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Apple Businesses

Beige Box Apple Clone? 533

steve.m writes "Finally it looks like I'll be able to get a cheap box to run MacOSX on, but not from Apple! John Fraser is (sort of) getting into the clone business 5 years after Apple shut down their 3 year long 'experiment' in licensing the hardware. Based on off the shelf apple components in a custom pizza box style case with no bolted on display, a barebones 'iBox' will be around 300 USD and require a processor, disk and memory (and the OS). Complete systems (again, without the OS) should start at around 650 USD."
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Beige Box Apple Clone?

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  • attack of the clones (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drgroove ( 631550 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:55PM (#5645010)
    My first power mac was a umax 600 - its great to see someone picking up the 'mac clone' business again. maybe it will help apple's overall marketshare... and w/ marketshare comes more users, w/ more users comes more software, w/ all of that comes reduced prices & improved performance, etc etc. All good stuff.

    hopefully steve jobs won't try to shut him down out of fear that this will siphon sales away from 'proper' macs...
    • You can already build your own Powermac G4, requires quite a bit of modding to get everything to line up... but it will work
    • He's not really building clones . . . he's simply repacking Macs . . . if he takes a Biege G3 ZIF motherboard and puts it in a box with no memory, hard drive or processor . . . what's he really doing?

      Clones implies different (compatible) hardware, the original Mac clones were great becuase they actually pushed apple in areas they probably wouldn't have moved too (at least under the leadership at the time).

      This guy just sounds like someone destined to go out of business.
    • Must confess I find the whole idea of cloning Apple a little... unfortunate.

      I got into computers in the early eighties. By the end of the eighties we had Macs, PCs, Amigas, STs, and half a dozen also-rans from smaller outfits just doing interesting things. And the personalities of these machines were so different.

      Right now there are two computer platforms, Mac and PC. The PCs have been cloned to death, and now someone's considering cloning the Mac again. What happened to innovation, especially now that

  • So what are the chances that this will actually make it to market? This reminds me of those companies that made the first real Macintosh laptops by using Mac Plus guts.
  • Spare Parts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kalidasa ( 577403 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:56PM (#5645027) Journal
    He's using spare parts manufactured by Apple and sold to repair shops. Why do I have a funny feeling that there's language in the repair parts purchase agreement that prohibits them from being used in just this fashion? IANAL, and IANAACT, but that would be the obvious way to prevent this.
  • iBox? (Score:5, Funny)

    by UncleBiggims ( 526644 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:56PM (#5645028)
    I can already see Mike Tyson in the Switch ad:

    "I was looking at this lolita sight and all of a sudden beep... beep... beep. I was like, bummer. It was a good sight.

    I'm Mike Tyson and iBox."
  • Yup (Score:2, Funny)

    I claim full responsibility for this development - after all, I spent £2500+ on a powerbook last week (which I really can't afford but you know, mmm, titanium...) so of course a cheaper option is going to be just around the corner...

  • by mrpuffypants ( 444598 ) <mrpuffypants AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:57PM (#5645035)
    In other news the iBox company mysteriously dissapeared after being sued in over 300 different lawsuits by an entity described as "a powerful fruit-based technology company" at 11
  • He's building computers using spare parts boards for other systems. So I'm not sure what you are gaining over a regular Mac. Sounds like the DIY Mac using e-bay article that was posted a while back on Slashdot.
    • So I'm not sure what you are gaining over a regular Mac

      What you are gaining? Not having to spend all the cash you'd pay for an Apple for a start...

    • I'm not sure what you are gaining over a regular Mac

      Since he's charging about $300 (and assuming you can scrounge up spare memory and hard discs from your junk closet), I'd say your "gaining" about a thousand dollars!

      Seriously, I would love something like this. There's no way I'd drop a grand or more to try out OSX. But $300 + prince of processor and OS is much more tempting. . .
  • by Quass ( 320289 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:58PM (#5645041) Homepage Journal
    "I think he would be wise to talk to a patent attorney before he does anything else,"

    Apple isn't exactly known for their kindness to "clone" makers..
  • Spare parts price (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VDM ( 231643 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:58PM (#5645042) Homepage
    Will the price of spare parts remain the same if they are used (eventually in large quantities) for building iBoxes?

    The free market has some laws.

  • Uh huh... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by saddino ( 183491 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:58PM (#5645047)
    "But I want to get Apple's full support. I want to make sure I'm on the up and up. I'm an Apple supporter. It's not something I want to clash with them about. I want to make sure what I'm doing is legal."

