Apple appears on the verge of finally licensing its MacOS to a top-tier hardware manufacturer, IBM.
But there may be less to the deal than meets the eye.
Although the agreement gives all of IBM's various divisions the right to resell the MacOS, it is the IBM microelectronics division, not the IBM PC company, that is driving the deal and would initially offer the OS.
"The deal is focused on bundling PowerPC chips with the Mac license. This is not an IBM systems announcement," says one source within IBM.
"This is the most bizarre deal I've ever come across," says Pieter Hartsook, editor of The Hartsook Letter, an Internet-based newsletter. "It's good for Apple in that they at last have a foot in the door with IBM, but I don't see how it makes sense for IBM. What's the market for a chip with just an OS and none of the surrounding architecture?"
IBM's PC company and the RS/6000 workstation division would both have the right to license the MacOS under the proposed terms of the agreement, but IBM has already said that if it offers the MacOS, it will be sold by the workstation division, not the PC company.
However, the deal will help Apple in its attempt to build an infrastructure that can support clone manufacturers, something that has hampered Apple's efforts to license its technology.
As part of the agreement, IBM has a nonrestricted right to sell the MacOS licence to any system or board manufacturer.
Last month Apple signed a similar deal with Motorola.