Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Do Psystar deserve to go bankrupt?

As many of you may know the online computer manufacturer Psystar have filed for bankruptcy during their long-standing legal battle with Apple over supplying computers with OS X pre-installed. Specifically, Psystar was intentionally breaking Apple’s EULA by claiming that the proprietary nature of the OS was against fair-play rules of the market place. Apple, in-turn have started a very lengthy and expensive legal retort that not only claims a break of their EULA, but that the methods used to install the OS infringed upon the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, presumably because the PCs in question had to use a hacked version of OS X. This filing for bankruptcy seems to show the court case is slowly coming to end, with Psystar running out of money, presumably because it’s backers may have stepped down. This in itself is an interesting point, as the equity creditors will have to revealed in court, so those who have been secretly supplying cash to Psystar (who, lets face it, are a tiny company who would never have been able to keep this court case running for so long on their own) will be can only speculate on who it may be, if it turns out to be a big competitor to Apple I’m sure there will be even more hell to pay.

All this legal mumbo-jumbo aside, the real focus of this blog entry is to consider whether Psystar were in the right not necessarily legally, but morally, to provide OS X on their machines.

First of all the reasons behind Apple’s iron grip on its OS must be considered. I think this may be an easy one, basically it’s because OS X adds value to a machine in a way Windows could only dream of. If Apple produced their products with Windows installed I very much doubt their market share would be anything like it is now, and furthermore I doubt their pricing could be sustained either. The core to the Apple computing arm is the OS, clear and simple, it’s the OS you pay the premium for, and as such Apple don’t want anyone else using it, because despite how nice their products are from a hardware point of view a large percentage of people would stop buying them if they could get the OS elsewhere for less.

Secondly, Apple sells an experience. As Steve Jobs has said ‘those who love software build their own hardware,’ which neatly sums-up Apple’s entire view of the computer market. As anyone in the know will tell you, the majority of BSODs on Windows are due to bad drivers, namely the hardware and the software aren’t playing nice, and one of them inevitably throws a tantrum. The whole of Apple’s ‘it just works’ ethos would come crashing down if OS X were licensed out to other companies, because then OS X would be become completely open to all the Windows problems mac users often claim superiority over.

With this in mind I can see how Apple would have a momentary heart-attack when they discovered some tiny company has taken their OS and are selling it to people on potentially incompatible hardware. Now, Apple are ruthless when it comes to legal-battles, really ruthless, and despite the fact Psystar wont have made even the tiniest of dents to Apple’s revenue stream they went straight after them. But are Psystar really that bad? After all they’re doing what Apple have refused to do for years, make their products affordable for the average user. Macs are seen as luxury items, and as such there is a premium, but sometimes Apple comes across as plain greedy (take their online prices for RAM upgrades). Now I’m all for more affordable macs, but obviously you don’t want the quality to falter either, it’s a balancing act, but lets be honest the one reason holding many switchers back is the price, and I’m pretty certain there’s something Apple could reasonably do about it.

I must say, I quite like the peppy little underdog throwing a finger up to the big companies, however, I also understand that if someone buys a Psystar machine and has a problem using OS X (which was never designed for that computer) they wont blame Psystar they’ll blame Apple, thereby denting the reputation of the OS. Now I’m not trying to sound too much like a fan-boy (though that ship may have long sailed), but what I don’t like are uninformed lies, and someone who buys from Psystar, has a problem, blames Apple and then goes around telling everyone that OS X sucks is lying. It would be like buying a pirate DVD of an incomplete screening of a movie and saying the movie sucked because the image quality was poor and the special effects were bad.

Despite Apple’s reputation for nasty legal battles, I must say I think they were in the right this time. Psystar broke the law, but more than that, I think they were morally unjust in potentially creating poor computing experiences on the back of Apple’s OS. In addition, the continuing claims by the company that they didn’t do anything wrong, and that because of their size they didn’t have to keep financial records are a joke. It’s going to be interesting seeing who’s been behind them all the way, but as far as I’m concerned Psystar got everything they deserved.

What’s your view? Comments are always welcome (as long as they are posted in a considerate nature, this is a debate not an argument).

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