    How is creating a low cost box that will cut into Apple's hardware sales (where they make the MAJORITY of their revenue) "supporting" Apple?

    Sure sounds like "clashing" to me.
    • Re:Uh huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:19PM (#5645242) Journal
      How is creating a low cost box that will cut into Apple's hardware sales (where they make the MAJORITY of their revenue) "supporting" Apple?

      I'm not entirely sure about this. Apple releases a $100+ OS upgrade which most Mac users buy every 2 years or so. The hardware upgrade cycle for a Mac is 4-6 years (twice as long as for a Pc, don't ask me why), so software sales just from the OS are a big chunk of Apple's income, add in other Mac apps, and the percentage goes up.

      Another key source of income for Apple is their AppleCare package, which gives minimum-hastle repairs / replacements to people who break thier Macs. This would not be availible to iBox users, so would help to differentiate the Apple brand.

      If this guy can sell to the 'I want a Mac, but can't afford one' crowd, but not poach many of Apple's potential customers, then this will provide Apple with a small amount of extra income from OS and component sales, and a potentailly large market share increase, which will benefit Apple hugely.

      I know people still using 604 and early G3 based Macs, who can't afford to upgrade to a new Mac. Do you think Apple would rather that they were using a Windows box, or a non-Apple built Mac?

      If Apple can still supply inovative machines with a higher build quality, then there will be a place for them, and if they control the OS, they control the platform (How relevant is IBM, how relevant is MS?). Apple will have to work hard to offer something that this guy doesn't, but I suspect that they could.

      Of course they'll probably sue him out of existence, but hey, I can hope.

      For myself, I can say that if these boxen were availible today, then I would be a Mac user. Since they are not, I am still a PC user. If I were a Mac user, then my next box, or possibly the one after that would be a genuine Apple box because, let's face it, they're so much more cool than the iPizza.

      Which reminds me, my pizza dough has probably finished rising now, so I shall stop rambling and go and turn it into food. Mmmm, pizza....

  • brand confusion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pcp_ip ( 612017 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:58PM (#5645049) Homepage
    the name "ibox" is going to get him in trouble.

    apple legal is going to go after him for creating brand confusion and misleading the consumer into thinking the "ibox" is an apple product.

    I wish him luck, but I bet he's going to get squashed by apple legal.

  • From the article:

    Dickson also cautioned Fraser to be careful not to infringe any patents. Even if Fraser uses Apple parts, Dickson said the company may hold patents governing how they are put together. The patents may not even be held by Apple, but by another PC manufacturer, Dickson said.

    How on Earth could a patent be granted for this? I mean, how many ways could you plug a CPU into a motherboard, or a PCI card into a PCI slot? Ridiculous...
  • At this very moment (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sophrosyne ( 630428 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:00PM (#5645065) Homepage
    ... a group of lawyers in Cupertino, CA. have gathered together and are finializing their cease and desist letter.
    I guess in a couple of days we'll be reading about how this guy is no longer making these.
    Good-Luck John Fraser, you're going to need it!
  • Fraser will be the first third party to make a Mac since Apple shut down its three-year experiment in clone licensing in 1997,2125,58310, ml

    What about things like the Terrasoft briQ []? That runs YellowDog [] and can't they run OSX? It is a PPC after all... but I don't have one so I dunno...

    • What about things like the Terrasoft briQ []? That runs YellowDog [] and can't they run OSX? It is a PPC after all...

      The article states the motherboards from Apple have the Apple ROMS that allows OS X to boot. I would assume the Terrasoft boards don't contain an Apple ROM chip.

      • by Nogami_Saeko ( 466595 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:17PM (#5645228)
        Apple's ROMs have always been the key reason that their machine hasn't been cloned.

        I've always wondered why they don't use the same technique that the original BIOS cloners used to make a working IBM clone BIOS that was 100% legal.

        I don't remember the specifics on the technique, but it involved two completely seperate groups of engineers within the same company who had strictly limited contact with eachother governing how one group reverse-engineered the BIOS, and how the other group created a new BIOS based solely on descriptions of how it operated, without having any specific copyright information that the first group had access to.

        I remember being somewhat fascinated when I originally heard about it. Of course now, it's probably illegal due to the DMCA (which probably would've killed the PC revolution had it been on the books 20 years ago).
        • by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:24PM (#5646275)

          I've always wondered why they don't use the same technique that the original BIOS cloners used to make a working IBM clone BIOS that was 100% legal.

