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Dell founder thinks different about Apple

Chairman of the No. 1 PC maker says he'd be interested in offering the Mac OS if the opportunity ever came up.

Michael Dell is thinking different about the Mac OS.

The founder and chairman of the No. 1 computer maker told Fortune magazine that he would be interested in becoming a switcher of sorts if the opportunity ever came up.

"If Apple decides to open the Mac OS to others, we would be happy to offer it to our customers," Dell wrote in an e-mail.

It's a hypothetical reply to be sure, but Dell does relish the operating system diversity that his company provides. Dell ships its PCs exclusively with Microsoft Windows but does offer Red Hat Linux as well as Novell's Suse Linux and NetWare in servers and some systems. Dell made a halfhearted attempt to sell Linux laptops at one point but then pulled back after claiming there was no market.

Adding Apple Computer's Mac OS to its repertoire could give Dell's PC customers a more likely alternative to Windows.

An Apple representative declined to comment on the article. A Dell representative confirmed the e-mail but declined to say where Dell would install the OS--PCs, servers or both.

During Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference earlier this month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced plans to ship Macs using Intel microprocessors by this time next year.

After Jobs' presentation, Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller addressed the issue of running Windows on Macs, saying there are no plans to sell or support Windows on an Intel-based Mac. "That doesn't preclude someone from running it on a Mac. They probably will," he said. "We won't do anything to preclude that."

However, Schiller said the company does not plan to let people run Mac OS X on other computer makers' hardware. "We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac," he said.

And though Apple is keeping its Mac OS in house, that doesn't prevent the company from opening up the licensing of its operating system to other PC manufacturers, as it did in the '80s and '90s with companies like Power Computing and Umax.