearing socks with his sandals. When he wasn't dispensing fashion advice, Rodney wrote for Low End Mac, The Mac Observer, Applelinks, and many other websites. Rodney lived in Minnesota. His own website was, and we have collected as much of his writing that has since disappeared from the Web as possible in The Rodney O. Lain Archive.

The most widely read Things Macintosh columns:

  1. Apple is a company, 10/4/1999
  2. The main difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, 1/17/2000
  3. The $600 iMac, 12/24/1999
  4. Apple will rule the computer world, 11/17/1999
  5. I'm not paying $20 for my OS X upgrade, 2001.07.25.
  6. A Mac is like Prozac, 10/13/1999
  7. I'm a drop the funk bomb on ya: Milking the Macintosh for all it's worth, 2001.03.20.
  8. More links and links to memorial articles in the Things Macintosh index.

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