          I don't remember the specifics on the technique, but it involved two completely seperate groups of engineers within the same company who had strictly limited contact with eachother governing how one group reverse-engineered the BIOS, and how the other group created a new BIOS based solely on descriptions of how it operated, without having any specific copyright information that the first group had access to.

          It wasn't done with Apple because it would cost too much: Apple's BIOS was much larger than IBM's was. It contained basic code for keyboard, mouse, and windowing systems (including code to draw basic windows and icons, which were copyrighted). An original Mac with no disk could still boot to a graphical error mesage and working cursor, and there was cost/speed savings for Apple as well.

          Newer Macs don't have as extensive a BIOS (and I'm not sure what is in it), but Apple now protects itself in other ways.

    • The briq is actually from

      I use 60 or so of them as a renderfarm for 3d graphics and they're great.
    • No, MacOS can't run on a briQ... but Linux and MacOnLinux can.
  • I believe that this still requires some imporatant bits of hardware, and I only know of one place to get the processor (I'm probably just ignorant): Motorola. Are there lots of different choices for places to get the hardware? Can you plug in dirt cheap PC parts? Could this help people who want to run a mac but don't want to pay the hardware premium?

    Where can you get the hardware for this? And, somewhat less importantly, can you do case mods on these things?

  • by IgD ( 232964 )
    What is so bad about clones? I don't believe there is any money to be made from hardware sales. The profit margin is too small. Apple should follow in Microsoft's footsteps and make an OS only. They should allow the hardware manufacturers to worry about the chips and motherboards. Can you imagine if Apple released an version of their OS that could run on standard Intel/AMD chips? They would be competing head to head with Microsoft for market share. Apple's market share right now is so small there is
    • by Stonehand ( 71085 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:14PM (#5645207) Homepage
      Apple's profit margins for hardware might be a bit higher than usual precisely because there AREN'T any Mac cloners out in force. If you want to use Mac OS X, you need to deal with Apple.

      In addition, there are probably more Apple loyalists than there are loyalists to any particular PC brand, given how commoditized and cutthroat the PC platform is (well, for desktops anyway).
    • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:18PM (#5645230)
      I don't believe there is any money to be made from hardware sales. The profit margin is too small.
      Apple's margins on its machines averaged 28% across all lines last quarter. Highest margins in the industry by an absurd degree. They seem to be doing fairly well with that.
    • Err.. last time I looked Apple was a hardware company. They simply have their own OS to run on their hardware.

      OS X is simply a unique selling point that Apple relies upon to shift more of their machines, it's not their main business.

    • If Apple did this, they wouldn't be Apple anymore. That is one of the things that makes a mac so damn stable. There is a limited pool of devices you are going to encounter, and most of them connect by firewire/usb. Compare that to the horrible kluge of motherboard/chip/VGA card/memory types/network card/sound card combinations that PC's have to deal with. If Apple licensed its OS, they would quickly become irrelevant as a sea of cheap, unreliable knockoffs tarnished the Apple name.
  • by class_A ( 324713 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:04PM (#5645108)

    Good luck to you sir, but I think you need to open your eyes. Just because you're an Apple fan and a "hobbyist" doesn't mean they won't severely fuck you over.

    "I always wanted to build Macs," said Fraser, who runs a part-time PC customization business, 2khappyware. "But I want to get Apple's full support. I want to make sure I'm on the up and up. I'm an Apple supporter. It's not something I want to clash with them about. I want to make sure what I'm doing is legal."

    Apple does not want anyone else making a box to run Mac OS X. If you're using Apple spare parts, I would imagine that supply route can and will be cut very quickly.

  • I'm a graphics design major, and well, I've got a windows box with photoshop, and a linux box with the gimp, but I've always wanted a mac, iMac or other, to do some photo and video editing on, the labs have annoying hours, and I don't like leaving the dorm!
  • by asv108 ( 141455 ) <asv@ivoss. c o m> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:05PM (#5645119) Homepage Journal
    Take a look at the website [], besides the illustration this thing looks really suspect. The archive of the site [] doesn't help either. I have no doubt that someone can build a box with spare parts, but manufacturing it and selling is a whole other story. Journalists will print anything if it will sell. Especially Wired journalists who are willing to write an article about anything as long as it involves a mac.
  • what kinds of Terms of Service Apple requires repair shops to sign up for to keep them from doing the same thing. If parts are that cheap (and this guy is actually not in breach of contract), you can be sure that Apple will revise its TOS pretty soon.
  • Nice hardware (Score:2, Interesting)

    by odie_q ( 130040 )
    I have always liked Apple's hardware. The only reason I use a PC as my primary workstation is because of the price. If this works out, actual Apple hardware will be available at affordable prices, which would be really nice.

