IT firm sells 'open' Mac, Apple lawyers sharpen pitchforks

The zeal and tenacity of Apple's legal department is often the subject of jokes in the techie community, but it's apparently not as well known as it ought to be. Case in point: Psystar Corporation, a company that produces a range of IT devices from network management devices to surveillance equipment, has announced a $399.99 "Apple alternative" computer that runs Mac OS X 10.5 and is apparently made out of off-the-shelf components.

If that weren't enough to draw Apple's ire, Psystar goes on to make jabs at Apple's "pricey" hardware and compares its $400 Open Computer to the Mac mini, saying the Mac is "stripped-down and still expensive." At least Psystar kinda has a point there, since the Open Computer—labelled "OpenMac" on some areas of the Psystar website—features a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Intel GMA 950 graphics, 2GB of memory, a 250GB hard drive, and a DVD burner. Users willing to pay more can also select a 2.66GHz processor, GeForce 9600 GT graphics card, 400GB hard drive, and 4GB of memory.

The Open Computer/OpenMac next to a Dell Dimension C521. Source: Psystar.

So, what's the catch? Psystar seems to be selling proper copies of Mac OS X 10.5, since it charges $155 for the operating system. However, Apple's license agreement for OS X explicitly restricts its use to Apple machines, stating, "You agree not to install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-labeled computer, or to enable others to do so." As far as we can see, Psystar fails to address that point on its website, preferring instead to tout its product as "The Smart Alternative to an Apple."

Update: To clarify, the Psystar uses publicly available software from the OSx86 Project to make Mac OS X work on its machines. The company makes no secret of that fact and states it in several areas of its website.

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