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The Clone Wars – The Real Deal vs. Psystar

So is it truly about the EULA, Apple wanting control, or is it something else entirely?

Over the last couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of press about Psystar, the web-based organization who has defied all speculation that it was a fly-by-night scam artist. The company emphatically insists that it’s a legitimate business who simply had payment processing issues to overcome regarding its highly publicized Mac clone/compatible PC’s. According to a post on its home page, http://www.psystar.com/, their online store is back up, in business; and orders placed during the week of 07-Apr-08 are currently shipping.

While I’m not going to get into the debate over whether or not the PC’s that are shipping from Psystar are legally able to run Apple’s OSX Leopard, its very clear that the components they are using are definitely Leopard compatible. The PC’s themselves are WAY cheaper than even an entry-level Mac Mini, which starts at $499. Psystar’s entry level box, the Open Computer, has decent specs for the price (Core2Duo 2.2 gHz, 250GB, 2GB RAM), but no OS. The company will sell you a Leopard license and install the OS for $155. Apple’s EULA (end user license agreement) forbids the installation of the OS on any other machine, except those manufactured by Apple…hence the controversy.

My big thought on all of this really comes at the situation from a different angle: The entire Mac/Apple experience. Is it truly the combination of hardware and software that makes the relationship work; or will any port in a storm do?

I bought a MacBook Pro, installed Leopard, installed Vista Ultimate, and have the full blown experience. The problem here is that the entire financial commitment for my rig is approximately $2600USD. That’s $2000 more than you’d spend on Psystar’s entry level rig ($1600 more than their Pro rig), and you’d get the same experience, right..? Right..?

That’s the question that many end users are asking themselves…will the experience be the same, will it be as good (or at least comparable) as the original? I’m interested in finding out the answers to those questions. As an owner of a MacBook Pro, I can truly state that the hardware is by far what initially attracted me to Apple. At 1 inch thick, with a 15 inch wide, glossy screen capable of displaying HD video, upgradable to 4GB of RAM, I honestly bought my MBP to be a Windows laptop. It’s truly an awesome machine, and works well, even as a dedicated Windows box.

For me, it WAS all about the hardware. The fact that I get to run more than one OS on it, where I can really work photos, video and music with some really nice, native tools, was a huge bonus (and one I chased after for my iPod. I reformatted it and now sync it as a Mac device).

All Apple components work well together. It’s completely seamless. It all just works…just like you would expect from a complete solution. Apple hasn’t formally responded to all of this yet; at least, not that I’ve heard. But if they do, I would love to know what they think. They initially allowed something like this back in the day (a la the Lisa), but it didn’t last long.

Most of the big pundits that I’ve either spoken to, listened to, or read have all said that it’s just a matter of time before Apple slams the EULA hounds on Psystar and the store takes another nap. Everyone is saying that the issue is about Apple controlling their complete experience, and access to their OS on their machines. To an extent, it’s true, but let’s take a deeper look…

As all of the components aren’t specifically rated to work on OSX, many users will likely have to rely on the good graces of the open source community for compatible drivers, if native ones don’t or won’t work. While I’m certain the community is up to the challenge, I wonder if it’s truly mature enough to be able to handle that level of support, in light of Apple’s (likely) action to enforce their EULA. I know the flesh is willing…

It will be interesting to see how Mac purists, switchers and the Mac curious react to all of this. I’d love to see some kind of sales figures from Psystar. It might go a long way in encouraging Apple to either review/rewrite their EULA; or to lower the premium threshold on all of their device and hardware prices. It took me well over a year to save for my MBP, and while I think it was a good buy, the cost was very steep and I have yet full realize the full ROI on the purchase.

I would love to be able to purchase a MacBook for my daughter. It could see her through high school as well as into college, but currently the price point is just too high. If Psystar were to come out with a notebook that could run Leopard, they might snare yet another purchase from me…

What about everyone else? What are your thoughts on all of this? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the discussion area. Why not join in and let us know your thoughts?

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