    Perhaps the legal issue could be avoided by not including the Apple ROM. There are several non-Macintosh operating systems that run happily on that hardware, and I would probably be running one of those in any case (Not because I don't like OSX, but because I can't afford it). Those who
    • The days of the Mac ROM as a physical entity are long gone - starting from the New World macs (ie, first iMac on), all the toolbox routines have been moved to a file loaded off disk.

      here's [] Apple's technote on this.

      Not to mention the fact that OS X doesn't use the ROM at all (except in classic, of course).

  • This kid has about a zero chance of succeeding. I'm not even sure why he deserves this much press coverage. It sounds like a story from The
    Local Boy Discusses Cool Idea with Friends
    Local boy has great idea to make his own macs. "Sure, it's been tried before but failed miserably due to Apple's licensing restrictions, but it sure would be cool to try," he says. "Just think of all the press coverage I'd get! It's guaranteed to make the frontpage at Slashdot. Maybe I'll even get some venture capitalists to invest mass amounts of money that I'll launder to a swiss bank account before succumbing to legal pressure and declaring bankrupcy. I can't go wrong!"
  • Misleading title (Score:5, Informative)

    by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:12PM (#5645181)
    This is not really a Mac "clone". It's simply using used Mac parts and repackaging them. It's not like the PC market where you can build a NEW and current pc. Hardly a beige box like clone. People have been doing this for years, I have a repackaged Mac SE (it's in a rack mount case) from way back when.
  • TINAA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hanzie ( 16075 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:12PM (#5645182)
    John Fraser, if you read this, I would sure as heck not call this thing the i-box! Let everybody else call it that, but not you.

    Apple will jump hard on you for that. It's going to be very difficult to convince a judge that you're not trying to fit this in with the i-mac and the i-book. In fact, I'd say it will be impossible.

    The only way to win this lawsuit is to have deeper legal pockets than Apple. Don't try.

    Name it something else like: TINAA. It stands for This Is Not An Apple. It sounds good to me, though I haven't researched the IP issues. A quick Google only turned up Finish and apparently one proper name.

    Good luck!
  • If they are do end up selling these then I would really like to get one. I've always like the MacOS and as some things like the aqua skin for enlightenment however the price of apple macs has always been a bit out of my league.

    One of those things that is on my wish list

  • OK, I can see why Apple want to limit the number of hardware configurations possible, so they wouldn't ship it barebones - but why don't they make an entry level, pizza-box Mac that you can plug into commodity monitors?
  • From the article: ...Apple is notoriously protective of its intellectual property, and has not hesitated to go after hardware manufacturers, software publishers and websites for infringement...

    The iBox will go over at Apple, Inc. like a snowball in Hell.
  • sounds kinda like Amiga... use the Mac hardware, but do it right...

  • Read this sentence a couple of times. Apple-made motherboards preloaded with Macintosh ROMs -- the vital piece of hardware-cum-software that makes a Mac a Mac.

    At least I though it was funny. But seriously, someone already mentioned that OSX is not licensed to run on something other than a Mac, but I would believe that the ROMs are even more protected.
  • Fraser hasn't yet contacted Apple, and the company didn't respond to requests for comment

    Fraser, look dude, you announce to the world (Wired) that you're going to repackage Mac parts, call your machine an iBox, and you haven't contacted Apple about it?? Are you stoned?


  • Sounds like a good idea, why should Apple not be subjected to the same competition that the PC world has faced for years? I just do not understand why only Apple sells their stuff, it would maybe encourage them to put out even better products than they already produce, maybe cheaper. The more people that have Macs the better if i were Apple. That is what you call an "Installed user base" to pitch your next batch of products to, maybe if Macs were cheaper, then more people would own them. Personally I am eye
  • by blixel ( 158224 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:25PM (#5645291) Apple computers are way too fast to run MacOSX. I'd much rather have an older slower one.
  • This guy might as well give it up right now. Apple will not accept or allow this.
  • I'm trying to work out how all this is going to be put together.

    I've just looked through the specifications of this thing on his site, and he lists it as having two PCI slots and an AGP slot. On the 'conceptual design' pictures though there's external access to one PCI slot (at the rear), and then immediately next to it is the 'monitor' connection and an ethernet socket.

    The problem with this is that it simply doesn't seem to have space to put in the second PCI card, or even the AGP slot. The machine pi
  • hardly beige []
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
    Why dont they let people simply make generic clones?

