Are hackintosh netbooks the gateway hack?

Fri, Mar 13, 2009

Analysis, Featured, News

A friend of mine recently installed OS X on a XP loaded netbook, and his initial reports are enthusiastically positive. The machine is fast, video chat on iChat works like a charm, screen sharing is no big deal, and as far as he can tell, he’s basically running a Macintosh machine. And all for under $350 bucks!

While talking to said friend about his new machine, we got to talking about Apple’s position regarding netbooks and what Apple might have to gain or lose by coming out with their own version of a netbook.   Pretty cool night, huh?  Anyways,  an interesting point he raised was that Apple needs to be especially cautious with the growing abundance of hackintosh netbooks because it may serve as a gateway hack of sorts. In other words, the more commonplace it becomes to put copies of OS X on PC machines, the more likely it’ll become that the average consumer will start looking at a hackintosh as a legitimate option when purchasing a computer. From there, it only becomes a matter of time before consumers start smoking crack, uh…, I mean start putting OS X on all sorts of PC machines.

In the past, putting OS X on non-Apple hardware was reserved for the type of people who actually enjoyed getting their hands dirty with technical jargon that would leave most laypeople utterly confused. While setting up a hackintosh is still not easy in the mainstream sense of the word, the process has gotten considerably easier over the past few years. Now, you can easily set up a hackintosh machine in well under an hour, via simple instructions that can be found all over the web.

As the number of people who opt to put OS X on cheap PC netbooks continues to grow, we soon might see an increase in the number of people who try to put OS X onto more expensive PC desktops and regular sized laptops.  This could theoretically eat into MacBook and iMac sales, and this is why Apple needs to start paying attention to the growing netbook market. Steve Jobs recently called netbooks a ‘nascent category’, but their growing popularity can’t be ignored for much longer. A few nerds putting OS X on a random PC for shits and giggles isn’t anything to worry about. But a contingent of consumers who purchase PC’s solely with the intent of putting Apple’s OS on it is something Apple needs to be keenly aware of and concerned with. While we aren’t at that point yet, the proliferation of hackintosh netbooks might suggest that it’s not too far off into the future either.

What do you guys think? Are hackintosh netbooks really the technological equivalent of Marijuana, or are we just blowing smoke? Hit us up in the comments and let us know!


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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Wind in the Trees Says:

    I purchased a Linux Dell Mini 9 (64GB SSD, added 2GB of RAM) with the intention of installing Leopard. It couldn’t have been easier. Everything works except for sleep.

    Steve Jobs’ past comment–“We don’t don’t know how to build a notebook computer that sells for under $500 and isn’t a piece of crap”–still annoys me.

    The Mini 9 is anything but a piece of crap. It’s LED display is brighter and has more constrast than the display on my 2.16ghz Macbook. The speed of Leopard on the 1.6ghz single core Atom chip is astounding.

    FYI – I used an unused install on my Leopard family pack DVD. I didn’t use an illegal bit torrent copy of Leopard.

  2. Mark Sartor Says:

    I’ll wait until a 160GB SSD or larger becomes readily/economically
    available, then I might jump on this…
    I all of my data on this nifty Pseudo-Mac.

  3. David Says:

    Apple doesn’t believe netbooks are good enough to replace a full size machine. If they’re wrong then Apple sales are about to hit a steel reinforced concrete wall. If they’re right then the only worry is the one you’ve outlined, the idea of a gateway drug.

    On that note, I’m watching the hackintosh community very closely. My interest is in a modestly upgradeable desktop computer, something Apple doesn’t make anymore and shows absolutely no interest in. Unless that changes then I’m afraid that all the “Macs” in my future will be hackintosh machines.

    I simply cannot accept the shortcomings of Apple’s so-called desktop lineup. The mini is a neat niche machine, the kind I’d like powering my home theatre, but never my main computer. The Mac Pro is priced way out of reach for anyone but professionals so that leaves only the iMac, a machine with a long list of design flaws. The big three for me are as follows.

    1. Tries to be green by using low power components. This looks like a good thing until you realize that low power components mean slow and that means you’ll be replacing the iMac sooner than you would a more powerful computer. More frequent replacement is great for Apple, but bad for your pocket book and the environment.

    2. Includes a high quality LCD. Again this looks great until you remember that this is a computer that’s designed to last only a few years before it’s too slow for it’s original purchaser. That means you’re forced to sell/donate/recycle a perfectly good LCD and a brand new one has to be manufactured to take its place. Again great for Apple because they make another sale, but bad for you and the environment.

    3. The hard drive is buried so deep inside that it means removing the front glass panel (without damaging it or getting even single spec of dust on the inside), something like 21 screws, the entire LCD assembly, etc. The only component of the computer, the only one with moving parts, and thus the only one guaranteed to die before you want it to cannot be easily replaced. Even a trained technician is likely to get dust inside where you and all future owners will get to “enjoy” it.

    If you looked at the environmental impact of buying a new “green” computer every 2-3 years versus a less green one every 3-4, the greener choice might very well be the electricity sucking tower with the long lifespan and separate display that needn’t be replaced when the computer is. Maybe that’s the next angle of attack for Greenpeace.

  4. Tim Says:

    I built a PC to turn into a hack, falling prey to the people saying you can make them much cheaper. Now I wish I had just bought the Mac – time is money and I need that machine to accomplish work which makes me money. Macs are worth more in my now more informed yet still humble opinion. I discussed this with someone who has now built several Hackintosh machines, and he felt strongly that Apple should license OS X. I now strongly disagree – pointing out to him that he had NOT purchased a single copy of Leopard. I assume Apple’s view is that they were not going to get him to buy a mac anyway – but I am very tired of people just looking at cheap hardware and saying macs are overpriced – in my opinion you get what you pay for – and I am right now selecting a mac to replace this hackintosh.

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