Can Apple hope to defeat the "Attack of the Clones"?

Can Apple hope to defeat the "Attack of the Clones"?

Summary: A second company is getting ready to sell Intel-based Mac clones. Is there anything that Apple can do to defeat the "Attack of the Clones"?

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A second company is getting ready to sell Intel-based Mac clones. Is there anything that Apple can do to defeat the "Attack of the Clones"?

The latest company to enter Mac clone market is called Open Tech Inc. This company differs from the Florida-based Psystar in that is doesn't plan to pre-install Mac OS X onto the systems. According to the company's website, two models will roll out initially - Open Tech Home and Open Tech XT, which will sell for $620 and $1,200, respectively.

Now, before I go any further I think that it's only right that I point out a few things about Open Tech Inc. First, apart from some email addresses, the company's website offers no form of contact information - no address, no phone number, no fax, not even a clue as to where the company is based. Here's what the company has to say to Computerworld:

A company spokesman, who said he was a member of Open Tech's legal team, refused to give more than his first name, Tom. "I won't say more because of the ruthless sharks that are swimming around," he said when asked why he wouldn't provide his full name or title.

...

Tom declined to give the physical location of Open Tech. "For legal and jurisdictional reasons, we're not going to divulge that," he said. "There are so many ways to track people down, someone will track us down sooner or later."

Hmmm ... the only contact named on the website is Elijah Samaroo, and a search of this name turns up very little.

I've tried confirming whether Open Tech is indeed a US incorporated company, and so far I've not been able to confirm that it is.

Also, I'm going to ignore the following facts:

  • That these for profit clones are benefiting from work carried out mostly by the active OSx86 Project community.
  • That most of these Mac clones rely on hacked OS X installs such as the Kalyway (and getting that means a trip to the Pirate Bay or some such site).
  • Those Mac clones that don't rely on dodgy downloads involved a lot of effort to get the OS going. Any idea that you can use the OS X disc to install the OS onto these Mac clones is bogus.

All that aside, it does seem that Apple s going to have to contend with Mac clones, at least until the Apple vs. Psystar case plays out to a conclusion, but that could be a while off, and by then Apple could be hip-deep in clones. What could Apple do to defeat, or at least, stem the flow, of clones?

Here are some things that Apple could do:

  • More legal action
  • Stop selling retail copies of OS X
  • Make all retail copies upgrades that require proof that the owner has a previous copy
  • Increase the price of the retail copy of OS X
  • Introduce a $500 - $600 desktop Mac system that would compete directly with these Mac clones
  • Combinations of the above

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Alternatively, Apple could give in and allow clones, or at least licensed clones, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

Thoughts?

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Hardware, Security, Software

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103 comments
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  • Apple vs The Clones

    The legal "Phalanx" is only one of several tools that Apple is heating in the furnace of hi-tech to fight the Cloners and maintain their iron grip on quality control of their hardware, which is their major commodity, AppStore etc notwithstanding.

    Think back to the acquisition of the fabless chip maker PA Semiconductor a few months back: without a doubt, additional in-house functionality well beyond the capability of any cheaply-fabricated hardware will be added to future Macs and other Apple devices to clearly distinguish their bespoke product from the bottom-end (or even high-end copycat) competition.

    This would have been on the planning table since they
    took the decisive step of switching to the Intel chip architecture.

    Expect more patents, more strategic acquisitions, and yes, more lawsuits in this never-ending battle...
    AirmanChairman
  • They're doing Apple a favor

    [i]All that aside, it does seem that Apple s going to have to contend with Mac clones, at least until the Apple vs. Psystar case plays out to a conclusion, but that could be a while off, and by then Apple could be hip-deep in clones.[/i]

    The fact that Apple is being dragged, kicking and screaming, into what they should have been doing all along, does not reflect well on them.

    They can keep their branded hardware lines and still provide other OEM's a version of OS X. Then they can push support back on the OEM's by letting consumers know that unless they buy genuine Apple hardware, they're stuck going back the OEM for support.

    It opens up whole new markets for software, preserves their hardware business and costs them, essentially, nothing.

