It's because Apple makes money on hardware sales, not software (well, it does, but it's a pittance compared to the billions of dollars the iMac has brought in). OS X is the "pull" they use to get people to buy the hardware (never mind that the hardware is
very desirable in itself) so if people can install it on non-Apple hardware they wouldn't be making anywhere near the amount of money they would have done if those people bought Mac hardware.
Remember, boxed retail OS X copies are really Upgrade editions. To compare the $199 price that OS X 10.5 Leopard commanded to $199 for Windows 7 Professional is unfair to Windows.
Apple could sell OS X at retail for installation on non-Apple hardware, but with a few caveats:
- They would have to charge at least $500 for it to make up for the earnings lost by having not sold hardware
- They lose control over the hardware experience, which is one of the reasons the Apple platform is so highly rated by critics; it's like going into a McDonalds fast-food outlet, paying $500, and getting a Michelin-starred meal. It's nice, sure, but you'd
rather be sitting on proper chairs in a calm environment, not hard plastic with screaming children running amok.
- And Apple would lose money through support. Fact is, most users are idiots and would come running to Apple for support issues with their hardware which are outside of their concern; even if Apple fobs off the users they'd lose money by having to answer
the call, and then lose PR as angry idiots start posting their stories online.
Apple, however, doesn't care what you run on Macs. That's why they talk-up Boot Camp to win over Microsoft's customers, even if their hardware is running Windows 7 they've still made money on the hardware sales, and that's what matters. However they're careful
not to hype it too much, lest they become "just another" boutique PC manufacturer like Sony Vaio or Alienware.
It's impossible for another company to rise up and be the next Apple because they'd need their own OS, which at this point would be stupid to start from scratch, look at what happened to Be and SGI. Not only do you have the problems of actually writing an
OS, but also the chicken/egg situation for software: no-one will use your platform if MS Office and Photoshop aren't available for it, and Microsoft nor Adobe will port their applications if no-one uses it. So the hypothetical company's only choice is to take
either Windows or Linux and add some new UX layer on top of it (some do it by using Stardock's Object Desktop) but this is ultimately a gimmick and invariably poorly implemented, leaving a sour taste in the mouth.
My prediction: we're in a stalemate for now. I do predict Linux (possibly in the form of ChromeOS) will become more popular thanks to Wine and will take more territory away from Windows, especially in embedded and low-cost applications. Microsoft doesn't
really have a hardware strategy so they'll have to come up with something to survive.