Too little too late. Words that have come back to haunt Apple. They were spoken by many industry observers in 1994 when the PC maker announced plans to license out its Macintosh architecture to third-party manufacturers, effectively creating a clone market for its PC. It was a strategy that had worked for IBM and Microsoft, so why shouldn't it work for Apple, who after all offered a much easier to use system?
The simple reason why it hasn't, and why many observers at the time believed it wouldn't, is that IBM and Microsoft came up with the idea more than 10 years earlier. By 1994, the IBM PC had become a de facto industry standard.
Last week Apple acquired the largest Mac cloner, Power Computing, for $100 million (u62 million). Power Computing is to stop selling clones at the end of the year. Also last week Apple changed the rules of its Up-To-Date licensing programme, which has allowed clone makers to upgrade to the latest operating system for just $9.95. Under the new rules, manufacturers will have to buy the software through computer stores or by mail order for $69.95.
The two moves are a clear indication that Apple wants to put a stop to the clone business. The company had hoped the licensing strategy would grow the Mac sector. Instead, it has led to an erosion of Apple's market share.
It is understood that Apple was rethinking its decision to let others copy the Mac and that the company was in contentious licensing talks with Power Computing.
Last week's acquisition, which had been rumoured for some time, puts an end to that dispute and instantly removes Apple's main competitor.
Power Computing also recently announced plans to start manufacturing Intel-based PCs. As Power Computing will retain its name and be run as a separate entity, Apple will now have a presence in the Intel market without giving that impression and running the risk of alienating its Mac users.
But Power Computing wasn't the only Mac licensee: Motorola and Umax are too. It remains unclear what will become of the clone market now. What is clear though is the bitter reaction of some of the manufacturers to the licensing programme changes. Phil Pompa, vice president of marketing for Umax, said: "We're obviously very disappointed in Apple's actions, particularly as this directly impacts our common customers. Obviously we've fielded a lot of calls since this notice (of the changes) went up."
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