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Saturday, 19 April 2008

Mac cloners to Apple: Come and get us

The company that began selling a $399 Mac clone earlier this week is still in business, and it's even got a new, $999 model with more horsepower. Meanwhile, lawyers are saying that Apple might have a tough time fighting the Miami-based Psystar in court.

[Update: Psystar, the company that claims to be selling the Mac clones, is coming under scrutiny after bloggers failed to find its office—or, indeed, any solid record that the business actually exists. The site, which has been sporadically on- and offline in the past few days, was up the last time I checked (around 5:30 p.m. EST), but I'd suggest holding onto your cash until more details emerge.]

InformationWeek got a hold of a Psystar employee (identified only as "Robert") who said that the company will continue selling its Mac clone, now dubbed the Open Computer (it was called the "OpenMac" on Monday). "We're not breaking any laws," said Robert.

The Open Computer, as you may recall, is the new PC-like beige box that's designed to run Mac OS X with the help of various emulators and drivers. Psystar charges $399 for the Open Computer itself, and it will pre-install Mac OS X if you buy a copy of the OS.

Of course, there's that sticky provision in Apple's user license for OS X "Leopard" that forbids installing the OS on non-Apple hardware.

But according to lawyers
contacted by Wired News, the penalties for violating the license tend to be pretty weak—maybe just the wholesale cost of Leopard, which constitutes "a few dollars." And if Psystar is buying Leopard from a legit distributor, Apple wouldn't be able to go after Psystar directly.

That said, Apple may have another weapon against Psystar, according to Wired News—software updates. In its FAQ, Psystar warns that some Apple software updates may be "decidedly non-safe" for the Open Computer, requiring a reinstallation of Leopard.

So (a la
hacked iPhones), Apple could simply roll out some must-have updates that are specifically "non-safe" for the Open Computers, forcing Open Computer owners to stick with outdated version of OS X.

In any case, the $399 Open Computer is
still on sale—along with a $999 juiced-up version called the OpenPro Computer, which comes with a faster processor and a dedicated GeForce video card.

Personally, I'm all for it—more choice is better, and if you don't like Psystar's beige boxes, by all means, cough up the cash for Apple's aluminum monolith.

What's your take? Would you consider a Mac clone, even if software updates were iffy?

Posted by: aroeltsm, Updated at: 12:36 am

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