Budget Mac Clone Defiant

Dennis Faas's picture

People who want Mac technology without paying Apple prices finally have the machine of their dreams, at least until the lawyers have their way.

A company named Psystar is offering a machine named OpenMac for just $399 which, to all intents and purposes, could run just like a real Apple Macintosh computer. The legality is questionable at best and the Psystar site disappeared a few hours after news of the offer broke, with many speculating that lawyers had become involved -- though the site later returned. (Source: news.com)

While Microsoft Windows can run on any PC, Apple's Leopard only works on Apple-produced computers. Psystar appeared to be getting around this by allowing buyers to fool the Leopard installation disk into thinking the machine was an Apple Macintosh. Alternatively, the OpenMac system was available from Psystar with Leopard pre-installed for $554.

The OpenMac machine came with some pretty respectable specs, including a 250GB hard drive, a DVD drive and 2GB of memory. That's notably better than Apple's cheapest machine (the $599 Mac mini) and closer to the $2,299 MacPro.

It wasn't necessarily a great deal, though. Psystar admitted it could be risky to install any updates to the Macintosh software, suggesting customers only did so when they were certain an update was "not non-safe".

There were also legal problems. Customers who chose to buy the OpenMac and install Leopard themselves would technically be breaching the licensing agreement of the software.

Psystar also tried to cover themselves legally over the version that comes with Leopard installed. They came up with the dubious explanation that "OpenMac is a configuration of PC hardware capable of running unmodified OS X Leopard kernels". That may indeed be true, but by installing the software on a non-Apple machine, they were clearly breaking the license agreement. (Source: arstechnica.com)

When the site returned, Psystar had re-branded the machine as simply "Open Computer", no doubt to avoid trademark infringement claims. They've also added a higher-spec $999 "OpenPro Computer" which is clearly based on Apple's model of a basic and Pro edition of the Mac. (Source: news.com)

Hacking Apple software to work on PCs is hardly a new idea; many enthusiasts do so and even share their tips with one another. But once a rival firm tries to make a profit from Apple's software, legal action is sure to follow.

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