Open Tech offers latest Mac 'clones'

The computer maker is making efforts to sell cut-rate Mac systems, but will leave end users to sort out software installation for themselves

A computer maker called Open Tech has announced a line of computers designed to run Apple's Mac OS X, following in the footsteps of Psystar, the Mac clone manufacturer recently targeted by an Apple lawsuit.

The difference, Open Tech claims, is that its offering will not directly violate Apple's licensing rules for OS X, since it will not pre-install OS X or include a copy with the systems, placing the burden on users to buy and install the software themselves.

The installation process is not straightforward, since Mac OS X is designed for hardware running specialised firmware called the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), which must be emulated on non-Apple hardware systems. Open Tech said users must carry out this installation process themselves, and suggested it may offer a kit including the required installation software.

"OS X Leopard will not be pre-installed or included. You can purchase an Open Tech compatible install disc from a third-party vendor or install it yourself using our do-it-yourself kit," the company said on its website, in a statement that was later removed.

Open Tech lists two machines on its website, the Open Tech Home and the Open Tech XT, for $620 (£313) and $1,200 (£606) respectively.

Open Tech Home runs on an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz processor, 500GB hard drive, 2GB of DDR RAM and an Nvidia Geforce 8600 GT graphics card. XT uses an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4GHz processor, 4GB of DDR2 800MHz RAM, a 640GB hard drive and an Nvidia Geforce 8800 GT graphics card.

Both are listed as upcoming products, and Open Tech declined to give a date of availability.

The company does not list its mailing address or telephone number on its website, which is hosted on a domain belonging to the New Zealand territory of Tokelau, whose .tk domain is one of those the most widely used by scammers, according to security firm McAfee. Parts of its website are hosted by the service Freewebs.com.

Open Tech may stand a chance of evading Apple's lawyers, particularly since it has done little so far to actively promote the use of its systems with Mac OS X, according to Mark A Goldstein, a lawyer with the SoCal IP Law Group.

Commenting on the recent lawsuit against Psystar, Goldstein said the legal position is significantly different for companies who avoid selling a pre-installed OS.

"If Psystar only sold hardware without an OS or only with Ubuntu or [Microsoft Windows] XP, then the case would be wholly different," he said at the time. "They could assert that there are substantial non-infringing uses — that is, a hardware maker/reseller should be able to sell a computer that can run multiple operating systems."

On its website, Open Tech claimed its systems are "fully capable of running most popular operating systems".

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