Is Psystar’s real mission to publicize that running Apple’s Mac OS X on generic PCs is possible?

By SteveJack

Psystar Corporation company based in Florida which sells “Open Computers.” These PCs, first announced in April 2008, have the option to come pre-installed with Mac OS X Leopard, making them the first commercially-distributed ‘hacked’ Macintosh computers. However, at the time of Psystar’s hackintosh launch, Apple’s Software License Agreement for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard explicitly stated: This License allows you to install, use and run one (1) copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-labeled computer at a time. You agree not to install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-labeled computer, or to enable others to do so. Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard’s Software License Agreement contains similar language as have all previous versions of Mac OS X.

Now, Psystar and Apple are in court disputing whether Mac OS X security measures should be kept confidential or made public.

I’ve begun to wonder if Psystar’s raison d’être isn’t really to sell “Mac clones,” but simply to publicize that it’s possible and, even better, how to do it.

Right now, legally, only Apple Macs can run all of the world’s major OSes and software; all other PCs cannot legally run Mac OS X and Mac-only apps such as iLife, Final Cut, etc. For PC box assemblers — some of whom have been desirous of licensing Mac OS X (see related articles below) because their products are seen by tech literates as inferior to Apple’s Mac due not only to being OS-limited (legally unable to run Mac OS X), but also in overall build-quality (unibody construction, for example) — having such information made widely known could be quite beneficial. Even if it is illegal to install Mac OS X on a generic PC it wouldn’t matter; just look at the rampant software and media piracy going on today.

Imagine if Steve Jobs was approached by some PC box assembler(s) to license Mac OS X and he promptly laughed in their face(s) before flatly telling them to go pound sand. Not too farfetched to imagine, right? What recourse would these jilted PC makers then have? They know that Mac OS X can be made to run on their wares and that such capacity would likely help sales, along with the added benefit of cutting into Apple’s Mac hardware sales. Hmm, if only the general public knew it could be done and how to do it. They know they can’t legally advertise such capacity, but there’s nothing stopping them from using the courts (along with your tax dollars, by the way) and the media to do their bidding…

After all, Apple has already told the courts that it believes there are other corporations and/or individuals behind Psystar. Maybe these backers don’t believe they’ll prevail in forcing Apple to license or somehow making Apple’s property available to any PC maker that wishes to install it, but are instead only after the publicity generated and knowledge imparted, considering it well worth the legal costs (as long as they’re never found out – and maybe even if they are)?

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.


  1. While the D.I.Y crowd have had no problem researching, building, and posting online their successes in constructing Hackintoshs, the average PC user has no absolutely interest in this.

    Psystar and/or whoever is behind them have to know this… so, if your theory is true, what do they hope to gain?

    What would they gain?

    Exposure of “classified” information that most people have no interest in? And could easily find, if they were.

    MDN word: well. As in, don’t drink from a shallow well.

  2. Could an argument be made that because of the end benefits to the orchestrators, or the detriment to Apple shareholders an investigation or some intervention by the SEC is in order?

  3. Even if that is the motivation behind Psystar’s suit, so what? People want to buy a computer they can take home, plug in, and use. They don’t want to go through the rigamarole of installing the OS themselves.

    And that’s what they’d have to do. Because when all is said and done, no way in hell does this lawsuit end with Psystar granted the right to sell pre-installed Mac OS X systems. The can of worms that would open, throwing out most EULAs in existence, would keep every fisherman’s hook baited from now until eternity.

    No, the question I want asked, the one I can’t believe never gets asked, is “Why doesn’t Apple request an injunction to stop Psystar from selling computers pre-installed with Mac OS X?” Do they think they couldn’t get one? Do they see a benefit in dragging this out and letting Psystar collapse of its own accord? I have no idea, but I’d really like to know.


  4. Actually, it is not quite correct that only Macs can run OS X legally: there is PearC, a German computer company happily selling Mac “clones” (OS X-compliant PCs with a preinstalled retail version of OS X) legally, as its country’s legislation frowns upon EULAs being buried inside the package or the installer instead of being upfront with the legalese to the customer.

    “EULA’s in Germany only apply if buyer and retailer agree upon them during the purchase. License terms made available AFTER the purchase (e.g. during the installation, or a printed version inside the box) are without any effect to the buyer. This even applies for the clicking of well-known “I accept the EULA”-buttons, if the software denies installation by not clicking it [since you bought something, you have the right to use it, no matter what awaits you in the package]”

    These clones have been sold for a year or two without problems in the EU.

    And EULAs have always been kind of a gray area, anyway. Apple doesn’t want to test them, at all.

