Psystar made a huge splash on the interwebs yesterday by introducing the OpenMac (later renamed “Open Computer” when they realized how badly that would piss off Apple.) The Open is essentially a white box Intel-based computer that can run unmodified OS X Leopard kernels, and can even be ordered with Leopard preinstalled. The computer’s specs match a high-end MacPro pretty closely, but with a base price of $399 (sans OS). Wow! Even with the OS installed (another $155) it’s cheaper than the base Mac mini.
They also sell a higher end machine, the OpenPro, which can be configured with up to 8GB of RAM and 2.6GHz Core2 Quad processors. That one starts at $999, but can go all the way to $2,169 if you check all the boxes. That’s still a far cry from a similarly equipped MacPro.
I think this is a great idea; Apple has a huge untapped market that will not buy or even try the Mac OS because it’s always tied to Apple’s hardware, which in some comparisons appears overpriced. Actually, if you compare apples to apples (pun intended) Apple hardware isn’t that much more expensive than comparable high-end WinTel gear. But the problem is that Apple’s hardware lineup has a huge hole in it that Apple should’ve filled long ago; there is a staggering price difference between the iMac and the MacPro that could be filled with a mid-priced machine with no monitor and a wider range of upgrade options. As it is you’ve got the iMac — which is a great machine, don’t get me wrong — but many PC heads bristle at the thought of an integrated monitor, and they bristle at the thought of the limited upgrade options of the mini. The next option would naturally be the MacPro, but the base price for one is a staggering $2,799. You would think a natural middle ground would be to build a mini-tower, powered like the iMac but sporting three or four PCI slots for upgrades, and room for two or three hard drives and maybe a couple of optical drives. It really wouldn’t be that difficult to pull off, but it would definitely cut into the MacPro sales figures. And the iMac. And the mini. But who cares? They’d be selling computers to people who would otherwise not even consider a Mac.
So, the natural progression here is for a third party to step in and build what Apple will not. That’s where Psystar comes in. And it looks like they have what could be a winner, but their entry starts the race with a huge millstone around it’s neck; Apple’s end user licensing agreement (EULA). Apple’s EULA specifically prohibits running Apple’s OS on anything but Apple’s hardware; you must agree to the EULA before the OS can be installed. That’s a big catch, and considering Steve Jobs’ view on Mac clones, not one that will change anytime soon. So I’m absolutely certain that Psystar has been kept busy with Apple’s legal team for the last 24 hours. Very busy.
I tried to find out what I could about the company, and there really isn’t much out there via a Google search other than what has been published after their Open Computer announcement. Not sure if it’s a new outfit or what. Yesterday the company listed their address as 10645 SW 112th St, Miami, FL, which looks an awful lot like a residential area in Google Maps. But today there is a new address; 10481 NW 28th St, Miami, FL; if you look up that address up in Google Maps, it looks more like light industrial/office. Not sure if that change is comforting or not.
Today’s news says that indeed, Psystar has been dealing with Apple Legal, and they intend to fight. Not sure how far that will go, but it sounds like they are going to proceed with selling computers and the OS package. And they’re being feisty about the upcoming legal battle, citing antitrust violations built into that EULA and charging that Apple marks up their hardware 80 percent. I don’t know how far they’ll get with arguments like that, but I do know they’ve got one heck of an uphill battle ahead of them.
I’m not sure if it was a good idea or not, but last night I went ahead & ordered an Open Computer for work — base machine with Leopard installed for $588 (of the boss’ money!) shipped. We’re in need of updating a few Macs in Prepress anyway, and I figure even if this doesn’t work out, we also need to replace some older PC’s, so I can install Windows on the box and use it elsewhere on the network. And the copy of Leopard won’t go to waste either; I can install that on one of the Macs. $155 is about $30 high for Leopard, but $399 is pretty cheap for a WinTel box spec’d like the Open. So if nothing else, it ought to prove to be a fun experiment.
Now the big question is, will my machine ever ship. And if it ships, how long before I hear from Apple Legal. Time will tell, and I’ll keep posting updates.