    I'm not sure Apple's hardware locking, you-can-only-buy-from-us strategy is going to hold up in court. Even if it did, that doesn't mean competitive issues wouldn't arise in the future. I don't see a win in Apple's position, even if they prevail. Stop this nonsense.
    Chad_z
    • I will pay attention to your business advice

      When your company earns $4 billion a year in profits and enjoys
      double-digit sales growth.
      frgough
      • Apple Sales Growth Largely Due To Vista Flop

        Had Microsoft hit a home run with Vista, Apple would be doing a lot worse right now. Apple writes great software, but Steve Jobs just doesn't believe in it. He thinks the only way to make a profit is to tie the software to some overpriced hardware. Steve lacks the faith that his company could be just as successful as a software company as Microsoft was.

        I am all for the clones and wish them well.
        chessmen
        • No

          Apple Sales grow because Mac are cheaper,can be produced in greater number,are faster and can run Windows thanks to their transition to Intel C.P.U(which is funny as i would that a company which is supposed to think differently would have chosen AMD over Intel).
          Also thanks to the tight of the hardware and to the software, they can offer a supposed higher end user experience.
          Without these factors, the supposed flop of Vista (which is more likely a cabal agaisnt Vista) would have close to no impact on Mac sales.
          timiteh
          • AMD?

            I think AMD had to have been considered. However what you
            and I don't know is what factors were involved? I think
            perhaps when Apple looked at it at the time Intel had what
            Apple considered a better match for mobile devices.
            However that is just a guess on my part. I would also guess
            that "IF" Intel ended up doing to Apple what MOTO and later
            IBM did they would easily go to AMD.

            Pagan jim
            James Quinn
          • Not sure AMD would be still alive

            "However that is just a guess on my part. I would also guess
            that "IF" Intel ended up doing to Apple what MOTO and later
            IBM did they would easily go to AMD. "

            Assuming AMD is still alive when if it happens.
            timiteh
          • AMD is likely to still be alive or

            at least someone like AMD.<br> 1) Intel needs AMD to keep from being split up or regulated as a Monopoly.<br>
            2) Microsoft, IBM and several other large companies don't want Intel as a sole provider. <br>
            alaniane@...
          • Re: No

            A few years ago, I completely agreed with you, but once Core 2 came out, it became clear that Apple had seen an early version of the Core 2 processor, and determined it was the best way to go.

            It's been a long time since AMD had the fastest processors.
            notsofast
        • Apple should offer low-priced desktops....

          I don't believe Apple's success has anything to do with Vista's flopping, but more likely to do with Apple choosing to help people install Windows on Macs. That decision by Apple was one of its smartest in years. That said, I do think Apple should start offering desktops at substantially lower prices. It shouldn't be out of Apple's abilities to create such an offering. Although it may require Apple to create a "dumbed-down" version of their OS, it would benefit them in the long run as far as market share. Then again, a substantial growth in market share can also mean more viruses for Macs. So, Apple has to balance the two choices. But it certainly wouldn't hurt Apple's reputation by offering cheaper desktops.
          3dtodd
          • re: Apple should offer low-priced desktops....

            >Although it may require Apple to create a "dumbed-
            down" version of their OS, it would benefit them in the
            long run as far as market share.<

            No it wouldn't -- you are seriously dreaming. Apple will
            *never* dumb down the Mac OS. Mac OS has been the
            leader and innovator from the very beginning of WYSIWYG
            GUI development for personal computers. That fact is
            reflected in how Apple defines itself, if you read their self-
            description at the end of every one of their press releases:
            "Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the
            1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal
            computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh."

            What Apple means, if you unpack their statement, is not
            only that they incorporated the mouse and hierarchical
            menus -- which took place with the Apple II, by the way,
            not with the Macintosh, making moot the whole ad
            nauseam argument about the vaunted involvement of the
            Xerox PARC Lab, which worked side by side with Apple,
            anyway -- but that they also completely turned the
            computing world upside down when they changed the
            aspect ratio of the pixels on a typical monitor from oblong
            design, to display monospace characters, to *square*
            design, to display characters and graphics alike in
            comparatively high resolution, correlated with vector-
            designed (PostScript) fonts first incorporated in the Apple
            LaserWriter in collaboration with Adobe Systems. *That*
            was the revolution they're talking about.

