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Friday, May 29, 2009, 07:45 pm PT (10:45 pm ET)

Another Mac clone maker tries its luck with Apple

Just as the most prominent attempt at cloning Macs is falling apart, another is preparing to take its place and promises a better experience, even as it knows it will likely face a battle with Apple's legal team.

Quo Computer of Los Angeles plans to open a store on Monday, June 1st that will sell Life Q, Pro Q and Max Q models preinstalled with Mac OS X and which echo Apple's configurations when possible. They should start at prices less than most of Apple's systems, beginning roughly below $900.

Besides having a physical space to sample and buy its computers, though, Quo tells CNET that it plans to offer better-than-average hardware. It also wants to offer customer service "up there with Apple's," according to the young clone firm's founder, Rashantha De Silva. In fact, rather than try to differentiate itself from Apple, the California startup is priding itself on how closely it will copy Apple's practices as a whole — with the exception of allowing more configurations.

"We are trying to mimic things as much as we can," De Silva says. "I'm hoping that Apple sees the value in what we are doing."

As optimistic as the company head may be about duplicating Apple's strategy, he and Quo aren't under illusions that they're completely immune from attack. De Silva expects that Apple "probably will" file a lawsuit but is counting on the quality of its systems doing better justice to Apple and, somehow, avoiding a legal penalty. He sees the clones increasing Apple's influence and ultimately its market share.

It's less than likely that Apple will share the same attitude. Psystar was sued just three months after it began offering its OpenMac (later OpenComputer) and was challenged not on the quality of its systems but on allegedly violating the Mac OS X End User License Agreement (EULA), which explicitly forbids installing and using the operating system on any computer without an Apple badge. The Mac maker rejected Psystar's beliefs that it, too, offered extra value and had the cloner's antitrust claims dismissed; Apple argued that, as it was competing against a larger PC market, it alone could dictate how and where its software would run.

But while Florida-based Psystar is facing bankruptcy as a combination of business and legal concerns drag it down, its West coast counterpart is already preparing to expand beyond its first three clones, with both an Apple TV-style hub and a small form factor parallel to the Mac mini possible in the future.