  5. “Actually, it is not quite correct that only Macs can run OS X legally: there is PearC, a German computer company happily selling Mac “clones” (OS X-compliant PCs with a preinstalled retail version of OS X) legally”

    That is not correct. While PearC is selling computers with OS X and they are making the argument that the EULAs are invalid, the issue has not been decided with the courts, so it is not accurate to say that it’s legal. Apple claims that the EULA is still valid. While EU frowns on EULAs that aren’t visible before hand, they don’t automatically reject them. Then there’s the fact that the EULA is available on Apple’s web site – and the fact that the box says that it requires an Intel-based Mac.

    Given the squirrely EU rules, it COULD go the way you suggest, but it’s still open.

  6. It certainly looks as though Psystar and PearC will be forcing Apple into using software DRM to lock out clones. Apple can’t do that until it has gone to the 64 bit kernel by default. The 32 bit kernel isn’t secure enough. The hackers are, thus, safe for about a year.

    The Snow Leopard DVD changed procedure, this time. It loads part of the installer before it starts asking questions. What if that installer is sand boxed in a virtual machine? What if it verifies your authorization to use the DVD? And denies you permission if you don’t have it?

    This could be sold as a security enhancement to the Enterprise market. The installer could call up a central data base of the owner to verify that you have permission to install software on a company owned computer. If it doesn’t see an Apple serial number, it could call up Apple to see if you are using it on Apple hardware. If there are problems, the DVD directs you to visit the Apple store.

    Another thing that Apple could do is start charging $1000 for anyone who wants to install the Mac OS on a PC. The customary $129 price is for upgrades on official Apple hardware. Thus, Apple can sue for damages to recover the difference. That is easier to judge than an EULA.

    The hackers who say that they “bought Mac OSX” when they purchased the DVD are wrong. They bought a right to use Mac OSX under certain conditions. Are the courts ready to deny the rights to control intellectual property?

    Perhaps, Apple will be forced to use only downloads for upgrades. Or they could stop selling DVD’s and place the system on an SD card as a dongle. If it isn’t installed, you can’t boot. Will it be securely encrypted to prevent spoofing?

    That seems to be the way that events are headed.

  7. It is possible, however unlikely, that this issue is headed in a direction that Apple actually wants it to go anyway.

    Meaning OS X on PC hardware.

    If Apple were forced by court decisions to allow a buyer to install OS X on the hardware of their choice, if Apple then sold OS X with a warning stating that “Apple does not support OS X on non-Apple hardware”, then Apple could quickly gain an enormous user base without being overwhelmed by PC support obligations.

    Clueless PC users who don’t pay attention to warning labels and who would still insist on calling Apple for support could be weeded out with an automated phone system.

    “Hello. You have reached Apple’s support for OS X. If you are using OS X on a Macintosh computer, press one. If you are using OS X on another hardware configuration, press two.”

    PC hardware user presses two and gets the following message.

    “Apple does not support OS X on other computer systems. Thank you for calling Apple support. Have a nice day.”


    And if a totally clueless PC user insists on trying again and, in an attempt to be clever, presses one, the system could be configured to recognize a PC user by their responses, whereby it would repeat the no PC support message and hang up. If they keep try and eventually reach an Apple rep, as soon as the rep realizes it’s a PC user, they just repeat the no PC support message and hang up.

    You want to run OS X on cheap generic or brand-name PC, then you do so completely at your own risk.

    This scenario would actually be a tremendous opportunity for third party Mac (and PC) support companies who could market OS X support services that Apple doesn’t offer.

    Dedicated Mac users (like myself) won’t take risks and we’ll still buy Apple hardware. For the most part, IMHO, we aren’t going to switch to PC hardware that typically costs no less and often costs more than equivalent Mac hardware.

    Not saying I think this likely or that I would want to see it happen.

  8. it really isn’t about the EULA anymore than it was with Psystar. it’s about copyright laws. As signers to the Berne treaty, both the US and German protect each others products as if they were native. in other words, even though the Mac is a US product due to the treaty it is protected in Germany as if it was created in Germany.

    but researching copyright laws is difficult because there’s a lot of case law etc. double when you are looking at the laws of another country. Apple Legal hasn’t brought up a suit because they aren’t ready in terms of understanding what the laws are in Germany. if it turns out that they are the same or very close to US law, you can bet they will file suit. same in all other countries where clones are made

    and yes they will likely also deal with the EULA issue. perhaps merely by putting the disk in a separate sealed envelope and making that the ‘do not open’ element. if that will pass German law.

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