Thursday, May 08, 2008

Mac eee?

My current gadget of interest is the Asus eee, a mini-laptop that weighs two pounds, costs from about $300 to $550, uses solid state memory instead of a hard drive and comes with either Linux or Windows XP. It looks like the perfect machine for travelling, provided your trip doesn't require you to play graphics intensive games, do serious editing of digital photos, or do anything else that requires a reasonably powerful computer. Its one serious fault, from my point of view, is that it does not come with Mac OSX.

But it could. It is apparently possible, with sufficient effort and ingenuity, to install OSX on the eee, although doing so violates Apple's licensing terms, which only permit installation on Apple hardware. So far as I can tell, the result is not only illegal but pretty flaky—people who have done it have difficulty getting various parts of the software to work, and doing it seems to require multiple tries and not always succeed.

Suppose that Apple itself took over the project. They, surely, could produce a version of OSX that would run smoothly on the eee. Further suppose they partner with eee to produce a slightly more expensive model, perhaps with a faster processor and more RAM, intended to run apple software. I, at least, would buy it.

One obvious question is to what extent such a machine would steal customers from Apple's more expensive models. The eee is not much of a substitute for a desktop, but someone who already had a desktop and needed a portable might buy a $700 Mac eee instead of a more expensive Macbook. On the other hand, the eee is both cheaper and smaller than anything that Mac offers, so would appeal to a lot of people who would not otherwise buy a Macbook.

I don't expect it to happen. But one can always dream.


A little more research turned up an ingenious, if implausible, solution to the licensing problem. The Apple license refers to "Apple-labelled" hardware. So you take an apple logo off an old Mac, glue it onto your eee, ... .

I have a feeling it isn't going to fly in court, but it definitely deserves a gold star for effort. For additional details, see the link.


montestruc said...

What do you have against Linux?

Anonymous said...

Yeah Linux isn't THAT much worse than Mac OSX.

Anonymous said...

I have an eee and I love it. As you say, it is the perfect travel device. It isn't powerful, but when I'm travelling all I am really concerned about is having internet access.

What I don't understand is why you need OSX so bad? Personally I avoid Apple.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft doesn't have to worry as long as Steve Jobs is running Apple.

The funny thing is that Microsoft as we know it might not even exist today if Jobs had taken Bill Gates's advice in the '80s to license the Mac OS.

Anonymous said...

Given the success of the Eee, it's inevitable that Apple will release a similar device soon. But don't expect Eee prices.

Also, what is really the legal ramifications of violating a license agreement. Can it even be considered an agreement, i.e. there's no signature, only implied consent. Are there any court cases on license "agreement" violation?

Anonymous said...

(sorry for the poor grammar, I was too quick)

Bronson Fung said...

I'm skeptical that Mac will offer something similar to the eee as an extension of its laptop line. With the MacBook Air, Apple has demonstrated that they consider screen size to be an area of little compromise.

Rather, if Apple comes out with anything at all, it'd be an upgrade to the iPhone in the form of this patent . The innovations of the company are constantly redefining the boundaries between handheld electronics and the portable computer.

Charles Pooter said...

Apple see themselves as a producer of quality hardware, not as a software house. I feel it unlikely that they will ever allow OS X to run on generic x86/x64 hardware, lest it jeopardize their lucrative hardware sales (which must have a very healthy profit margin).

This is understandable, but in some ways also it is cowardly. In OS X they truly have an operating system with the potential to unseat Windows in both the home and the enterprise. And, if they were to consider betting the farm with a full-frontal assualt on Windows, there could not be a better time to do it: Windows Vista is a flop and people are crying out for a reliable alternative. They would need to have wide-ranging driver support ready and would need to do a deal with a tier-one OEM like Dell, but it would be heroic and potentially revolutionary.

montestruc said...

I think in the long run Linux is gaining a lot of ground. In my work as an engineer I have been tied down (not very willingly) to windows as too many important and widely used (industry standards) software packages are directly linked to one version or another of windows. Autocad is the main problem in that it is *the* industry standard for doing engineering drawings, and even it's minor competitors were for a very long time windows driven, but this is changing.

I think the full frontal assault on widows is going on now and it is being done by Linux and millions of users of it. The Asus EEE is in part leading the charge.

Charles Pooter said...

Nope, I hear the Linux choir sing on Slashdot and Digg, but I don't see many converts in real life.

Macs and OS X, on the other hand, I hear praised all the time in real life by neophytes and gurus alike.

But if Apple continues to view OS X on PCs as heresy their religion will only spread so far.

Anonymous said...

Windows Vista is a flop and people are crying out for a reliable alternative

Vista is considered a flop because it doesn't appear to offer much beyond XP, and because XP is considered "good enough". Vista is not a flop because it's unreliable. Quite the opposite in fact.

No one has any thoughts on license agreement violation?

Anonymous said...

GNU (Linux) was created to replace Unix. In that, it has been quite successful. As a desktop operating system, it is less obviously superior, and indeed it has been ill-suited for that purpose. However, that is slowly changing, and GNU (Linux) desktop market share is now almost as big as Mac OS and growing far more rapidly.

I can understand if people prefer Windows over a Linux-based OS, as Windows is where most of the software is. However, if you're going to give up Windows compatibility anyway, I don't see why you should prefer Mac.

Charles Pooter said...

These hymns are getting old. People choose OS X over Linux for numerous reasons (including the hardware), but it is madness to suggest that even the very latest versions of the very best Linux distros (eg Ubuntu) come anywhere near to the cleaness and unity of design that can be seen in the OS X GUI.

OS X has clear interface APIs and guidelines meaning applications look how you expect them to look and have similar menus in the places you would expect to find them. It is elegant.

Linux is still a mess of different window managers and GUI toolkits. One never knows how to find a particular menu or shortcut key combination in a particular application. Yes, it is slowly getting better, but the key word is "slowly".

ぐっさん said...

If you are thinking about getting one I would recommend it. I just picked one up on craigslist for dirt cheap and have OSX running on it. Upgraded the RAM with Apple branded memory and it runs amazingly for 633Mhz processor speed.