            What Apple is in fact doing with their prized OS now is
            *miniaturizing* it -- the development tools (SDK) Apple
            released this spring for iPhone are now creating a robust
            mobile computing platform the world has never seen
            before that *adds*, not subtracts, new capabilities to the
            Mac OS. It's my belief that future versions of the Mac OS
            (and we're already beginning to hear about various features
            in Apple's next iteration of OS X, Snow Leopard) will
            incorporate aspects of the Multi-Touch interface, location
            services and perhaps even accelerometer functions first
            introduced on the iPhone. Rumors are very much afoot that
            an Apple tablet notebook is forthcoming, likely with these
            kinds of features, and perhaps a more affordable, higher-
            capacity deployment of SSD technology.

            Here's the rub: clone makers can try to churn out cheap,
            ugly, PC boxes into which hackers can attempt to shoehorn
            a Mac OS that is *wasted* because the cheap hardware
            doesn't and cannot support all the features that Apple's
            hardware will enable. Whether they sue these folks or not,
            Apple will continue to put together sophisticated, elegant
            hardware designs that come with leading-edge technology
            enabled by a combination of both hardware and software -
            - not one or another, but both. And nobody, that's right,
            nobody, has a snowball's chance of catching up with them
            if they play their cards right.

            I for one do not believe Apple will cheapen their hardware,
            although they still do have lower-end products like the
            Mac mini, which allows users to "test-drive" the Mac OS
            for only about $400 more than the cost of a single copy of
            Mac OS X. Many of Apple's prices are still too high
            (including those for the mini), but we are also hearing that
            Apple may realign their price structures to some degree to
            better reflect their combination of state-of-the-art
            hardware-software integration with reasonable market
            value. As Apple's market share begins to inch up
            incrementally as it has in the past couple of years, its
            volume can begin to offset lower per-unit margins.

            If there were no Apple Computer constantly pressing the
            envelope with hardware-software integration, computers
            would tend only to advance in the typical "MHz bump"
            manor, and would tend to continue to be relegated to a
            role as cheap, throwaway commodities. Yes, you can make
            a faster computer with bigger hard drive, more memory
            and faster video performance, just like you can create a
            '60s muscle car with larger and larger big-block engines,
            but design will not truly advance until efficiencies,
            scalability and entirely new system paradigms are
            addressed. Apple is ideally positioned to address these
            issues.
            TCollinsG3
          • re: Apple should offer low-priced desktops....

            [i]It's my belief that future versions of the Mac OS
            (and we're already beginning to hear about various features in Apple's next iteration of OS X, Snow Leopard) will incorporate aspects of the Multi-Touch interface, location services and perhaps even accelerometer functions first introduced on the iPhone.[/i]

            Kinda stating the obvious, isn't it? The next version of Windows will do that as well, and MS had a touchscreen computer, with multi-touch before Apple. Granted, it's a 10,000 commercial device, but the point is, that touch screens and other interfaces are going to happen on all computers. It's the next logical step, and the research into this area started long before Jobs came back to Apple (though perhaps the reasearch at apple didn't start till he got there).


            [i]
            Here's the rub: clone makers can try to churn out cheap, ugly, PC boxes into which hackers can attempt to shoehorn a Mac OS that is *wasted* because the cheap hardware doesn't and cannot support all the features that Apple's hardware will enable.
            [/i]

            What hardware are your referring to? For the most part, the parts in a Mac are nothing special. Graphics cards typically perform no better than a mid priced (100-150) dollar GPU for the Wintel platform.

            CPUs are the same. Plenty of quality motherboards. Memory is memory, unless you're overclocking (and it's much cheaper if you buy it from anyone other than Apple).
            There are plenty of top notch monitors out there from companies like NEC, though most people don't need a monitor for photo editing, so much cheaper options are likely what they'd buy.

            Sorry, but most desktop components are commodities, and I've never read anything about MAC H/W (aside from the cinema displays from several years ago) that seemed any better than typical PC H/W

            The main selling point, IMO, is the packaging and the OS. And if you think that the typical mac owner knows much about the H/W inside it, then you don't hang out with typical computer users. You and I care about the components...99.9% of the users don't care.

            Whether they sue these folks or not,
            Apple will continue to put together sophisticated, elegant hardware designs that come with leading-edge technology enabled by a combination of both hardware and software -
            - not one or another, but both. And nobody, that's right,
            nobody, has a snowball's chance of catching up with them
            if they play their cards right.
            notsofast
      • Actually, . . .

