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Mac OS X seller (not Apple) disappears after reports

Psystar was selling a $554 desktop with Mac OS X Leopard preinstalled, but hours after reports surfaced regarding the company's product, its Web site has gone offline.

This bare-bones desktop may not look like much, but for a while, you could get it with Leopard preinstalled. Psystar [via Ars Technica]

An entrepreneurial Mac vendor has gone offline just hours after it was discovered selling Mac OS X Leopard desktops from a company not named Apple., along with many others, noted one of those too-good-to-be-true deals from a company called Psystar on Sunday night and Monday morning. Psystar, until just now, had been offering $554 "Open Mac" desktops on its Web site with Intel processors, 2GB of memory, a DVD drive, and a copy of Mac OS X Leopard.

The thing is, Apple's software license for Leopard, and any version of Mac OS X, requires that the operating system only run on Apple hardware. Psytar acknowledged the OSx86 project was the inspiration for the Open Mac, and noted their systems require "minimal patching" to run Leopard, according to MacRumors. By the time I got in this morning Psystar's Web site was offline, and the company is likely considering its legal options at this hour. A Google-cached copy may or may not be available here, it was loading very, very slowly when I tried it.

For years PC DIYers and companies like Dell have begged Apple to offer a copy of Mac OS X up for licensing on non-Apple hardware, but Apple hasn't even entertained the idea, as far as we can tell. As much as the hardware industry might want another alternative to Windows, many of the reasons that Leopard is attractive might have a lot to do with the fact that it's designed to work on a limited number of hardware configurations.

Windows is designed to work on any computer with a chip from Intel or AMD, and that's both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, you can build a pretty decent system for a couple hundred bucks, but the code base required to handle all the possible permutations of chips and peripherals devices makes Windows an extremely complex beast that grows larger and larger with each release.

If you bought a Psystar desktop, you're probably going to be stuck with a Leopard 10.5.2 system for life. As John Gruber of Daring Fireball notes, Psystar warns its customers that Leopard updates might force them to reinstall Mac OS X unless the updates are "not non-safe," a truly cringe-worthy phrase.

It seems that people would like a really low-cost Mac, although the Mac Mini doesn't appear to have taken the Mac universe by storm. I wonder if OS X, the iPhone operating system, could run a low-cost Mac akin to Asus' Eee PC, and keep healthy profit margins intact if Apple decides to jump on board with Intel's low-cost Atom processor. Then, if you want the full Mac experience, Apple can upsell you to the MacBook or iMac.

UPDATED 1:45pm PT: As noted below in the comments, Psystar's site seems to be back up, although it's still taking an awfully long time to load.