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Monday, April 14, 2008, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Reseller's website hammered after pledge of $400 Mac clone

The website of a Miami-based networking and security solutions reseller became inaccessible Monday, shortly after the company began advertising an unauthorized Mac clone for a fraction of the cost of Apple's cheapest system.

Dubbed OpenMac, the $400 offering from Psystar Corporation is described as "a low-cost high-performance computing platform" based on the ongoing OSX86Project — a hacker-based initiative aimed at maintaining a version of the Mac OS X operating system for everyday PCs.

The 'basic' OpenMac is capable of running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Psystar says, and includes a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo microprocessor, 2GB of DDR2 667 RAM, an integrated Intel GMA 950 Graphics card, 20x DVD+/-R drive, 4 USB ports, and a 250GB 7200RPM drive. However, the Psystar online store also lists several upgrade options, including FireWire ports, a 2.66GHz processor, and a nVidia GeForce 8600GT 512MB graphics card.

"When comparing base configurations, [Apple's] Mac Mini costs 150% of the price of the OpenMac while offering poorer performance, smaller storage space, and RAM," the company wrote. "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."

Unfortunately for Psystar, its offering is only likely to test the response time of Apple's legal department. The reseller told MacLife that while it has yet to receive a correspondence from the Cupertino-based Mac maker, it would be "ready" to respond.

At issue is Section 2A of the Mac OS X End User License Agreement (EULA), which stipulates that users are allowed "to install, use and run one (1) copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-labeled computer at a time." As such, the OpenMac (and any other Mac system based on non-Apple hardware) would appear to stand in direct violation of Apple's terms.

Although Apple ran an authorized Mac clone program for a stint of about two years in the mid-to-late 90's, its stance has remained that of disapproval ever since chief executive Steve Jobs put an end to Mac OS X licensing with the release of Mac OS 8.0.

Still, curiosity over Psystar's offering was enough to knock the reseller's website offline for most of the day. The company said its web traffic peaked at over 30,000 hits per second on Monday, causing an outage and prompting it to begin handling customer orders for the OpenMac via email.