    IBM certianly didn't die a horrible death and their line of PC workstations and laptops is still a strong seller.

    Apple must be happy being 2nd and soon to be 3rd banana (yes linux users will overtake Apple users in numbers soon)

    Hell Apple is second banana to the Pc conglomerate DELL!

    maybe someday the executives will pull their heads out of their arses and get on the ball to increased profitability.

    but I highly doubt it..
  • ... to include a $120 copy of OS X, then why on earth would I buy it? I can get a brand new machine with far better reliability and reputation by spending $999.
  • What a great supportive community slashdot is

    10% saying 'good job. Go for it'.

    30% saying 'you'll be sued and I feel somewhat happy about it'.

    60% saying 'you'll fail miserably'

    Good thing Linus never read /. before he started.
  • by The Lynxpro ( 657990 ) <lynxpro@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:57PM (#5645549)
    Had this guy owned an Atari ST way-back-when, he'd know the problems of relying upon Apple parts meant for repairs. Many Atari ST owners bought the MagicSac and SpectreGCR Mac emulators which consisted of a cartridge that you bought and plugged in Apple Mac OS Rom chips, and then slid it into the Atari ST's cartridge port. They were great. You could have a far more powerful Macintosh (and the ST was more powerful to begin with) at a savings of more than half the cost of an actual Macintosh. When Atari brought out its laptop (the STacy), with the emulators, it became the first Macintosh laptop. This infuriated Apple, and they threatened to sue any Mac repair shop/dealership that actually sold Mac Roms to people not actually requiring repairs... The better route to a Mac clone is to get IBM and Nvidia to produce an NForce type mobo chipset for the PowerPC 970 under the guise of having another platform to run Linux on with a 64bit chip and no chance of Palladium being placed in the BIOS (since AMD and Intel are both vying for the Microsoft payments). Then someone could come out with a hack for OS X Panther to run on it without shutting down due to not detecting an Apple BIOS or whatever protection scheme they have cooked up... It would be pretty funny; IBM turning the clone strategy on some other company. But then again, this would cater to the PC enthusiast market who do not normally buy Apple anyways, and as long as they actually purchased the OS and didn't pirate it, this would benefit Apple tremendously...
  • by nycroft ( 653728 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @02:14PM (#5645689) Homepage
    On December 19, 2002, Tech TV's The Screen Savers [] aired an episode in which Kevin Rose built a G4 [] in an ATX case. Most of the parts came from Mac Resq [] and others. It's an interesting article for anyone who wishes to tackle the project by themselves.

    The segment was inspired by an aricle on MacOpz [] Web Site. I urge all to check it out.

    Though this might end up costing a little more, there are benefits: You get to choose your own case (which must be slightly modified), and get the pleasure of building a computer that normally isn't built by anyone except Apple and the pizza box guy.
  • aBox (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gorthaur ( 155589 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:55PM (#5647172)
    I like his idea; if I got a Euro for every person who told me that they would like to have a Mac but couldn't afford it, I'd be able to buy a Apple branded G4.

    There is also a huge crowd of very knowledgable Mac owners who have to satisfy themselves with older systems or iMacs because they can not afford to buy the luscious Apple Pro systems while they would love to tinker as much as their PC buddies can with their systems of 500-600 Euros. Some of those I know switched to PC hardware because they got fed up with Apple's stance of exploiting their customer's loyalty and keeping prices high.

    There is a huge demand for low cost Apple-compatible hardware which can be expanded easily.

    Apple could play this very smart by providing hardware to him and since it will be Apple hardware MacOS X will not have too many hiccups running on it.

    Apple could even explicitly include a paragraph in their OS X EULA in which they state that they do not garantuee, support or claim OS X to be fit for any non-Apple branded hardware.

    Their hardware sales would go up, their OS X sales would go up and -most importantly- the Apple Clones would help Apple to conquer market and credibility with MicroStuffed IT Managers.

    While Apple makes good hardware in a superior design with unequated software integration, they have to dump their 'People will buy it if they see the intrinsic superiority of our systems'. People will drool, will moan and will google for an MacOS X theme for Windows.

    I'd call it aBox though since the concept is lumping hardware PC style in a box. The 'a' could stand for alternative.
    Using the 'i'-nomenclature for hardware would be the same as wearing a 'iGotSuedbyApple' tag
  • by karlandtanya ( 601084 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @08:05PM (#5648885)
    Where's the snob appeal?

!07/11 PDP a ni deppart m'I !pleH