Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Send in the clones

Since the Intel-based Macs were introduced in June 2005, various analysts have wondered what would stop the maker of a PC clone from advertising Mac OS X support.

WIth the technical barriers relatively low (particularly since Apple switched to EFI), the only thing holding back clones was the vigor of Apple’s IP enforcement lawyers. Apple’s reputation was made more than 20 years ago with its various lawsuits against the Franklin Ace, Pineapple and other Apple II clones. Thus, it was not surprising that OS X compatibility was not something promoted by reputable established Wintel manufacturers.

Instead, it was tiny Florida-based Psystar (YALBNdtCS) that Monday announced its Open Mac (which soon became the Open Computer). Its web server has since been unable to cope with the traffic.

The key issue is that the license on Apple’s OS X software says you can’t use it on non-Apple computers. Based on the comment of a semi-anonymous Psystar employee, today the news is that Psystar will challenge that condition as anti-competitive. (Charging an 80% gross margin on the Mac is not illegal — that’s where their $782 million in R&D gets funded).

I share the view of at least one commentator that this will be a flash in the pan. (One report says Psystar has already given up). But the company has now emerged from obscurity — as Franklin did — and will be able to sell other products using its 15 seconds of fame.

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