Last week, reports began circulating that IBM’s Microelectronics Division was close to an agreement with Apple to license the Mac OS. The agreement would reportedly allow IBM (in its role as one of the primary manufacturers of the PowerPC chip) to sublicense the Mac OS to PowerPC chip buyers. Unlike Apple licensee Motorola (see TidBITS-315), IBM apparently does not plan to manufacture its own Mac clones.
Undoubtedly a shot in the arm for Apple, this agreement would also make good on IBM’s long-stated intentions to license the Mac OS. However, many analysts quickly pointed out the agreement would be more favorable for Apple if IBM were agreeing to make its own Macintosh clones. As it stands, IBM is casting an eye towards its future PowerPC Platform (PPCP) machines, which will be able to run Mac OS, Windows NT, NetWare, AIX, or Solaris. (See TidBITS-304.) Licensing the Mac OS lets IBM offer more operating systems choices to motherboard and systems manufacturers buying CPU chips from IBM. Presently, however, manufacturers wanting to make Mac clones would have to execute a separate hardware licensing agreement with Apple.
If this agreement is finalized, the immediate benefits aren’t all that clear, though it has interesting future possibilities once PPCP machines are on the market. Apple plans to release its own PPCP Macintoshes, and though estimates vary, these machines should appear is late in 1996 or possibly in early 1997 to coincide with the anticipated release of Copland, the next major revision of the Mac OS.