Earlier today, I came across an ad for Psystar which was advertising a 2GHZ computer running OS X with 2GB of Ram for only $554. Psystar likes to market itself as a cheaper alternative to Apple, but a closer look reveals that a Pystar computer running OS X isn’t as cheap as Psystar would lead you to believe, and that the $554 price tag is completely misleading.
Psystar likes to advertise a picture of a desktop tower, accompanied by a monitor showing Leopard, alongside a price tag that says “From $554”. In reality, to get the setup pictured in the ad costs almost 500 dollars more and is about the same price as a comparable iMac.
For starters, the $544 price tag doesn’t include a monitor, and if you’d like one, Psystar will add one on for 200 dollars more. It also doesn’t come with a mouse and keyboard, but Pystar will add one in for 29 bucks. Their computers also don’t come with FireWire, but you can get a FireWire port for only 40 extra bucks. You want a wireless card? Add in another $100. Are you a bluetooth man? If so, chalk up another 40 bucks. That brings the grand total to $961 for a complete desktop system. And at this point, it still isn’t up to speed with what the iMac offers. The entry level iMac offers a 2.4 GHZ processor, and if you want to upgrade the 2.0 GHZ processor that comes with your Psystar computer, you’ll have to add in another 60 bucks. This leaves us with a desktop configuration that comes in at $1,021.99. You can get an equivalent iMac from Apple for as low as $1098 after rebates. All in all, Psystar saves you around 75-100 bucks, but carries a disproportionate amount of risk as future software upgrades from Apple might cripple your Psystar hardware. Dropping more than a grand for a computer that might stop working if you want to keep it up to date doesn’t seem wise. To combat this, Psystar has turned off the automatic software updates, so you’re essentially stuck with the version of Leopard that shipped with your computer. Moreover, Psystar’s setup involves a tower and a monitor, whereas the iMac has the monitor and CPU all in one case. And one more thing, Psystar’s version of OS X doesn’t come with iMovie or iPhoto since iLife isn’t included in the retail version of Leopard. iLife retails for around $79 bucks, so all in all, an iMac and equivalent Psystar system are essentially the same.
Psystar might claim that it’s giving consumers more bang for their buck, what they’re really offering is a Mac mini clone for $544. Only thing is, their version of the Mac mini isn’t so mini. It’s a tower.
The Legal Battle
Apple and Psystar have sued and counter-sued each other, but both recently agreed to enter into Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), meaning that they will both try and avoid litigation and settle their claims via meditation or arbitration. This is a move that caught many off guard as the crux of Psystar’s allegation is that Apple has a monopoly in the OS X market, an argument that doesn’t have any legal legs to stand on. Clearly Psystar couldn’t argue that Apple has a monopoly in the PC market as they have less than a 10% market share. So instead, Psystar came up with the somewhat specious argument that Apple has a monopoly in the OS X market since it won’t allow its operating system to run on any non-Apple hardware. It’s curious, though, how Apple can have a monopoly in a market that Psystar essentially made up out of thin air. Think about it – there is no OS X market. Apple puts OSX on computers that it sells in the computer market. I mean, you can’t sue Coke for refusing to put its formula into a different can on the notion Coke has a monopoly over the coke formula. Admittedly, its an original idea, but legally it should fall flat on its face.
But for some reason, Apple has chosen not to litigate. Perhaps it didn’t want to spend the resources necessary to fight the lawsuit, or perhaps the risk, however small, that they would lose wasn’t a risk Apple was willing to take. If Apple lost, it would give every other company a green light to put a hacked version of OS X in whatever box they wanted, sell it for a little bit less, and take business away from Apple, much in the way that the clones did way back when Apple did, in fact, license its OS.
Psystar’s questionable history
But did Apple have anything to fear at all? Psystar has been shrouded in shadyness since its inception, with the Miami Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau both showing no record of its existence. The president of Psystar, Rudy Pedraza, also seems to be a shady fellow, and Psystar has previously run into trouble for taking Credit Card numbers but not actually processing them. But that’s not all. The physical location of Psystar’s supposed offices have changed at least three times (all within a matter of days), with one of the locations having no trace of Psystar ever being there or leasing any space. Psystar was founded by Roberto and Rodolfo Pedraza, two brothers from South Florida in their mid-20’s, and the two have been involved in a host of other corporations, many of which have since been dissolved by the state due to the lack of properly filed paperwork.
Apple’s original motion to dismiss Psystar’s claims can be found here.