Software wants to be free…
…to run on the hardware of your choice. Or so Psystar wants you to believe about the Leopard OS. In case you haven't been following this story, Psystar has created a Mac computer clone and is selling them pre-installed with Leopard (or Ubuntu, XP, Vista, or nothing). It's called an Open Computer. According to Apple, this is a violation of Leopard's EULA. I don't use a Mac, and while I am occasionally wowed by these bright and shiny objects, I prefer to be voluntarily water-boarded by Vista. So this particular offer doesn't appeal to me.
However, I do find it both comical and a little scary. In the Operating System space, be it host OS's or real-time OS's, the name of the game is running on as many platforms as your customers can dream up. Wind River's operating systems have been doing this from the beginning. Like many others, we affectionately call this our "Matrix of Pain". PC vendors are no exception, of course. In fact, many of the critical problems people run into with Vista and Linux have to do with hardware driver problems (or non-existence) and not the OS's themselves. Apple is certainly lucky to have such a small set of platforms to support.
What's more disturbing is the in your face reminder that just because you pay a lot of money for a piece of software doesn't mean you own it. You merely own a license to use it, and that license may be more restrictive than you realize. Leopard's EULA says you are only allowed to run it on Apple-branded hardware. Most EULA's give you the right to install the software on one computer only, and in many cases moving that software to a new machine requires jumping through reactivation hoops while contending with subtle accusations by off-shore tech support personnel that you are pirating. Sure makes the software market feel utterly broken sometimes, doesn't it?
I wonder if I'm allowed to run Vista on Apple hardware. Do I own my hardware?