Psystar, Shmystar Redux

A few months back I predicted a quick death to Psystar. They instead chose to fight goliath in court, which is indeed interesting to watch.

I’ve never understood why Apple treats their OS licenses as new products. If you buy a retail box of Leopard, you’re getting a new license for Leopard. Therein is Apple’s difficulty. It’s honestly hard for Apple to justify selling a new software product and not allowing it to be used on non-Apple hardware. Apple has proven it’s generally good for the consumer to have a single-vendor experience, but that’s a different story.

I understand the desire to use OS X on non-Apple hardware. I’ve considered it myself, specifically for low-end (home media) server solutions. The Mac Mini has no PCI expandability, and the MacPro and XServe are too much machine for the job. I have seven external firewire drives on my Mini – a eSATA RAID 6 box would be far better. Again, I digress.

Apple should make the OS included with the hardware as the only way to get a new OS license. That license to use the software would be inseparable from the hardware. All future upgrades would be that – license upgrades.

When you upgrade your Adobe CS2 to CS3, you don’t have the right to use the CS2 on another computer. You’re essentially adding the right to use CS3 to your existing right to use CS2 on the same computer. From a software publisher’s point of view this is the right way to go, and it’s fair to the user. If a user wants to use the second product on another computer, Adobe is quite justified in charging full price again. Apple would be justified in charging for a new license as well – this time for a new computer/OS bundle.

Apple’s products are the combined force of hardware and software. If the had a single license that covered both new Mac hardware and the included OS, there is no harm done to the user. Millions of iPhones have been sold this way, and I haven’t heard any complainers.

Upgrades would be as stated above – licenses to use a new version of the OS on hardware which was already licensed for an earlier version of the OS.

This would (in theory) allow for Apple to license other manufacturers to include the Mac OS, since the software license wouldn’t specify Apple-only hardware. Psystar could (in theory) bargain with Apple for the right to include the Mac OS with their hardware, and Apple wouldn’t need to change their licensing one little bit. This would never happen in real life. It would, however, be a much cleaner solution.

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