Stop the Noiz

Psystar Strikes Back, Countersues Apple

Frank Fox - 2008.09.03 - Tip Jar

The good folks over at Groklaw have the full details of Psystar's countersuit against Apple. Psystar mostly claims that it doesn't know anything, denies the rest, and then goes on to tell how Apple is an evil monopoly that has to be stopped by requiring them to license the Mac OS (which Psystar seems to know so little about!).

It's surprising how much they know about the evils of Apple, yet it claims Psystar is not aware that it did anything wrong. This is typical legal double talk. It impresses people, as seen in Psystar Files Answer to Apple Complaint - 'M' Word Used Enthusiastically - the comments show how people will believe whatever they want.

Cheapskates

I find it strange how easy it is for people who never use Apple computers to read these counterclaims and claim they would buy a cheap Mac clone if only Apple would let them. Somehow it is magically fair that Apple opens its software for an outside hardware company without regard to the cost or effect on Apple and its brand name. Who cares about the costs that Apple had to expend to build their business and the years of battling for relevance in a world satisfied with Windows PCs?

None of that matters to these anti-elitists, who want to turn the Mac OS into a replacement for the crummy Windows world they've been living in.

Well, if they weren't a bunch of cheapskates, they could have a Mac today - or they could donate some of their hot air to the Linux cause and try that option.

Don't get me wrong: If Apple was a monopoly and employed anticompetitive behavior, that could be a problem. But stopping some low-budget company from free riding on your trademarks and hard work is not anticompetitive.

You Can Switch

I'll go so far as to say that if you really want, you can switch from Mac to Windows or Linux. Granted, I won't claim that Windows is a great substitute for Mac OS X, but you can switch. for example, Kate MacKenzie, recently of Mac 360, tried to make a big deal out of her change of heart for everyone to see. (BTW, thanks Kate. I hope Apple's lawyers get to use you as a public example in their arguments.) Apple obviously isn't holding a gun to anyone's head to keep them in the fold.

If you can switch from a PC to a Mac - or, if your brain becomes addled, you can switch from a Mac to PC - then Macs aren't a very good monopoly.

If Psystar wanted, they could release their own version of BSD Unix to compete directly with Apple, because Mac OS X is built on that open source operating system. It's the polished details of the Mac OS that make it better, not fundamental functionality.

Unique ≠ Monopoly

If selling your own patented, copyright protected product makes you a monopoly, then a lot more is on the line than just Mac clones. Every company uses unique products to differentiate itself from the competition - everything from Coke to BMW. Claiming that they are all separate monopolies and anticompetitive (by Psystar's definition) would mean that any company could come along and demand licensing on its own terms to sell a cheaper version of the same product any way they want.

fortunately we have laws protecting Apple's ownership of these things. Psystar cannot come in and trample on Apple's rights without being sued.

Yes, sued. That's how the law decides these issues. Apple can't have the police come in and arrest Psystar's owners. Apple has to settle the issue in court with lawyers on both sides arguing the merits. While we hate lawsuits, sometimes it's the only way to get justice.

Mac OS X ≠ Microsoft Windows

From my last article about Psystar, Apple Gave Psystar Enough Rope to Hang Itself, and reader responses to it, I know that many people are sympathetic to Psystar. They see that Microsoft is making big money licensing Windows, and they don't see any reason for Apple not to do the same. But just because it works for Microsoft doesn't mean that it will for Apple.

It took years for Microsoft to get where it is today. It employed every form of coercion and anticompetitive practice it knew to gain a monopoly (over 95% of the PC market at one point). Many people cheered it on, thinking a monopoly was the only way to bring order to the fractured market.

Annual Macintosh Unit Sales, 1984-2007

Microsoft won, but opening up the Mac OS won't reverse things overnight. Apple didn't fare well the last time they tried to license their OS. There was no gain in market share for the Mac OS, let alone for Apple. The choice to license the Mac OS almost ruined Apple's own hardware sales; Apple had negative sales growth in 1996 and 1997, the peak years for the clones. This was bad news, because Apple is a hardware company.

Annual Macintosh Unit Sales Growth: 1986-2008

Psystar doesn't care about Apple or Macs. They see Macs as an easy way to promote sales. (Easy because Psystar didn't develop the software patch to make OS X work on non-Apple computers. They stole most, if not all, of the software fixes from other developers.)

Who wouldn't want everything that is great about the Mac for a lower price? Why shouldn't Psystar cash in on this demand?

But Psystar is not contributing to Apple's brand equity; it is only using it to steal customers from Apple and benefit from the Mac's growing market share.

Mac vs. PC shipment growth

Psystar Stands Alone

I doubt that you'll see any statements - not even from a company like Dell - in support of Psystar. Sure Michael Dell has said that he would sell computers with the Mac OS X if Apple would let him, but he isn't going to support some upstart coming in to free ride on another company's good name. Who knows what kind of upstart company might try to pull that trick on Dell at some point in the future? And if the countersuit works for Psystar, who's to say that the same logic wouldn't come back to haunt them in the future?

What Psystar is asking for is a free ride on another company's hard work. Their lawyers can make it sound as fancy as they want, but that's what it boils down to. Psystar admits in its counterclaim how hard it is to enter the OS market (general allegations 20 and 46). Psystar wants to save all that work and go right to taking over someone else's work.

Groklaw reports that Psystar has also appropriated the work of the OSx86 Project and others without adhering to their licenses.

Why can't the average person see the pattern of abuse that Psystar is using? Is the demand for low-cost Macs so high that people will latch onto a loser like Psystar?

Deep Pockets?

I don't think Psystar will win, but a lot of money is going to be spent on lawyers before this battle is over. I hope whoever is paying for Psystar's lawyers has deep pockets.

If Psystar does plan on spending tons of money on lawyer fees, it makes you wonder what they hope to gain? Is the right to license the Mac OS so valuable that hiring expensive lawyers and investing years of litigation is worth it? A better plan would be to use this sham as a way to tarnish Apple's reputation, slow its sales, and distract Apple from developing new products.

I think Apple can handle the distraction, but can the media or the public? Most of them seem to be brain-dead regarding big issues, so they may fall for this ruse as well. Often the company yelling the loudest gets all the attention, and usually that won't be Apple, which keeps product announcements and pending litigation under strict control.

The Psystar camp has nothing to lose by turning this into a media circus and hopes to get the public on their side.

In the end, we have to leave it for the courts to decide. That is the American way, and we hope justice will be blind to the news reports and decide based on the facts of the case, not opinion. LEM

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