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Friday, December 12, 2008, 07:50 am PT (10:50 am ET)

EFi-X USA to sell pre-made PCs capable of running Mac OS X

Leveraging an internal adapter that lets many generic PCs run Mac OS X, a company called EFi-X USA now plans to offer a solution that potentially allows customers to create their own Mac systems.

Unlike the offerings from besieged clone maker Psystar, the EFi-X USA Millennium 4 will be targeted directly at the performance crowd. It's expected to boast a Core 2 Quad processor overclocked to at least 3.8GHz, 4GB of memory, a GeForce 8800 GTS video card and a high-speed disk combination that includes a 150GB, 10,000RPM boot drive and a 1TB, 7,200RPM secondary drive that holds the bulk of the computer's storage. Two DVD rewriters will also be included.

The system will reportedly sell for $1,899 (plus the additional cost of a $199 EFi-X dongle) and deliver "85-90%" of the performance of a top-end Mac Pro for less than half the price, according to a company spokesman. Buyers can also potentially custom-order systems themselves.

Even faster models based on Xeon hardware, nicknamed the Millennium 8, 16 and 24 for their uses of two, four, and six quad-core processors, are due in as little as 60 days. The Millennium 24 is known to have six 2.13GHz Xeon L7455 chips that trade their raw clock speed for multi-processor support.

The emphasis on performance also switches the target market. While Psystar and others have mostly tried to recruit Windows veterans looking for a familiar system, EFi-X USA is actively seeking existing Mac users, especially those who would otherwise be faced with buying a Mac Pro to get the performance they want. The company is expanding beyond making the adapters alone because it sees existing desktop Mac users as wanting speed and simplicity at the same time.

"Of those [desktop buyers], I think there are a fair amount of them that would like something faster," the EFi-X USA spokesman said. "Most people that are new to the Mac buy an iMac or a laptop. [But] Mac people want easy."

This extends to the EFi-X adapter itself, which is the essential ingredient and replaces the BIOS of the motherbard with an autosensing EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) subsystem that controls the pre-boot environment of a system. The solutions provider is confident its approach won't cause the technical problems that have plagued Psystar and other first-wave clone builders.

The EFi-X card's firmware allows the Millennium 4 to run a variety of operating systems, including Mac OS X, and won't force owners to turn to the command line or to skip important updates when a hack isn't available. Apple's Software Update and other downloads purportedly work as they do on an official Mac.

Accordingly, the Millennium's mainboard and other components have been chosen for their similarity to hardware supported by Mac OS X, which should recognize the parts as though they were Apple's own.

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Standard and custom-order Millennium 4s will ship in an Antec P180 enclosure.


More importantly, the systems will potentially avoid the legal pitfalls that have spurred an exchange of lawsuits and countersuits between Apple and Psystar. EFi-X USA will mention Mac OS X as one of the operating systems supported by the system, but won't install the software itself. "We want to be clear about that," the spokesman says. The company also won't sell the EFi-X dongle pre-installed in the Millennium; it must be purchased as a separate product.

Whether or not this will stand Apple's scrutiny is yet to be determined. Although it's true the brunt of Apple's case against Psystar has focused on violating the end-user license agreement by running Mac OS X on non-Apple hardware, the current version of the Mac maker's lawsuit accuses the Florida-based defendant of contributing to infringement by letting users run a system that violates the license. Still, EFi-X USA believes it can at least prevent customers' systems from being knocked out by Apple software updates or revisions that might lock out competing clones.

"According to [our] engineers, there is no way Apple can disable the EFi-X card without disabling their own Intel Macs," the spokesman further points out. "There is no way that Apple can disable the EFi-X card because it utilizes the same open firmware that [its] own boards use and thus would render all of [Apple's] own desktops useless as a result."

The EFi-X USA website is expected to be updated with purchase details on the Millennium 4 this coming Monday.

Update: Art Studios Entertainment Media, which owns the EFI-X logo and trademark, sent AppleInsider a statement saying it is surprised at EFi-X's approach to its new multi-OS systems and "denies officially any involvement with this Millennium project."

"Art Studios Entertainment Media is now completely untied to and not approving ANY of the Millennium project of EFIX USA LLC, and denies whatsoever implication with it," a spokesperson said.

EFi-X and EFi-X USA are two different companies.