So you’ve probably heard by now about Psystar’s plans to sell OpenMac, a custom-built computer that runs OS X. I could spend all day talking about how stupid this is, but instead I’m going to focus on one quote by Robert, a Psystar employee, about why the company plans to fight Apple’s end-user license agreement, which restricts people from using Mac OS on anything other than Apple hardware:
“What if Honda said that, after you buy their car, you could only drive it on the roads they said you could?”
This analogy is simply terrible. If it were translated into computer terms, it would be “Once you buy a Mac, you can only visit websites that Apple approves.” That’s implying that the road is an explicit part of the car-buying experience, which it is not. However, the car-driving experience is. While the internet is part of using a computer, it’s not limited to Macs or PCs, just like roads aren’t limited to Hondas. The operating system experience, however, is limited to its respective hardware, and in Apple’s case, there is good reason for that.
A more correct analogy would be: “It would be like buying a Honda, then having a Ferrari engine installed into it.” A Ferrari engine in a Honda is going to be a bad experience for the owner, since neither car or engine were designed to be used that way. And though it is mechanically possible to put a Ferrari engine in a Honda, that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be done.
One reason that Macs work well is that Apple controls the hardware and the software. Microsoft, on the other hand, licenses its Windows operating system to anyone who wants it. This strategy has worked to give Microsoft a huge market share advantage over Apple, but it also means that a $200 computer from Wal Mart is not going to work as well as one that costs $1000 or more, though an uneducated buyer may not know that at the time of purchase. Sure, there are different versions of Windows that you can buy to fit the hardware, but only a powerful system will be able to take advantage of all of Windows’ features.
By controlling both the hardware and the operating system, Apple can ensure that its products work the way they were designed to, and the end-user is going to be able to do what they want to do with their computer, and it will work as it was advertised. The least-expensive Mac, the $599 Mac mini, runs OS X Leopard and all its features just like a top-of-the-line iMac or MacBook Pro. Yes, the former will be a slightly slower than a higher-end model, but there are no “disabled features” in the OS that a Mac mini owner will be missing out on.
While I would love to see Apple produce a mid-range, user-expandable computer without a monitor, Psystar’s approach of selling a “Hackintosh” is the wrong way to go about it. Sure, it is possible to build your own Hackintosh, it requires more computer knowledge than a basic user. From Psystar’s own OpenMac FAQ:
Can I run updates on my Open Computer?
The answer is yes and no. No because there are some updates that are decidedly non-safe. Yes because most updates are not non-safe. It’s best to check on InsanelyMac for this information but when in doubt don’t update it. You may have to reinstall your OS X if it is a non-safe update.
That should be enough of a clue to basic users that this is not going to be a standard Mac OS experience. There is no such thing as a “non-safe update” for people using Mac hardware, and calling an Apple update “non-safe” is almost tantamount to libel by implying that the updates are the cause of problems, rather than the truth: running OS X on unsupported hardware is not going to be an easy, stable experience day after day.
Just like the other companies that claimed to be able to sell unauthorized Mac clones, I’m sure Psystar, too, will come and go in a matter of days or weeks. When companies cry foul about “monopolies,” I can’t help but think it’s the last resort in a desperate attempt to make money. Apple has nothing even remotely resembling a monopoly. There are plenty of operating systems out there to choose from, and going by market share alone, it’s easy to see who is closer to a monopoly.