The Mac Clone: Pointless in 2008

In case, you’ve missed, a company called Psystar is selling a Mac clone for $399 & up. As the Guardian noted, they are either operating out of mom & dad’s garage or in a new office.

For $399, they are offering you a Mac Mini (specs) encased in a large (but nice looking) PC case.

For some reason, this seems to excite people as if what we really want in life is a cheap knockoff of something, REALLY? This is really a goal in life? Don’t sell me the real thing, I’d rather pay slightly less money for a thing like the real thing?

A clone made sense when not just Macs but all personal computers sold in the $2,000+ range. Of course, at that price point, I’m willing to compromise a little here and there for a computer in the $999 range.

But for a savings of $200 versus a Mini? What is really the point?

They like to talk expandability as if that’s some great thing worth the savings of $2,000 versus a MacPro desktop. (Um, never mind the MacPro has a quad core and thing isn’t even a duo core).

Sure, in the days of serial ports and wonky SCSI on the Mac side, anything you could install internally pretty much meant it would be easier for the OS to find and for it to work.

But now with firewire and USB, I can daisy-chain 128 firewire devices and nearly as many USB drives with powered hubs. Sure, they don’t don’t look as attractive but how many drives can you fit into most cases anyway, 4? I can buy 4 1TB drives that stacked on top of each other take up about as much desktop space as 4 inside a desktop case.

Expandability inside the case is not that important anymore – with USB & firewire, EVERYTHING is expandable in less than 5 minutes and no chance to cut your hand open trying to fit a HDD onto a tray inside a computer.

If anything, it’s better because if an external drive is really going down, I can unmount it and plug in a new drive without even restarting.

And If you are the 5% of users who will actually replace their graphics card, are you really going to buy a underpowered $399 Mac clone just to spend $2,000 on a graphics card?

Even as recent as 10 years ago, the margins on the PC side were that you could save substantially by building your own but now if your time is money, there’s no real savings. You have to be the type that enjoys tinkering because if a component breaks, you think it’s bad trying to get Dell to admit the power supply went down now, good luck getting a power supply you bought and installed replaced yourself from some company in Muncie? And yes, you can save a little here and there but the quality of the components? How many no-name fans are built for about 6 months before they start making noise slightly louder than a F-22 flyby?

And sure, you can save $200 by not buying a Mini … but what is iLife worth to you?

Or what is it worth to you that Apple has 200 stores around the globe open and ready to take responsibility and answer any question for your Mini (or any other Mac you buy?)

The time is passed for clone makers. The $200 dollar difference is too miniscule (never mind that the website sort of implies that they don’t guarantee any other OS other than 10.5 will run on this – and never mind the legal issues or that this business seems to have started last week). Even if you started selling these at a retailer where customers could return it such as Wal-Mart, $200 savings is just not enough of a difference – now if this clone were selling for $99 or $149, then you might have a business as saving $450-$500 dollars, that’s actually substantial enough to make a difference.

But right now – pointless.

(and yea, Apple will sue – if Apple doesn’t, customers will walk into Apple stores trying to get tech support or more likely, warranty support – your OS is bundled with it?! Apple could care less if you wanted to sell an open source $399 computer but bundling Apple OS as if they had a license to bundle or sell it – implying to customers there is a relationship? That won’t fly).


Filed under Advertising, Computing, Gadgets, Internet, Marketing, Retail

12 responses to “The Mac Clone: Pointless in 2008

  1. openwaves

    Interesting take on this product. I had only been hearing positive things but I kind of agree with you. I guess for some people the difference between $400 and $600 IS a lot and they might desperately want to run OS X. So to them, it’s worth it. It will be interesting to see how long they last. Did you notice it started out being called “Open Mac”, but now has been changed to, “Open Computer”?

  2. Snafu

    I dissent: the USB route is death by a thousand silly power bricks and external cases needlessly adding to the cost, for starters, and it is a shame that the only route to an external quality monitor-based Mac is the Mini vs. the Mac Pro without anything else in the middle. The Mac line-up has some severe gaping holes (midlevel tower, sub-subnotebook, gaming setup).

    A ShuttlePC Mac clone would be a sweet thing to own, frankly: why, you could have even a Core Quad SFF Mac the size of a shoe box that way!

    It’s never been a matter of cheapness but of having more choices of form factor and features, even if they actually get more expensive.

  3. I don’t think that a market exists for this product, unless some serious changes happen in court. It’d be great, low-cost option for schools, but they’re not going to buy a goofy, possibly illegal system with no support. The market for these systems is hackers – the OSx86 community specifically, for now.

    Personally, I would not buy a clone because the hardware and design is half the product.

    (METROXING: I think you hit upon their tagline … “goofy, possibly illegal system with no support.” ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  4. Ken

    Assuming that this one-man company really does exist, its $399 clone makes no financial sense. The price isn’t high enough for quality components, especially since this one-man company can’t manufacture in enough quantity to get price breaks. There’s no room in the profit margin for warranty, support, or service, unless you know Roberto alias Robert personally and live in Miami. True, you can put the pearls of your choice on this hog, or you could add any brand of lipstick to this pig, but why? And on top of that, there is no guarantee that Robert[o] will be able to keep up with revisions in the operating system.

    This clone has novelty value and nothing else. It’s clearly a waste of money, unless you want a toy–assuming he ever builds one and delivers it to a customer.

    I think this is a prank, not a product.

  5. Henry Cherry

    Wouldn’t it be great if China decided Mac Os was the way to go, and just started bundling illegally obtained and/or copied Mac Os (illegal everywhere but China) with super cheap computers? I mean, all of China would be making such a sweeping statement for Steve-o-Reeno, akin to the big brother ad form 1984…. If only, if only…

  6. Bob D

    The price difference is actually minimal, as they want you to spend another $155 for Psystar to install Leopard. Of course, there is no iLife software, and no FireWire ($50 option). You can probably get a refueb Mac Mini for less, and, as with the iPhone, there are always issues with OS updates causing problems.

  7. zap

    there’s a lot of clone products from china like ipods, mobile phones and they’re sold at low price here in the philippines. sure they look nice but how about the quality and durability?

  8. MichaelG

    This is just a court case to break Apple’s Monopoly on their hardware, Apple is a Hardware company, Not a software company.

  9. samtronz

    You could easily install Leopard on your own PC as long as you have a Intel chip, you could partion the drive and introduce it to the system. I don’t know what is wrong with people these days and why they are so determined on selling bootleg products.

  10. everyone wants to copy a winner!

  11. Apple is not the company I’d like to test an EULA with. Talk about poking a Leopard with a stick.

  12. Mac Jerry

    I think it is worth the try, now they have a 999 computer with the capacity of 8GB RAM and Quad Core if you like @ half or less than apple’s price. The components are the same, all are intel boards and intel cpus so theres no difference, just the nice apple case.

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