Macintosh Clone Program

By 1995, Apple computers accounted for around 7% of the worldwide desktop computer market. By that year illegal Apple clones no longer existed, and the company decided to launch an official clone program in order to expand Macintosh market penetration.

Macintosh Clone Program

The Program

The clone program entailed the licensing of the Macintosh ROMs and system software to independent manufacturers, who had to pay a flat fee for a license, and a royalty for each clone computer they sold. The initial royalty to pay was established at $50. Many company acquired the licence and produced computers: Power Computing, Motorola, Radius, APS Technologies, DayStar Digital, UMAX, MaxxBoxx, Bandai (Apple Pippin), Tatung and others.

For more than two years, it was possible to buy PowerPC-based clone computers running Mac OS. But Apple executives were worried that high-end clones were cannibalizing sales of their own high-end computers, where profit margins were highest. Many Apple experts complained that licensing clones was financially unfavorable.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he halted negotiations of upcoming licensing deals. The clone makers’ licenses were valid only for Apple’s System 7 operating system. After Apple released Mac OS 8, the clone manufacturers who couldn’t ship a current Mac OS version had to stop production. Only UMAX ever managed to obtain a license to ship OS 8, which expired in July 1998. Thus Apple ended the cloning program.

The End of the Clone Era

Then Apple bought Power Computing’s Mac clone business for $100 million and ended the Clone era.

Steve Jobs had meetings and discussions with Compaq, Sony and a few other companies about licensing them, but these negotiations fell through.

Later, with the success of the iPod, Dell and other computer manufacturers have expressed renewed interest in creating Macintosh clones. But Apple didn’t plan to allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac.


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