What is it that makes a non-event become headline news? A small Miami company tried to sell so-called Mac ‘clones’ for $399. Will cloned Macs become big sellers? Who is the buyer? What problems will unsupported clones cause? So many questions, so few answers.
In The Beginning
Relative to the cheapest of PCs, Macs are expensive. Expandable mini-tower PCs can be had for $399, sans display. The least expensive Mac is the mini, at $599. A Mac tower is $2,799.
Surely there are great unwashed masses of computer users who would savor a less expensive, more expandable low end Mac.
Unfortunately for the bargain hunters among us, Apple loves high gross profit margins and tightly controls the integration between Mac OS X and Mac hardware. Besides, cloning Macs doesn’t have a good historical track record.
Let There Be Light
Hackers have managed to modify OS X Leopard to run on unsupported non-Apple hardware, but not without a few headaches along the way.
The few hundred dollars saved on hardware costs hardly seems worth the trials, tribulations, and trouble that a hacked version of Leopard brings to a Mac user with more time on his hands than money in his pocket.
When things go wrong with a Frankenmac, you’re pretty much on your own.
Alpha & Omega
The beginning and the end. Along comes a little company in Miami, full of Mac users with dreams of low-priced generic PC boxes running OS X Leopard for the masses. Dreams come and dreams go.
Psystar lasted a whole week before finally closing everything down. Their crime? Selling a PC mini-tower for $399 that would run Mac OS X Leopard.
Forbes’ Brian Caulfield talked with Psystar:
We have thousands of machines we have to build and ship out… it’s not that we can’t provide the product or Apple can stop us from providing the product. The truth is, we can’t process your credit card.
So, no web site, no credit card processing capability, no business.
was Psystar on to something? Is there huge demand for a PC alternative that will run Mac OS X?
That probably depends on your definition of ‘huge’. $399 is almost throw away money for some who would jump at the chance to have a mini-tower Mac for far fewer dollars than Apple’s least expensive tower, a $2,799 Mac Pro, or least expensive iMac at $1,199.
$399 is an attractive price tag for what amounts to a Mac without technical support from Apple. You get what you pay for. Or, in the case of Psystar, you get to read about what you might pay for, but no touching allowed.
I want a Mac mini-tower at an iMac-like price. At $399 I might be willing to try out a generic PC running OS X, assuming it would run at all. For now, it looks as if we’ll never know the joy of an inexpensive Mac.
Remarkably, Psystar is back up and running and taking orders for their $399 Mac clone.
I wish them well.