From the Vault: Did Steve Jobs’ want to see Mac OS X on Sony Vaio computers?

A February 2014 interview with former Sony president Kunitake Ando by Japanese technology journalist and longtime Apple follower Noboyuki Hayashi claimed that the late Steve Jobs wanted Sony’s Vaio computers to run Mac OS X. I find that a little hard to believe.

Hayashi says that Jobs admired Sony and its co-founder Akio Morita and would make routine, casual trips to the Sony’s headquarters. There the Apple CEO reportedly inspired Sony to build GPS chips into its cameras, drop the optical disc drives from its PlayStation Portable line, and even drew inspiration for how Apple’s then fledgeling retail business should operate based on Sony’s SonyStyle shops. And, according to Hayashi, Jobs wanted to make an exception to his “no-Mac clone” rule for Sony.

I find this a bit hard to swallow. In 1997, after returning to Apple, Jobs killed the Mac clone program implemented by former CEO Gil Amelio. The program was intended to expand the market penetration of the Mac. From 1995 through mid-1997 companies such as Power Computing, Motorola, Radius, DayStar, and UMAX made desktops running Mac OS X (no Mac laptop clone ever saw the light of day).

However, there was no evidence that the clone program expanded the Mac market. Mac clones only seemed to cannibalize Mac sales. In 1997, Jobs ceased negotiations of upcoming licensing deals with OS licensees. Since the clone makers’ licenses were valid only for Mac OS 7, Apple’s release of Mac OS 8 left the clone manufacturers without the ability to ship a current Mac OS version and effectively killed the cloning program.

At the time Jobs didn’t want to license Apple’s “crown jewels.” It’s hard to believe that, admiration for Sony or not, he’d want to make an exception in their case regarding Mac clones. 

(By the way, Sony sold its PC business to the investment firm Japan Industrial Partners in February 2014 as part of a restructuring effort.)

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.