‘OpenMac’ Promises $399 Headless Mac… But Not From Apple

Arnold Kim reports on Macrumors.com that:

A company called Psystar has started advertising a $399 computer called “OpenMac” which claims to be a Leopard compatible Mac built from standard PC-parts. For $399, you get a tower computer with the following specs:

– 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
– 2GB of DDR2 667 memory
– Integrated Intel GMA 950 Graphics
– 20x DVD+/-R Drive
– 4 USB Ports
– 250GB 7200RPM Drive

Many of the components can be upgraded, however. For example, the graphics card can be updated to a GeForce 8600GT 512MB for $155 more.

Psystar is marketing this as a cheaper and more expandable alternative to a true Apple Mac.

When comparing base configurations, the Mac Mini costs 150% of the price of the OpenMac while offering poorer performance, smaller storage space, and RAM. Not only that but the Mac Mini doesn’t have the option for an nVidia GeForce 8600 video card like the OpenMac does so playing games on it is a lost cause.

The company claims that the machine is Leopard compatible with some “minimal patching” but does offer Leopard pre-installed. This is reportedly accomplished by using parts that are known to be compatible with Mac OS X Leopard, as well as the use of an EFI emulator.

With the EFI V8 emulator it is possible to install Leopard’s kernel straight from the DVD that you purchased at the Apple store barring the addition of a few drivers to ensure that everything boots and runs smoothly.

Readers should note that these claims have not been independently verified, so this should not seen as an endorsement of this product. However, the technology appears to be derived from the osx86project, which has allowed hobbyists to install Mac OS X on their non-Apple PCs.

The concept is an interesting possibility, and will certainly draw the attention of Apple. The use of Leopard on non Apple-branded hardware is a violation of its End User License Agreement (EULA) and is specifically prohibited.

Update: Psystar appears to have changed the name of their product to “Open Computer”. Whether this is a response to a direct request from Apple or is simply an internal company decision in recognition of possible trademark infringement remains unknown.

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