Where is the Clone Mac’s potential audience?

Jul 29, 2008
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Where is the Clone Mac’s potential audience?

With Apple stoking the legal furnaces, Psystar facing the prospect of recalling each and every OS X clone machine they've sold, and Open Tech Inc. promising yet another EULA workaround, you could say we're approaching a licencing milestone.  Apple could be walking out of court with a watertight grip on OS X, or its EULA might be picked apart.  But putting aside the terms & conditions, I'm left wondering exactly who would comprise the market for even a licenced OS X machine.

Boiling the Apple experience down to just the operating system seems a blinkered view of the Cupertino company's success.  Even the most ardent anti-Apple observer would likely agree that its a combination of their exclusivity, their industrial design, the so-called purity of their software and the presumed reliability of a controlled environment that comes together to create the Apple halo. 

The ongoing Hackintosh OSx86 project, at worst merely ignored by Apple, have spent the past few years refining the OS X experience on mainstream PC hardware.  Now there are relatively straightforward methods to create your own Hackintosh, potentially as simple as a single install DVD, and yet there have not been floods of defectors from official iMacs and MacBooks to homegrown alternatives.

Beyond those who like to tinker with their hardware, then, who is waiting desperately for a non-Apple Apple?  Beginners, lured in by the simplicity, inevitably prefer the reassurance of an official product (or perhaps don't even know a cloned version exists).  Those tempted by the infamous Jonathan Ives style would turn their noses up at even a replica, never mind the budget cases we've seen so far.  And even if a large company, say Dell, won the right to install OS X onto their machines, it's hard to imagine them recreating the same customer experience as Apple do.

Apple fights this case because it has to - its trademarks and licencing are at stake - but, with the exception of the lawyers among us, the public is using it as just another opportunity to draw the line between Apple-philes and Mac-mockers.  I've a sneaking suspicion that, even if companies such as Psystar won the right to make OS X computers, their market would be a bafflingly small percentage of the interest Apple themselves receive.

Am I wrong?  Would you buy a clone OS X computer, and if so, what camp would you say you fall into: tinkerer, fan or something else?  Let me know in the comments.


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