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.

Comments closed
    • Richie_G
    • 11 years ago

    Never had any Apple products, be it computers, Ipods etc (or any other ‘Icrap) or software. Never trusted them simply because they seemed too ‘closed’ to me I suppose.

    But I do have to ask, and undoubtedly it’s going to sound like a supid question on this thread: why bother going through that hassle to run a Macintosh OS? What’s so special about Mac?

    There’s obviously some big reason why they still sell, I’ve just never known what it was apart from what they looked like.

      • Convert
      • 11 years ago

      That is kind of the point though, you and others are curious to see what they have to offer. That is really the draw here. The enthusiast can play on his terms, his hardware, and that is rather appealing. If they don’t like OSX they have an extra PC to install Vista/XP on or they have something that has resell value (within a nerd’s circle, I can sell a PC in minutes as apposed to finding the right buyer for a Mac).

      Macs to me have been a VCR, I am buying an appliance rather than a versatile piece of hardware. With the switch to Intel that changes quite a bit.

    • cappa84
    • 11 years ago
    • ssidbroadcast
    • 11 years ago

    I’m actually a bit surprised that the 9600 GT works in OS X, since the latest Mac-compatible video cards are 8800GT’s

    • bdwilcox
    • 11 years ago

    There is great irony in Apple getting upended with Mac clones.

    If anyone is unfamiliar with the sordid tale of Apple history, let me tell you a tale of intrigue and betrayal . The story I’m about to tell is dark, terrifying and full of evil deeds, so you might want to put the kids to bed.

    In the 90’s Apple had begun licensing the MacOS to clone makers like Radius and PowerComputing. All was happy in Macland except that the clone makers still needed to buy an ASIC (application specific integrated circuit) from Apple in order for the MacOS to boot. Plans were underway to eliminate this burden by creating a PowerPC platform that did without the ASIC; it was called CHRP (Common Hardware Reference Platform).

    Soon, Apple’s customers began to notice that the clone makers were outpacing Apple in hardware and prices, selling newer, faster machines for less than Apple was selling older, slower machines. Soon Apple’s hardware sales began to suffer.

    It was around this time that an ugly troll king by the name of Steve Jobs reconquered his former Apple kingdom. He began to meddle in all of Apple’s affairs in order to make Apple profitable again. So, did Steve Jobs make Apple a leaner, more efficient beast that could compete with the clone makers? No, Steve Jobs knew the easiest way to compete with them would be to kill them in their sleep. So when the clone makers were resting in a peaceful slumber, Jobs killed CHRP and then withheld the ASIC from the clone makers, putting them out of business overnight and royally screwing Apple’s biggest support base.

    After this, many who had been skewered by Apple’s sword in the back would never trust them again. After all, how trustworthy is a king when he murders his own subjects in the night?

      • Convert
      • 11 years ago

      Which is why I will never buy app… OOOO shiny new ipod!

        • Thresher
        • 11 years ago

        Well played, sir.

      • Voldenuit
      • 11 years ago

      QFFT.

      I was there when it happened.

      I will never buy an Apple product again.

    • Kulith
    • 11 years ago

    Eulas are stupid pieces of shit. Nobody reads them, and nobody cares, and sometimes they hold up in court and sometimes they don’t. Its the most pathetic thing in the world.

    Nearly all eulas even have “XXX reserves the right to change or modify this agreement at any time without notifying you”. You don’t have to be rocket scientist to see that that is BS.

    according to apple itunes eula:
    l[

      • evermore
      • 11 years ago

      Seriously. Missiles that play Ride of the Valkyries on integrated iPods as they rain down on the heathens!

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 11 years ago

      Wait, the EULA says that?? Crap, I gotta make some “adjustments” in my basement…

    • provoko
    • 11 years ago

    This is AWESOME! I hope Psystar stays in business, this is the perfect alternative to overpriced mac hardware.

    • ecalmosthuman
    • 11 years ago

    Ha, i have the same case for my office PC. A cheap Asus case, not horrible though, I think it was like $45 with a power supply. Convenient stylizing for a mac wannabe.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 11 years ago

      I’ve also got an ASUS TM-210. The included power supply and fan were junk. After upgrading those to good quality components, I am satisfied with this very compact case.

    • Thresher
    • 11 years ago

    The issue here is not one of legality. It is perfectly legal for a company to sell the OS and the machines. It’s even legal to install the OS, as long as the process used to do so was reverse engineered and not lifted from Apple’s code. The DMCA doesn’t come into play in this situation and there is nothing barring them from doing this legally.

    There are at least three issues that they face:

    1. The OS license forbids use of the OS on non-Apple equipment. The legality of Shrink Wrap Agreements and other forms of EULA are still in debate, with some jurisdictions finding them unconscionable and others say that they were enforceable. Still, the end-user is the one the violates the terms here, so Apple’s recourse would be against the buyer, not the seller.

