The Mac clones go on… and on… and on…

Renegade Mac cloner Psystar is in the news again, with reports that Apple is finally suing their ass – and, what’s more, they want Psystar to recall all the “Open Computers” they sold, thereby reversing any pollution of the pristine Macosphere by their horrid clones. Apple argues that “as a direct and proximate result of Psystar’s infringing conduct, Apple has suffered and will continue to suffer lost sales and profits in an amount… to be proven at trial.” Good luck defending against that, boys.

But as Apple knocks Psystar down, up springs another cloner. An outfit called Open Tech – tagline: “It’s good to be open” – is flogging a range of PCs that can run any operating system under the sun, including, they claim, Mac OS X Leopard. Cunningly, they don’t preinstall Leopard – Psystar did, which no doubt was a red rag to Apple’s bull – but they certainly tell you how to.

Cloning of Apple computers is by no means a new thing. In fact, the Apple ][ was cloned way back in the 1980s. The most popular of these clones was the VTech Laser 128 (gotta love computer names in those days). Personally, though, I like the Agat best – a Russian-built clone with rugged, angular casing to endure those harsh Siberian winters. Just look at that baby!

Since that time, the Mac has frequently been cloned – legally or illegally – both through software emulation and through out-and-out hardware clones. Psystar and Open Tech are just the latest in the cloning saga.

Where’s the money?

Presumably there’s some sort of market for Mac clones, otherwise these cloners wouldn’t keep springing up. But my question is: Who buys them? Speaking as an iMac owner, I wouldn’t touch one of these with a 10-foot pole; one of the main reasons I switched from Linux to Mac was to get decent, reliable, compact, nice-looking hardware that doesn’t sound like a Hoover on heat when it’s switched on. But maybe that’s just me.

Assuming I’m a typical Mac user, that leaves Windows and Linux users (or folks who’ve never used a computer). I can sort of see how a clone would be desirable for these people – they’ve heard that Macs are nice and they’d like to try “switching”, but they don’t want to fork out for posh Apple hardware, no matter how sleek it looks. Of course, they buy one of these clones, it looks ugly, makes as much fan noise as their PC does, OS X crashes all the time, software updates don’t work, and the support is terrible. So they think this Mac thing’s overrated and rush back to Windows or Linux, never to return. What’s more, Apple loses a Mac sale in the process (and it makes most of its money from hardware).

No wonder Apple’s pissed off with these cloners. But considering how easy Macs are to clone these days, I can’t see the cloners giving up any time soon. I’d imagine Apple’s legal team is going to be very busy in the coming years. Is Apple starting to regret its move to Intel, I wonder?

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One Response to “The Mac clones go on… and on… and on…”

  1. Partners in Grime Says:

    Watch for a new chipset from PA Semi. :)