By Matthew Magain

Get Your Non-Apple PC With Mac OS X Pre-installed

By Matthew Magain

I’ve long held the view that an Apple Mac is the best machine to use if you are a responsible web professional.

Now I’m aware that this is a provocative statement, but hear me out. I’m a Mac user, but I’m no fan boy, and this is not some kind of DHH-like blind rant. I’ve had my fair share of hiccups over the years. My reason for advocating that web designers use a Mac is not your usual “Us vs. Them” dribble. Viruses, eye candy, stability, security… whatever.

The one reason I believe that every web designer should be running a Mac is this:

You need to test your sites on Safari for Mac, and you can’t run OS X on a PC.

That’s it. If you create web pages, then you need to test those pages on Safari on a Mac. Safari for Windows is not a bad approximation of Safari for Mac, but it’s not identical.

Of course, there are multiple ways of performing cross-platform browser testing. Having access to a service like BrowserCam, having a second machine that is a Mac available for you to perform testing — these are all valid approaches. But if you’re going to buy one machine, I’ve always found the approach of using Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion to run Windows in a virtual machine that you can use to perform testing in IE as the one that makes the most sense, financially and from a workflow perspective. You can do everything you need to from one machine.

Until recently, that is.

Since Apple switched to Intel chips, the OSx86 project, an open source attempt at reverse engineering OS X to run on any Intel-based PC has really come of age. There are a few problems with the OSx86 Project, however:

  1. Installing OS X on non-Apple hardware is illegal. The EULA of OS X clearly states this, and while I’m not a lawyer, I can’t see any loophole that suggests that doing so could ever be legal.
  2. Support is non-existent, given the above point.
  3. Installing is a pain. If you’re not a geek who is prepared to tinker, you’re likely to end up pulling all of your hair out.
  4. Compatibility varies. You’ll need to be prepared to forego occasional features of the operating system that may or may not work.

One company has decided to ignore point 1, and tackle points 2 and 3 on their customers’ behalf. Psystar are selling something they call the Open Computer — a non-Apple PC, with Mac OS X Leopard pre-installed. The standard PC retails for $399 and contains comparable specs to a Mac Mini. The OpenPro Computer is a beefed up 2.6 GHz machine priced at a fraction of Apple’s comparable MacPro.

Now there’s every possibility that Psystar will receive a knock on the door from Apple’s legal department any minute now, and the Open Computer will be dismantled and never see the light of day again. But there’s also the possibility that Apple watch quietly from beyond to see how successful a venture this is. Maybe this will influence Apple’s direction on locking customers to their hardware, or maybe it won’t.

There’s certainly an argument to be made that Apple’s decision to force its customers to use Apple hardware is anti-competitive. If Psystar citing Microsoft Windows as a precedent held up, then we would have a whole new ballgame in the desktop operating system arena.

  • imho this has absolutely no chance of not getting squished by Apple’s legal dept.

    Also, couldn’t future OS updates could break this machine, as it has no official Apple support?

  • XLCowBoy

    Man, if it wasn’t for the problems, I’d pick that up in a hurry.

  • klittl06

    There actually is support out there for OS X on intel and AMD chips. I had OS X running on an Averatec 2260 laptop (Turion 64 X2).

    Check out

  • Apple should take advantage of this. Psystar has OSX running on a PC and even as a Microsoft fan, I have to admit that upgrading to Vista is a mess. What better time for Apple to make a move.

    As far as the statement that every web designer should be working on a Mac, I have to disagree. I purchased a very high powered PC (runs Crysis well) and a Mac Mini for less than the cost a of a decent Mac.

  • Michael

    I always carry a iBook/MacBook with me, while I work/develop on a WIN XP machine. But BTW, one can run a MacOS as a vmware guest on a windows host machine:

    I love my iBook, but it is only for testing (work) an for all fun things (music, photos, …).

  • Bry

    I really do wish Apple would release their OS for installation on non-Apple hardware, embracing the chance to rapidly expand their user base. There are many benefits to their platform (lack of viruses a big one). Windows could do with some of Apple’s cruel to be kind nature of saying to move forward we’ve sacrificed compatibility, live with it and upgrade.

  • “Thank you for visiting Psystar. We’re sorry but the store is temporarily down due to the fact that we are currently unable to process any credit card transactions.”

    – perhaps, Apple’s legal dept in action ?

  • I came across that news somewhere in the blogsphere and I was astonished. What is Mac going to do, I’m asking myself.

  • Terry

    So you’re saying that every PC using web designer in the world should go out and buy an expensive Mac and ditch the PC just to cater for 2% (source: w3c browser stats) of the browser market?!

    Sorry but that just doesn’t make good business sense.

  • jamiemcd

    “1. Installing OS X on non-Apple hardware is illegal.”

    I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure “illegal” is not the right word here. To be sure, Apple’s EULA is a contract between Apple, Inc. and the user who accepts it, but contracts can contain requirements that are deemed by courts to break other laws and thus are not binding. For example if an employee signs a contract to work for less than minimum-wage, that contract is not binding and the employer has actually done something illegal by having someone enter into such an agreement, even if it was consensual. Perhaps Apple’s EULA breaks monopoly laws? It could get interesting.

    (BTW, I have a Macbook Pro running Parallels and, while it is not a perfect computer as Apple marketing would have one believe, it is better than my 15 years on Windows 3.1 through XP. I’m quite happy with it.)

  • In fact, it looks like Psystar is a (fairly elaborate) scam.

  • scam

  • Paul

    Yes psystar is most definitely a scam.

    The best solution for testing on a mac is to buy one. Macbooks aren’t that expensive anymore. I have a macbook pro with 4gb of ram (ram is very cheap now) and I can run win xp, os x and ubuntu simultaneously and it is very smooth. OS X is a great choice for web development.

  • jamiemcd

    Doesn’t seem to be a scam after all. Macworld just got their Psystar Mac Clone in and is testing it.

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