posted by Thom Holwerda on Mon 23rd Jun 2008 22:13 UTC
IconPsyStar introduced its Mac clone to much media attention back in April, causing many discussions about the company's legal status, the validity of the Mac OS X EULA, and even PsyStar's very existence. It soon turned out PsyStar was a real company, and was actually shipping the OpenComputer Mac Clone to its customers, to generally rather favourable reviews - not stellar of course, but acceptable, with the biggest downside being the inability to use the Software Update tool, forcing users to download OS updates straight from PsyStar's servers - to prevent updates from Apple hosing the OpenComputer. We're a few months later now, and a few things have changed.

Firstly, PsyStar has expanded its Macintosh clone product line with the OpenServ 1100, a - you guessed it - clone of Apple's Xserve rack server. It has four front drive bays, two gigabit ethernet ports, and built-to-order options such as a maximum of 16GB of RAM. The choice in operating systems is vast, offering CentOS 5.1 (32- or 64-bit), various Windows Server options, Ubuntu Server 8.04, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Client, or unlimited Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Server.

The company hasn't been sitting still on the software front either. The Software Update tool which at first didn't work properly on the Mac OS X version installed on PsyStar's Mac Clones, now works just fine because it contacts PsyStar's servers, not Apple's, which fixes one of the major problems for those not interested in brands and badges.

CNet's Tom Krazit got a few comments from PsyStar's CEO, Rudy Pedraza. The company has not yet been contacted by Apple or its legal team, and Apple itself characteristically declines to comment on this issue. In addition, even though PsyStar declines to mention specifically how many OpenComputers they have sold so far, they did say the number is in the "thousands". Pedraza explains the OpenComputer mainly is bought by people who couldn't afford a Mac before, but also by small companies who cannot afford to equip their staff with Apple's Macs. Lastly, the company will start offering its products in Europe too.

CNet.com has been testing the OpenComputer for a month now, and wonders what exactly makes a Mac a Mac - after using the OpenComputer for a month, Tom Krazit just isn't so sure anymore. "As long as I ignore the big ugly box underneath my desk it's easy to forget that this isn't a Mac. [...] In just about everything but the name, this is a Mac."

These days, there is little that separates a Macintosh from any other x86 machine - hardware-wise, that is. They use the same processors, the same chipsets, the same graphics cards, the same memory, the same hard drives, the same everything. Apple always claims that what sets the Mac apart is the combination of hardware and software that Apple offers, which, according to them, makes it possible to deliver a more stable and reliable platform, since Apple only has to focus on a limited set of hardware to support.

However, when a small company such as PsyStar can just put together a machine using off-the-shelf parts, and can offer products virtually indistinguishable from a real Mac in user experience (according to CNet) then it does raise the question: how long will Apple be able to stop more companies from doing so?

In The Netherlands, we have a saying: "als er één schaap over de dam is, volgen er spoedig meer", which loosely translates into "if one sheep crosses the water, more will soon follow". Apple better do something about this quick, or else the clones will sprout everywhere. Which is good for competition, but bad for Apple.

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