This would be WAY different than the licensing business, which I agree was a MAJOR disaster for Apple, because they DID have competition from "clone makers" so the sales of "real Macs" were greatly diluted. That's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is a sort of Apple version of Parallels for Windows.
It is still the same issue. If a consumer can buy Windows computer and then run the Mac OS on it, whether natively or in a virtual machine, then why would they buy a Mac computer from Apple. The point is that the Mac OS is a major reason why many people by computers from Apple. If they can run the Mac OS on non-Apple computers, then there WILL
be fewer people who buy computers from Apple. This is same basic mechanism as clones, even if it is not identically the same.
And NO, I don't think Apple would necessarily do something just because it would mean more money for the company IF it also meant changing its tightly-controlled, almost Xenophobic sort of business view of the world that appears to stem from Steve Jobs (as WinTard said, they're sitting on $28 billion in cash right now... On the one hand, in the current economy, well, that's a very nice nest egg and hedge against the uncertainty; on the other hand, properly invested in new product launches and marketing that could easily become $42 or $56 billion!).
All smart companies have cash reserves for when times are bad. If Apple followed your advice and started letting the Mac OS run on non-Apple hardware, they would likely be thankful that they have such large cash reserves.
The more I think about it, the more I think that the Good Steve Jobs who brought so much innovation and creativity to the world by starting Apple AND by reviving it during the last few years is being replaced not necessarily by an "Evil Steve Jobs" but by a "Stagnant Steve Jobs," by a Steve Jobs who's just hit his OWN glass (silicon?) ceiling. I think he really LOVED IT when Apple was just BIG ENOUGH to be good enough to be "told ya so," but not so big that they had to please everyone. Now they're getting big enough they're going to start having to please everyone, just like Microsoft, and that's a very different ballgame. I just don't think Steve is up to the Job(s) (pun intended).
I do not think Steve Jobs is perfect or has all the answers. Personally, I think he has been caught up in his own press and believes way too much that "he knows best". Apple has started doing stupid stuff. Most have it has been small and likely does not directly hurt themselves too much...but all the small stupid stuff may catch up to them. Some of Apple's "problems" are inevitable as they grow. It is just a fact of life that as a company has more and more users, it becomes tougher and tougher to please them all...especially if you are a control freak company like Apple and want to limit variety in your product line. At some point, Apple will have to make a choice between future growth and limited product lines that they tightly control. Beyond that, they have started to believe that they know what is best and eliminate stuff (matte screens, Firewire ports, removable batteries, etc) that reasonably large groups of loyal users like and then "blow off" those users' complaints. They have very recently shown signs of starting to realized they goofed on some stuff and started listening again (putting Firewire back on the 13" laptop and giving the option of a non-glossy screen on 15" laptops).
Any company is only as good as how much they listen to their users. The more they blow off user comments, the faster they find themselves eventually in trouble. Apple is by no means in "deep dudu" yet, but they need to get smarter about some things or they might find themselves there in a handful or so years.