For nearly a couple of years there’s been an interesting sidebar drama being played out in court between Apple, Inc., our favorite Mac maker, and Psystar, the little Mac cloning shop that won’t go away.
Apple sued Psystar and forced them into bankruptcy but the company continued to ship Mac clones. Out of bankruptcy, Psyster has new Mac clone models for sale.
Since Apple can’t make Psystar go away, I’m beginning to wonder what is so bad about buying a Mac clone? The price tags are attractive. The Psyster clones still run Mac OS X Leopard, and it’s likely they’ll run Snow Leopard, too.
Legal ramifications aside, is there anything really wrong with a decent Mac clone? After all, Macs use PC hardware all over the place. Generally, Mac users pay a little more, piece for piece, than a comparable clone.
For example, the Psystar Open (3) sells for $599, sans monitor, keyboard, and mouse; roughly the same price as the low end Mac mini. $59 more gets you iLife, which is not included in the base Psystar price.
What you get is a much larger tower with larger hard drive, faster CPU, faster graphics, more RAM, and a handful of caveats—no Bluetooth, no WiFi, and no FireWire, all of which are standard in the Mac mini.
Assuming a monitor, keyboard, and mouse are the same price on either Mac or clone, the low end Psystar suddenly becomes expensive, now weighing in at almost $900.
You can purchase an extended Psystar warranty which may not mean much coming from a company that is being sued by Apple and just emerged from bankruptcy. No, the local Apple Store Mac Genius won’t help you with a Psystar Mac clone. You’re on your own.
CrunchGear, my favorite tech site when facts and unbiased opinion don’t matter, has a whole page of Psystar news and comments. Generally speaking, those who’ve bit the bullet and purchased a Psystar Mac clone know what they bought, and it runs Mac OS X, and that’s all that matters, despite a few quality issues, and the occasional quirky performance.
So, that brings up the question: tell me what is so bad about buying a Mac clone?
Is it a sin that goes against the religious fervor seemingly required of Mac users in particular, and Apple customers in general? Are Psystar’s efforts truly a David vs. Goliath battle? And, why hasn’t Apple been able to squash this little bug of a manufacturer after all this time? What are they waiting for?
So many questions, so few answers.
The only real problem I can see with a Psystar Mac clone is this. Is the difference in price worth the potential hardware headaches that may come? If worse comes to worst, and Apple manages to update OS X in such a way that the Mac clones die instantly, the hardware can always be used to run Windows, right?
In the interim, is a Psystar Mac clone buyer getting a bargain? Is it really a very cheap Mac? Yes. And no. That will depend on your needs, priorities, technical expertise, and pocketbook.
I would like to tell you that I am certain that Apple will never officially sanction a Mac cloner. Those days are gone. The economic peril for Apple is great if Dell, HP, Lenovo are allowed to bundle OS X on their cheaper wares.
Then again, I was one of the surprised multitudes when Apple switched from the PowerPC architecture to Intel Inside, although I could not figure out how Apple and PowerPC would compete against the low power offerings in Intel’s CPU line. Think different, Jeffrey.
There’s is nothing wrong with purchasing a Mac clone from Psystar or anyone else. Caveat emptor. So long as the buyer understands what they’re getting is not a Mac, and so long as the buyer is willing to perform a certain amount of personal support, the almost black market for clones may be around awhile.
What I have not figured out is why Apple has not been able—or willing—to stop Psystar and other cloners from selling OS X.