Psystar site back online, demise exaggerated

Site went dark temporarily to comply with federal judge's injunction, says lawyer

Mac clone maker Psystar reopened its Web site Saturday as a second company lawyer stepped forward to say reports of the company's demise were greatly exaggerated.

"My comments were... misinterpreted," Eugene Action, a Fresno, Calif. lawyer who represents Psystar, said in an interview late Friday. Action was referring to a Dow Jones Newswires story published on Thursday that claimed the clone maker was shutting its doors.

"The site was taken down to comply with the judge's order," added Action, talking about the injunction U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup awarded Apple last Tuesday. The injunction barred Psystar from selling computers with Apple's Mac OS X. Alsup also ordered Psystar to " immediately begin this process, and take the quickest path to compliance."

Psystar has until midnight, Dec. 31, 2009, to comply with the injunction.

On Friday, Action said that Psystar would bring its Web store back online shortly. The next day, Psystar reopened its site , although the only product on the store was Rebel EFI , a $50 utility that lets owners of generic PCs install and run Apple's Snow Leopard operating system. All other products, including the Mac clones that had previously been marked as "Out of stock," had been scrubbed from the site.

Rebel EFI, however, was also tagged as out of stock.

Action acknowledged that Psystar would have to let go some of its workers — he had been quoted by Dow Jones as saying that Psystar's president, Rudy Pedraza would soon fire all eight current employees — but denied that the Doral, Fla.-based firm was going out of business.

How it intends to continue operations without selling computers, particularly ones with Mac OS X pre-loaded, is unclear. Earlier this month, K.A.D. Camara, an attorney representing Psystar in a separate federal lawsuit filed by the company in a Miami federal court last August, said that Psystar would sell PCs with other operating systems, including Windows, as well as Rebel EFI.

"Customers can buy Rebel EFI, a machine from us or from Dell, and with Rebel EFI, install OS X on whatever computer they please," Camara said on Dec. 2.

By marketing Rebel EFI, Psystar would effectively shift the responsibility of installing Mac OS X from itself to customers. Psystar would sell Rebel EFI to consumers, who would have to obtain a copy of Snow Leopard, then use Rebel EFI to install and run the operating system on a system purchased from Psystar or another computer maker.

Previously, Psystar argued that Rebel EFI should not be liable to any injunction ordered by Alsup, in part because the Florida court is considering the software's propriety.

Alsup, however, put Rebel EFI on notice — even though he didn't expressly include it in his injunction. "Whether Rebel EFI violates the terms of the injunction set forth in this order is a factual issue more appropriate for a contempt action," Alsup said in his order last week. "[But] this order declines to 'bless' a product about which it knows little of substance... and Psystar — if it continues to do so — sells Rebel EFI at its peril."

Both Action and Camara told Computerworld that Psystar will continue the Florida lawsuit that charges Apple with antitrust violations, appeal an Alsup order last month that said Psystar had violated Apple's copyright, and push for a ruling on Rebel EFI's legitimacy.

"Psystar will proceed to litigate the legality of Rebel EFI through the motion process described in Judge Alsup's order," Camara said last week.

Psystar and Apple have been battling in court since July 2008, when Apple sued the clone maker over copyright and software licensing violations. Psystar first started selling Intel machines with Mac OS X pre-installed in April 2008.

Several weeks ago, Psystar agreed to pay Apple nearly $2.7 million for damages and legal fees if it loses all appeals in the case.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter @gkeizer , send e-mail at gkeizer@ix.netcom.com or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed.

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