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Reverse Engineers

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Faced with the contradictory news of the new low-cost Mac (MacCheap?), a number of people on Usenet have started talking about the possibilities of reverse engineering the Mac ROMs along with the rest of the Mac hardware. That way a company could compete with Apple by lowering prices significantly. Unfortunately, reverse engineering is fraught with legal problems and even more importantly, is a huge amount of work. Most people on the net felt that it could not be done economically or within a reasonable time span, although a number of other options and related issues were raised.

Someone mentioned the MCP (Macintosh Compatibility Package) from Screenplay Systems. MCP is not exactly a case of reverse engineering, but it is a set of libraries that allow Mac source code to be ported relatively easily to a PC-clone.

Another more attractive option is to try to persuade Apple to license out the MacOS and the ROM chips from the Mac Plus and SE, both of which are essentially obsolete but functional. Apple would gain revenue that could be significant (as Adobe did with licensing PostScript) and would not have to continue manufacturing the Plus and SE. Third parties could then take the legally licensed ROMs and MacOS and manufacture extremely cheap Mac-clones that would by definition (i.e. built into the license agreement) be completely Mac-compatible. Users would benefit from having a cheap Mac to start with that would compete with the low-priced PC-clones. Additionally, those of us looking for a cheap Macintosh portable might find a few more options. Apple would benefit from increased popularity as people wanted to move up to the newer and faster machines that would only be available from Apple. And Steve Jobs would come back to Apple to design the nExt Macintosh. OK, so it's all a tad farfetched.

On the dark side, Apple might feel that it would be losing control of the Mac line and would be losing profits to be made from the Plus and SE, especially considering the automated production lines for those two machines presumably require little financial input at this point. If the clone manufacturers broke the license agreement, Apple could be faced with the same sort of pseudo-compatible mess they had with the Apple II and that IBM faced at first with the PC.

Information from:
Ken MacLeod -- ken@hotlips.COM
Anton Rang -- rang@cs.wisc.edu
Cy Shuster -- cy@dbase.A-T.COM
Derek L. / MacLover -- derek@leah.Albany.Edu

Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 18-Jun-90, Vol. 12, #25, pg. 18

 

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