Psystar spreads Mac clone technology to other OEMs

Announces licensing program to deliver boot loader, virtualization for Snow Leopard

The Florida company entangled with Apple in two federal courts said today it would license its technology to other clone makers so they could offer Mac knock-offs to their customers.

In a statement Monday, Psystar, the small computer maker that's been battling Apple for 15 months in a California federal court, announced a licensing program that would deliver its Darwin Universal Boot Loader (DUBL) -- a small program that starts up Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard , on its generic Intel-based computers -- to other clone makers.

Psystar will also operate a certification program that will verify other computer makers' hardware as able to run virtualization technology it claims to have created. "Psystar will begin certifying manufacturers' hardware to allow the licensing of Psystar's new virtualization technology, effectively making their systems Mac OS X compatible," the company said in a statement.

The boot loader, which Psystar first talked up last July, will be shipped on certified computers, allowing customers to install Snow Leopard on the machines themselves.

"Once a product is certified, consumers can purchase it off the shelf or through standard channels and when labeled 'Psystar Certified' would allow the installation of Snow Leopard simply by inserting the retail OS X DVD," said Psystar.

According to Psystar, other computer manufacturers could ship desktop, notebook or server systems with other operating systems pre-installed -- including Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Linux -- while still making them able to run Snow Leopard. It said

"In most cases, Psystar will tailor the technology to a specific hardware profile(s) at no additional engineering cost, allowing manufacturers to save time and money by utilizing our familiarity running the Mac OS X on generic hardware," Psystar said in its press release.

Psystar's CEO, Rudy Pedraza, was not available for comment today, and the company did not reply to an e-mail request for comment.

DUBL was referenced in an August 2009 lawsuit that Psystar filed in a Florida federal court against Apple, accusing the company of illegally tying Snow Leopard to its Mac hardware. In that lawsuit, Psystar claimed that the boot loader "makes use of features of Mac OS X Snow Leopard designed to allow software developers to extend Mac OS X Snow Leopard to work with different hardware."

The clone maker noted that Apple's intent was not to allow rivals to build Intel machines capable of running the new operating system. "Admittedly, Apple hopes that this hardware [would] be peripherals such as video camera or USB memory sticks, but nothing in the technology of Mac OS X Snow Leopard prevents use of the same facilities to extend Mac OS X Snow Leopard for use on non-Apple personal computers," Psystar's lawyers argued.

Apple and Psystar have been waging legal warfare since July 2008, when Apple sued Psystar over copyright infringement and software licensing charges. That case is slated to go to jury trial on Jan. 11, 2010.

Psystar has been selling Snow Leopard systems for more than a month.

Two weeks ago, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup, the presiding judge in Apple's lawsuit filed in California, chastised Apple for trying to stop Psystar's Florida case, and added that the timing of Snow Leopard's release seemed suspicious. "Only after the discovery period closed [on the California lawsuit] did Apple release Snow Leopard, having successfully kept it out of the case," said Alsup. "Apple even chose when to release Snow Leopard and it chose to do so after all opportunity to take discovery on it had ended."

Apple spokeswoman Susan Lundgren declined to comment on Psystar's licensing announcement, citing company policy that prevents public comment on pending litigation.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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