        That's pretty much the MS model now, or was a couple of years ago. Every Dell I own says that if I want support on Windows, I have to call Dell, not MS. Only if Dell couldn't resolve the issue, does it go to MS . . .
        JLHenry
      • You're honestly claiming...

        that only billionaires are qualified to give business advice?

        Wow.
        bmerc
    • Considering where Apple is vs

      where we are, I would conclude that they are much better and knowledgeable at this then we are.

      But it is easy to say what someone should or should not do when it does not affect us in any way.

      If we are wrong, we lose nothing, while they stand to lose quite a lot.
      GuidingLight
    • Agreed

      Agreed 100%.

      Apples biggest problem, and the reason it almost died on many an occasion at the end of the last century, is that it battled the OEM's from Asia that were cloning apple products. Microsoft, on the other hand, embraced the rest of the world and encouraged it.

      The end result has both positives and negatives - Microsoft now produces a product that supports and is supported by literally millions of other products - one benefits the other.
      It has 90%+ market share, and bitching aside, has products that are useful to 95+% of those who use them. Not a bad story.

      The downside of this (whether by design or due to sloppy programming - leave that aside) is that it opens up countless more issues / errors / bugs etc etc. All it takes is one dodgy third party (or MS) driver to bring the whole thing crashing down, and Microsoft's method of driver certification (ie, does it work yet?) allows for all sorts of kernal-level nastiness.

      Apple, partly due to / caused by it's unpopularity with the wider commmunity, has a closed hardware \ software platform with strict rules on who is able to develop for it, combined with generous (to apple) licesning arrangements that usually nets 20-40% of income back to apple. This promotes stability, allows for better QA, and generally would provide a much better user experience. Install a few visionary types within Apple, and develop a winning interface, and you have a truly winning combination..

      Do as Chad_c posted, and apple could conceivably increase market share to at least 20, if not 30% of total. More market share means more software is developed for the platform, especially if they open up licensing a little. More software means wider attraction, spurning more OSX sales. OEM provisioning with OEM support is the cheapest / easiest way to do this.

      Apple seems intent on keeping their technology locked down, for whatever reason. They certainly shouldn't be afraid of that - they have a lot to be proud of, however they need to wise up and fit in with what 90% of people use. Exclusionary principles almost killed apple at least 3 times between 1990-2000 that i can recall, i just hope we don't see a repeat.

      Also, release a decent server product - that would be suggestion 2 :)
      stewymelb
    • Repeating History

      Don't you remember what happened the one time that
      Apple did court clone-makers?

      The clone-makers released crappy hardware which caused
      problems with the Macintosh OS (at the time it was System
      6 or System 7, I can't remember), and that reflected poorly
      on the Apple software, not the crappy clone hardware.

      When people complain about the stability of Microsoft
      Windows, is it really Windows at fault? No - usually it's
      crappy drivers for crappy hardware that are causing the
      problem, but people buying a Windows PC don't want to
      spend the money on good quality hardware (and thus,
      their decision to buy a Wintel because a Mac is "too
      expensive").

      If you install Microsoft Windows XP onto a computer
      entirely constructed from tried and proven components,
      manufactured and supported by manufacturers with
      experience producing hardware and drivers for Windows,
      you'll have a very stable Microsoft Windows XP installation.
      Then all you have to worry about is the crappy UI and the
      fetish that Windows programmer have for throwing more
      features into the UI.

      Please, learn from history. Clones will degrade the market
      since the only thing they'll have to compete on is design
      and price.
      grail@...
  • This should be no Surprise

    Now that the MAC OS runs on Intel processors, it was just a matter of time before these clones appeared. If Apple wants to continue with its closed, proprietary systems and silly EULA, they are just going to have to fight each of these companies in court. Or, they could trash the EULA and let people install MAC OS on whatever PC they want, like most OS companies do.
    jpr75_z
  • Clones were the best thing to ever happen...

    for the PC market. They unseated the IBM monopoly on the Personal Computer, making the PC a commodity. This is best possible thing that could happen for Apple. It would allow them to eventually get out of the hardware business altogether and focus on their OS. Legions of cheap OSX boxes at a time when Microsoft is clearly at it's most vulnerable point in decades means real competition from an established company. Things could get interesting.
    jasonp@...
    • Just a question.

      Why would Apple want out of the hardware business? Not sure if you seen their figures lately, but that is where they make a large majority of their money.
      A Grain of Salt