There’s lots of talk about Psystar and their selling a cheap PC as a Mac, complete with Leopard.
That last part is important, because without Leopard it’s not a Mac anyway, and yet some articles quote the base price of $399 even though it doesn’t include the OS!
Fortune even goes so far as to ask the question:
Basically, it’s a Mac Mini with twice the memory at half the price. So what’s not to love?
I’ll tell you what’s not to love:
- With Leopard installed it’s $554. We’re $45 from the base — and $245 from the high-end — Mini. That’s hardly half the price.
- Firewire adds another $50. Now it’s more expensive than the base and $195 less than the high-end. (Since it’s more expensive than the base, I’ll make comparisons with the high-end.)
- What you gain with the hack: A slightly faster processor, twice the memory, twice the hard drive, and the ability to expand.
- What you gain with the Mini: Support and a warranty that will be honored, the iLife application suite, wireless networking, Bluetooth, remote control, small form factor, quiet operation, and regular updates from Apple.
Regarding support and warranty, Psystar doesn’t have much to say about it. In the FAQ the warranty description begins thusly:
Psystar will be your intermediary for the exchange of defective parts in the Open Computer and OpenPro for one year (365 days) from your original purchase.
Oh goodie, they’ll be my intermediary.
As for support, they don’t talk about that at all (nothing in the FAQ). But when you think about it, how can they provide anything meaningful in this regard? They are hacking Leopard onto a machine and will obviously have zero recourse from Apple or any other development to address incompatibilities or other issues.
Regarding upgrades, Psystar says this in the FAQ about whether updates can be applied:
The answer is yes and no. No because there are some updates that are decidedly non-safe. Yes because most updates are not non-safe
Translation: “Beats us. Did you not get the part about us hacking Leopard onto this machine? We haven’t a clue whether an update will work or knock down the whole house of cards.” The FAQ answer is simply their way of acknowledging they don’t know what will and will not work.
Anyone who buys one of these and thinks they’ll get reasonable (or perhaps even any) service, support, and upgrades are the kind of suckers born every minute that P.T. Barnum loved.
A “bargain” Mac is not feasible at $399, even if Apple opted for smaller margins. The warranty and good support add too much to the cost. Dell, HP, etc. pull this off by shipping all support overseas and/or not providing very good service to begin with. Apple has not taken this route; their customer satisfaction scores bear this out.
While I do believe the Minis are a bit overpriced for what you get, there’s no way Apple should try to get into the cheap machine game.