    2. Apple is likely to allege that there is an infringement on their IP, specifically as it relates to the bootloader and EFI. This allegation has the propensity to bring the DMCA in to play. Even if the process was completely reverse engineered and therefore legal, the company will wind up paying big money to prove it.

    3. Apple has deep pockets and a propensity to sue. The problem with this is that they can bring such a big legal arsenal to bear that a small company goes broke just trying to defend themselves, even on issues where it’s not clear (or not even likely) that Apple would win.

    Apple will try to use their muscle to force an injunction against the vendor at first for issue number 2. That will be the issue that they have the likeliest chance of gaining estoppel, specifically because Apple has the luxury of picking the court they want to sue in. After that, then they go for the other issues.

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      Yeah, I’m not sure reverse engineering, however clean, in itself gets them out of the anti-circumvention rules in the DMCA (as you note in #2) . Reverse engineering is allowed but only for the purposes of “interoperability” — allowing programs to exchange data. Apple will assert that’s not what is going on here (and Psystar, of course, will assert it is). I’m in no way qualified to evaluate the situation viz the law, any precedents, or how a court would likely find. (Not that it is likely to get that far, since as you say Apple will bury them in paper and legal fees long before).

    • no51
    • 11 years ago

    /[ “You agree not to install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-labeled computer, or to enable others to do so.”

    So… if I put a Apple sticker, it’d be perfectly legal then? From my interpretation, that would “label” it as an “Apple”.

      • Thresher
      • 11 years ago

      The EULA is just what it says, an “End User Licensing Agreement”. It’s a contract between the end user and the licensor. From a legal standpoint, there is no criminality in violating it, to the extent that you also do not violate the DMCA, which is law.

      EULA’s have a mixed history in enforceability. In some courts, they have been found to be onerous, unconscionable, contracts of adhesion (where one party has all the negotiating power), etc. In those cases, the courts have generally favored the defendant and nullified the EULA. In some courts, these agreements have been found to be enforceable. EULA’s are pursued through the civil courts, not the criminal courts, so in general, applicability of the finding is localized to the individual case in that jurisdiction.

      Note: Software licensors love the mixed message on these. It means that they can take people to court to try to force a settlement without having to prove the enforceability of the EULA.

    • Flying Fox
    • 11 years ago

    Those OpenMac cases are Asus’ TM-210/211! So I have the case covered!

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 11 years ago

    I don’t understand why some companies have a blatant disregard for the legal system. It’s suicide.

      • sreams
      • 11 years ago

      Huh? I don’t see any evidence that what this company is doing is illegal. EULAs are not law.

    • Ashbringer
    • 11 years ago

    I got Mac OSX 10.5.2 installed on my AMD machine. Got everything installed and working right, but Mac was just never meant to run on a AMD platform. Firing up World of Warcraft and it would crash as it launches. Apparently Blizzard uses code that only likes Intels.

    The best way to get a Hackintosh is to have pure Intel hardware. Nearly everything has to be Intel, including video and chipset. It’s possible to run Hackintosh on AMD, but you’ll have to run a lot of badly made up drivers, with hacked kernal which can be trouble when Apple updates it.

    • flip-mode
    • 11 years ago

    Netkas joker website doesn’t render properly in Firefox.

    • Unckmania
    • 11 years ago

    Do you have a link… for… curiosity?

    • Forge
    • 11 years ago

    Netkas is friggin furious. PsyStar is using his PC_EFI v8 software to install/run OSX, same as I am on my PC. The difference? I’m not selling mine, PsyStar is.

    It’s a Hackintosh, a regular old OSx86 box. Please don’t pay these scam artists, pay the talented hackers that made all this stuff possible.

      • sreams
      • 11 years ago

      I don’t see the problem. PsyStar isn’t selling the PC-EFI v8 software. They are selling a hardware configuration that is optimal for running OSX. For the people out there who don’t want to build their own systems, this is a good idea. I don’t see any part of this as being a scam. Wouldn’t it be just as much of a “scam” for a company to sell a system and install Ubuntu on it?

        • DreadCthulhu
        • 11 years ago

        I agree with you; I priced out this system on Newegg and it came out to ~$350 before shipping. Paying an extra $50 for having a system that is pre-assembled, tested, and known to work might be worth it for some people.

          • Convert
          • 11 years ago

          It would be worth it to me.

          I have looked at doing a roll your own but I came away knowing it would be a giant headache for the most part without knowing which motherboard to go with. I am sure somewhere buried in a forum is a shopping list for items to purchase for a no hassle setup but I am really not all that interested in spending the time.

          Though now thanks for Forge my interest is piqued once again and considering they can get a enthusiast level board to work without much issues I might just have to jump on newegg.

    • Unckmania
    • 11 years ago

    Psystar may lose, but if pirates get a hold of this then Apple is going to lose lots more.

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