Why hasn’t Apple killed the Hackintosh?

The Hackintosh community is thriving as more and more people build their own desktop Macs instead of buying one from Apple. Why has the company allowed the Hackintosh to exist?

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Apple has been a bit of a mess for a while when it comes to desktop computers. The 2013 Mac Pro is an aging fossil, the Mac mini is also outdated, and even the iMac has been lagging when it comes to updates. The end result of this is that some Mac users have given up on Apple’s desktops and built their own Hackintosh machines.

Given Apple’s penchant for going after anybody that threatens its business, trademarks or copyrights, you’d think that the company would have taken steps to utterly stamp out the Hackintosh movement through legal or technology means.

But the company hasn’t bothered with the Hackintosh community at all. There have been no legal attacks by Apple on any Hackintosh web site, and macOS hasn’t been updated to try to more vigorously block attempts to install it on non-Apple computers.

So why is Apple allowing the Hackintosh community to thrive?

The Hackintosh community is still small

One reason why Apple has been accepting of the Hackintosh phenomenon is that the overall number of users is still quite small. So the company probably doesn’t perceive it to be a threat to its core Mac business.

This is somewhat understandable given how laptops and mobile devices have come to eclipse the desktop computer market in recent years. Desktops just aren’t as important as they once were, and the Hackintosh movement is still a very small subset of Mac users.

If folks were building Hackintosh laptops, then I think Apple's attitude would be very different. Laptops are the most important part of Apple's Mac business these days. But building a Hackintosh laptop wouldn't even be worth the effort, given that Apple's Mac laptops work very well for the needs of most people.

Hackintosh owners are also Apple customers

Many of the folks that build Hackintosh computers are not necessarily out to cheat Apple out of money. They simply need desktop hardware that Apple isn’t producing right now, so these users have had to build their own machines to get the desktop computing power that they need.

But even though they’ve built Hackintoshes, they are also still Apple’s customers. Many Hackintosh users also own an iPhone, iPad, Mac laptop or other Apple device. They also buy apps for their devices, and might be paying for other Apple services such as Apple Music or iCloud.

So Apple must tread very carefully not to anger Hackintosh users. Any kind of nasty attempt by Apple to destroy the Hackintosh community might blow up in the company’s face and it could suffer a huge public relations black-eye, and cause some Hackintosh users to abandon other Apple products and services.

Apple has no products available to substitute for a Hackintosh

Another reason that Apple has allowed the Hackintosh community to grow and thrive is that the company simply does not currently have computers in the market that Hackintosh owners need. The current Mac Pro is one of the primary causes of the popularity of Hackintosh computers, and the rest of Apple’s desktop Mac product line often isn't powerful or flexible enough for Hackintosh users.

This might change once Apple releases a Mac Pro with a new design, as well as pro versions of the iMac. But nobody knows what a new Mac Pro is going to look like, it might end up being yet another small/thin/cool over-designed mess like the current one. And it’s also unclear just what will be in an iMac Pro.

So the bottom line here is that Apple knows it has little to nothing to offer desktop Hackintosh users. It is wisely refraining from attacking the Hackintosh community in the hopes of regaining such users as desktop customers later on.

The Hackintosh has much to teach Apple

One final reason why Apple might be avoiding coming down on the Hackintosh community is that the company could be learning from it. Given the 2013 Mac Pro debacle, Apple was clearly clueless about what pro users wanted in a computer. By watching the Hackintosh community, Apple could be learning how to build the kinds of computers that pro users want to buy.

I could be wrong about this though, it’s possible that Apple will learn nothing from the Hackintosh movement. We won’t know until the next Mac Pro is announced and we can see if Apple’s design is truly modular and geared toward the needs of pro users.

I must admit that I am somewhat skeptical that Apple has learned its lesson from the Hackintosh. But I’m trying to keep a positive attitude and wait until the company releases some details about a new Mac Pro.

If the folks at Apple who are working on the new Mac Pro are smart, they’ll spend some time reading the Tonymacx86 forum. They can learn a lot from the Hackintosh community there.

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