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Mac clone kill-off worst business move ever claims book

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Apple's decision in 1997 to kill off its MacOS licensing programme has been dubbed the worst ever management decision in the history of management decisions. Writes one Stuart Crainer, in his book The 75 Greatest Management Decisions Ever Made and 21 of the Worst: "Playing by the old rules, Apple strove to retain total control of everything -- and lost big." While we wouldn't ever suggest that Crainer isn't an expert in the field of management decisions, we have to say his knowledge of the computer business in general and Apple in particular doesn't amount to very much. Falling into the old trap of assuming that because cloning made the Wintel market rule supreme, it would do the same thing for Apple, Crainer clearly fails to realise that timing is more important here than actions. He also forgets that Phoenix's successful attempt at reverse engineering the IBM PC's BIOS had as much to do with the growth of PC clones as Microsoft's ability to license MS-DOS to cloners. Apple's experiment with cloning, while good news for Mac buyers, who could get a Power Computing machine that was faster and cheaper than anything Apple could chuck out at the time, probably did more to shrink Apple's marketshare and hurt it as a business than anything else in its history. Of course, had John Sculley gone down the licensing route in 1985, back in the days when the Mac had a clear technological lead over PC, or at least tackled the price differential, matters might have been different, but Crainer isn't referring to Sculley's decision not to take Bill Gates' advice and license the MacOS. Instead, he saves his hindsight-fuelled ire for Steve Jobs' move to can Michael Spindler's half-arsed, desperation-driven attempt to rebuild crumbling marketshare. True, Jobs could perhaps have made a better job of axing clones, but it had to be done, and given how things have gone for the Apple over the last few years, it's a good job it was. Apple "lost big"? Check out last couple of years' financials, Mr Crainer. And what was the best management decision ever? Why, Bill Gates' move to license MS-DOS to IBM, of course. Mind you, Apple's in there at number two for kick-starting the microcomputer market in the first place with the Apple II -- though Crainer calls it the Apple I, forgetting that this was little more than a circuit board sold to hobbyists. ®

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