If nothing else, Psystar has shown that Apple's control over the market isn't necessarily best for consumers.
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Psystar, the hackintosh developer that's selling Mac OS X on its own machines, is finally getting some backlash from Apple over its claim that Steve Jobs and company is a monopoly. Apple claims that it's not, that it has numerous competitors, and that Psystar's complaint should be dismissed with prejudice.
I can't help but agree that, yes, Psystar's complaint of an Apple monopoly is total and utter garbage, but I think the company should be supported in its fight against Apple. I know that may not be the popular opinion in Cupertino, but the way I see it, supporting Psystar could lead to significant changes at Apple that will benefit all of us.
When I say that I support Psystar, I should note that I don't really care if it succeeds or not. See, I look at Psystar as a necessary evil; a company that matters little and will probably never have any real impact on any of us directly. More than anything, I look at Psystar as a company that can help Apple fill a void that's growing more significant in the marketplace each day: the need for a more ubiquitous robust operating system.
If nothing else, Psystar has shown that Apple's control over the market isn't necessarily best for consumers. Sure, it serves Apple's purposes well as the company continues its climb in the hardware market, but it locks us down into machines that we may not want.
And if Psystar is successful in its case against Apple and is able to continue selling Mac OS X on its own brand of machines, I think you'll see a significant shift in Apple strategy that will have a lasting impact on all of us. Of course, the one casualty in all this is Psystar itself.
If Psystar wins its case against Apple and is allowed to license Mac OS X and stay in business, a slew of Psystar clones will pop up across the globe. Realizing that there is now a precedent in place to ensure their success, companies will start licensing Mac OS X and sell the OS on their own brand of computers.
At that point, Apple will need to make a decision. Will it want to go to court and fight each company that crops up or will it want to kill each of them off as quickly as possible? The decision won't be an easy one. If it chooses the former, it risks losing and spending millions on lawyers that weren't able to get the job done. If it chooses the latter, it'll need to totally change its Mac business strategy in favor a software-first mentality.
And although that may not be in the cards now, I think that strategy -- choosing to kill off these small companies -- is the best way to go about it. And if it does follow that advice, you and I will benefit.
The only way to kill all these small companies is to license Mac OS X to major companies like Dell and HP. Both vendors are chomping at the bit to have Mac OS X offered on their computers because it makes perfect sense from their standpoint: Apple is the most popular company in the industry right now and a slew of people want to get their hands on anything made by Apple. Even better, it puts Microsoft on notice and gives the vendors some leverage on the Vista front.
From Apple's perspective, that may not be the most ideal move. Steve Jobs has constantly said that he views his company as a hardware organization first and he's the reason Apple doesn't license its OS anymore.
But what else can he do? Will he be content making little off small companies that are trying to grow at his own expense or would he rather license Mac OS X to the major companies and bring in some considerable revenue, while killing the small companies off? Granted, this may or may not hurt hardware sales, but given its leverage, there's no reason why Apple can't recoup those losses (and then some) on its software.
And that's exactly why we should support Psystar through all this. It's not because we have a soft spot in our hearts for the company or that we want to see it succeed over the long-term. It's because a licensed Mac OS X on computers from other companies will appeal to the greatest number of consumers, force Microsoft's hand to create a better operating system, and create a real competitive environment in the OS market that will force each and every company to offer better products.
As Vista shows, status quo just isn't working. We need a catalyst to spark change and maybe Psystar is it.