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In fact, members of one such group — the "osx86project" — have since claimed that the Pedrazas used their work to hack into Apple's hardware.
Rudy scoffs at the idea he borrowed from the Hackintosh scene. "The first thing you have to do is unlearn everything you've read online about how to make this work," Rudy says, "because it's all wrong."
Robert says he found his own way around Apple's built-in security devices. The breakthrough meant that, among other things, the cheap machines were virtually immune to viruses and hackers.
But not until Rudy's near-death experience did the brothers decide to do anything with the pet project. "It's a common misconception that we set out to challenge Apple," Rudy says. "I kind of wish we had, because we probably could have approached this from a much more logical starting point. But that's not how it happened."
Instead, Rudy remembers telling his brother inside Psystar's garage turned office a few months after the accident on the Palmetto: "Look, we're going to sell this thing online."
"I was much more reluctant to do it," Robert says. "I guess I'm just more conservative than Rudy. I wasn't worried about Apple, really — I just didn't think it was ready to sell."
But Rudy was tired of waiting. "I almost died! And that was not even from a risk I had taken; it just happened," he says. "I realized you can't wait for tomorrow. You just have to go."
In April 2008, the company went online. Almost immediately, everyone — from Apple bloggers at sites such as MacRumors.com to tech writers at newspapers as far-flung as the Guardian in London and the New Zealand Herald — wanted to know about this mysterious South Florida company that dared to offer Macs at PC prices.
At first, the reaction was split neatly into three camps: those applauding the idea, those vehemently opposed, and those convinced the entire thing was a fraud. "Please, God, let this work out," wrote one of the first posters at MacRumors. "This is almost insulting," wrote the next.
The backlash began in earnest a few days later. "Psystar Exposed: Looks Like a Hoax" trumpeted Gizmodo, a cheeky blog owned by Gawker. "Who are they and why are they so shady?" the site demanded. By the end of the week, the site's writers confidently proclaimed that "these guys are obviously clowns." Gizmodo then posted photos of Rudy's house in Kendall. "Ass-hat scammers," one commenter scoffed.
"Having some dude walking around your house is scary," Rudy says.
It didn't help that Rudy changed Psystar's official address three times in the company's first week, shifting it finally to the current headquarters in a Doral industrial park. Or that Psystar had to suspend sales for a few days while it switched credit card processors — the brothers weren't equipped to handle the hundreds of orders pouring in.
"We were just not prepared for this kind of reaction," Rudy says. "And the violence of the backlash was just shocking to us."
For nearly three months in 2008, Psystar sold hundreds of generic PCs with Intel chips, two gigabytes of memory, dual-core processors, and the Mac operating system. Driven by heated coverage in the tech press and blogs, hundreds of consumers bought Psystar's first models, which ran for as low as $399.
On the web, meanwhile, debate raged over whether the brothers were brave rebels or Blackbeards. Nary a sound came from Apple Inc.'s palatial headquarters in Cupertino, California.
That changed July 3, 2008, when Apple filed a 35-page lawsuit against Psystar. Apple's lawyers complained that Psystar was selling computers loaded with "modified, unauthorized versions" of Mac OS. "Psystar's actions harm consumers by selling to them a poor product," they claimed.
It was exactly the kind of response the blognoscenti expected from Apple, which has become known for ruthless legal assaults against potential competitors — a strategy that clashes with the firm's carefully groomed image as a laid-back Silicon Valley haven for hipsters.
The hypocrisy is especially clear when you consider the company's history. It was founded in 1976 by two 20-something college dropouts — Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak — who had developed their computers in Wozniak's parents' Los Altos garage. Before they ever sold a desktop, they made money building "blue boxes" — illegal devices that hacked into free phone lines. Apple burst onto the commercial market in 1984 with a legendary Super Bowl ad that depicted an Orwellian IBM world smashed to bits by a rebel Apple innovator.
In 1995, Apple began allowing a few companies to sell Mac clones, cheaper PC hardware running the operating system.
In 1997, Jobs — who had been ousted from Apple during a 1985 power struggle — returned as CEO and immediately put a stop to the program. His plan: Make more money with expensive hardware and nonstop innovation.
It worked. The company introduced the iPod in 2001 and the iPhone in 2007 and has been vacuuming in cash ever since. Despite the global recession, the company posted its best quarter in history this past October, raking in more than $9 billion in revenue and $1 billion in profit.
So why is a company with that kind of bank going after a flea like Psystar?