Psystar calls Apple a 'monopoly' in antitrust charges

Mac clone maker says Apple's hold on Mac OS X lets it gouge consumers

The Mac clone maker that has countered an Apple lawsuit with one of its own said that forcing the California computer maker to undo an illegal tie between the Mac OS X operating system and its hardware would force it to drop prices, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Psystar, a US-based seller of Intel-based computers, also charged that Apple enjoys "monopoly power" from the licensing link it's forged between its hardware and the Mac OS.

In its response to an Apple lawsuit filed July 3 that accused Psystar of copyright and trademark infringement for pre-installing Leopard on systems, Psystar alleged that Apple violated several antitrust laws by trying to block users and others from installing Mac OS X on non-Apple computers.

In the long complaint, Psystar claimed that Apple "possesses monopoly power in the Mac OS market" that it has abused. "There is no technical reason that a third-party could not accumulate and assemble the hardware components in an Apple-Labeled Computer Hardware System such that said system would be capable of running the Mac OS," said Psystar's counter-suit.

According to Psystar, Apple had embedded code in the Mac operating system that, when it recognizes non-Apple hardware, sends the system into a "kernel panic," a state usually associated with an internal fatal error. "The kernel panic is self-induced by Apple's embedding of code to prevent operability on computer hardware systems that are not Apple-Labeled Computer Hardware Systems," charged Psystar.

Much of the Psystar complaint was devoted to spelling out its antitrust legal strategy, which it distilled by accusing Apple of being "a monopolist in the Mac OS market."

Unlike companies that have much larger shares of their market, Apple has a very small slice of the overall personal computer market. According to Web metrics vendor Net Applications, for example, Apple's operating system accounted for just 7.8 percent of those it detected online in July.

The most recent data from research firm IDC put Apple's US sales share at the same 7.8 percent during the second quarter of 2008. By comparison, Dell accounted for 32 percent and Hewlett-Packard owned 25.1 percent of the US market share during the quarter.

Psystar's lawyers, however, made the case in their counter-claim that Apple has a 100 percent monopoly in the Mac OS space, which is so different from other operating systems, including Microsoft's Windows, that other OSes can't be considered substitutes.

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