What is Apple really upto – Mintel Strategy?

Apple has done the unthinkable by creating the partnership with Intel. I think Aptel or MacIntel is the wrong way to look at this, it will be the Mintel strategy that will get Steve Jobs the big prize he is looking for. I will explain it shortly. If you did not hear about this partnership, please read this engadget round up pointing to several interesting articles. Peter N. Grakowsky is the respected analyst who had dismissed the idea a few days earlier. But he turned around and wrote what I consider as the best article so far on why Apple is doing this. Peter N. Grakowsky pointed to 2 key things that really got my attention. One is Virtualization (Intel’s Vanderpool technology) using which multiple operating systems could be loaded onto the same CPU without having to reboot (the current method for doing this is using boot-partitions which is a pain).  Another is Intel’s Lagrande cryptographic technology using which Mac OS could be prevented from booting on non-Apple hardware.  
Think about that further, why would Apple do a major league change in the  microprocessor platform, only to lock people out of using the Mac OS which Steve Jobs called as the soul of the Mac during his WWDC address announcing the Apple-Intel partnership? Virtualization opens up the potential for other operating systems to co-exist harmlessly with Windows avoiding the no-company-has-done-before Windows replacement idea and avoiding the big change management problem. You now have a Mac OS X that can co-exist with Windows. Great. But, wait, Apple’s hardware business is getting cannibalized because people will buy Mac OS X and load it onto their Wintel boxes and its the Apple hardware that Apple makes the money from currently.  Not possible. Can’t  happen, right? Enter Componentization – Mac OS X is a highly componentized operating system – thanks to its Nexstep roots. Therefore, the Mintel strategy will be to sell a $250 suite that will consist of a stripped down (easily done through componentization) Mac OS X (probably will be called Mac OS X Mini !),  will have limited functionality, just enough to run Apple’s iLife suite which will come bundled within. It will be capable of  loading onto a CPU partition using Intel’s Vanderpool technology. Intel’s Lagrande technology will prevent Mac OS X Mini from being copied and freely used. Expect HP (iPod Partner) first and Dell and others to offer the Mintel suite as a pre-load option to the PC world. Given that Windows users now have the Apple “experience” through  iPod/iTunes/ITMS, they would be more likely to get the Mintel Suite and manage their digital photos, music, videos etc. effectively and start tasting the soul of the Mac (Mac OS). Many consider iLife as Apple’s killer software application for which there is no Windows equivalent offering the same level of integration and usability.  This strategy will help the Wintel users to use Apple software without having to give up Windows completely. Giving up Windows completely, aside from being a change management problem, may not also be practical for many users given their reliance on applications that run only on Windows in their work environments. So the Mintel strategy allows Apple to slowly sneak into the much bigger Wintel  marketplace and over time can expect people and corporations to buy MacIntel boxes.  Also this strategy will help Apple sell software which has much higher profit margins to the Windows world, in volumes only possible in the Wintel world, potentially sending Apple market share into the stratosphere. Apple will also slowly kill iTunes on Windows and save some development dollars and more importantly create another incentive for iTunes for Windows users to buy the Mintel suite because of their lock-in to iPod/AAC/Fairplay etc. To ease the migration path, all registered iPod buyers (to prevent freeloaders) will be given the chance to download the Mintel suite with iTunes alone enabled for $25. They could also upgrade to the full Mintel suite for $150.  Whenever you buy a new iPod Shuffle, Mini or iPod you will get an iTunes-alone-enabled copy of the Mintel suite bundled. The idea being that you will upgrade to the full suite to start using the entire iLife suite. Intel is supposed to ship Pentiums equipped with Vanderpool H2 of 2005. So people that don’t want to wait for the official Apple Mac OS X on Intel boxes, can buy a Vanderpool capable Wintel laptop and buy the Mintel suite as it becomes available (if you believe this prediction, that is).  Last question remaining is, what do we do for the Wintel installed base that is not Vanderpool capable. Fear not, the Mintel suite will come bundled with Intel Partner VMWare’s software-based virtualization desktop tool and Mac OS X Mini can be loaded onto your existing Wintel PC in a partition created by VMWare. VMware’s software will be get activated automatically when you load the Mintel suite onto non-Vanderpool capable CPUs essentially requiring no action on the part of the users. I predict that Steve Jobs will announce this in Jan 2006 from his favorite product launch platform at the Moscone Center.  Supporting Data:
1. What John Gruber calls parlaying,  is better known in the management world as “Change Management”.  People that manage organizations know that even if you are the CEO and have complete power over everything, managing change within the organization is often the biggest management problem. Therefore, making people, that you don’t even control, implement a change in their lives, such as moving from Windows to anything else,  is a real big “Change Management” problem , even ignoring Microsoft’s legendary ability to erase any chink that develops in its Windows armor with massive force (Think Netscape, Java on the desktop, Real Media …).  Microsoft is probably the only company that has been able to pull off a change of this maginitude masterfully – that of making the world move from DOS to Windows. 2.    When Steve Jobs had just come back to Apple and introduced the head-turning iMacs,  he was clearly still in his old mindset – build superbly designed Macs and the Windows users will Switch. That mindset probably explains why Apple spent so much money on the Switch campaign without too much success. But by building and introducing the iPod successfully, as John Gruber, explains superbly, Apple learnt parlaying (Gruber: 2004 wont be like 1984). It also learnt another important lesson that by embracing the Windows platform it could produce staggering, gravity-defying growth (there are after all a billion Wintel PCs by many estimates).  3.  Software based Virtualization has been around for a while (IBM’s pioneering VM operating system has been around for decades). VMWare (Intel’s Partner has implemented software virtualization at the desktop level). Although both Sun and IBM have had Hardware-based virtualization on their high end Unix servers for a few years now, it was at the processor-board level. Hardware-based virtualization at the microprocessor level is new.
Some bits from history:
1. First, this Mac OS on Intel is not a new thing, Jim Carlton’s book on Apple talked about it at length. I also located this Robert Cringely post from 1997   that talks about the secret Star Trek project and why Mac OS on Intel will not be a windows-killer. Also read John Gruber’s brilliant article “the art of the parlay” explaining why Apple could not have killed Windows.  2. You can think of Mintel as a “Persona” (this is what IBM/Apple tried to create during the now defunct Taligent “Pink” Operating System project).  So the PC will exhibit both the Wintel and Mintel “Persona”s and you can toggle between the two depending on what you are doing. 3. Steve Jobs learnt another important lesson about platform portability and had built the Nexstep OS into a highly componentized portable operating system. Little wonder that he kept the top secret “Merclar” project alive to let Mac OS run on Intel. Considering Mac OS X is derived from Nextstep OS it is also highly componentized. My other favorite articles on this topic:
1. This Macslash  article talks about some interesting ideas like the WINE project. It does present an intriguing possibility. 2. John Gruber’s bombs away article is excellent in pointing out some pitfalls like the Osborne Effect. Interestingly, only a day earlier he had said that Apple will not do X86 even though he correctly predicted that Apple will do Intel. Its amazing how he was able to predict the usage of Transitive’s technology.


  1. Anonymous said June 19, 2005, 12:49 am:

    The fundamental issue I have with this idea is the assumption that Apple still wants to be in the PC/Windows marketplace. I think it is time to get over that and move on. ( Like Pierre Boulez said, lets forget history & abandon the baggage that we all carry. I am doing a separate post on this idea)

    Looking beyond the PC war, Apple is best positioned to be a consumer company. I believe they would merge iPod and Mac into something equivalent of the MS MediaCenter PC, only better with an unique Apple experience to it. They could use the Intel chips in their iPods to Macs to iEntertainment to iHome. This would give them the volume discounts from Intel and bring in a new product line altogether. It’s the SONY’s and Panasonic’s who will have to be prepared against Apple and not Microsoft.

    Also, what prevents Microsoft using the same LaGrande technology to make sure Windows installs only in ‘Microsoft Certified’ hardware?

  2. Anonymous said June 19, 2005, 2:28 am:


    Interesting comments. Look forward to your post on Pierre Bulez. As many observers have pointed out, Apple has chosen Intel for a strategic reason which is yet to be revealed and its not just for getting a 3GHz chip inside a Powerbook. So this idea is an attempt at looking at what Apple could do in the Wintel marketplace. Good point on Sony and Panasonic. I am sure those companies will be watching Apple with trepidation as the iPod juggernaut rolls on.

    As for Microsoft using Lagrande, sure, but why would they ? Perhaps I am not understanding the point. Microsoft’s main business is in getting their OS into as many machines as possible.



  3. Anonymous said June 20, 2005, 3:56 pm:

    Here is one article with basically the same thoughts as mine.