We know that you don’t want to release a netbook, Mr. Jobs, and we respect your stance that you don’t want to sacrifice quality and besmirch the Apple name with a sub-standard product. That said, it’s beginning to look like other companies may not be content to sit by and wait while you come up with an ingenious way of revolutionizing cheapo laptop construction, making it affordable and of high enough quality to bear the Apple logo. One such company is Realtek, who’ve recently released OS X drivers for their Wi-Fi network cards, which reside not, where you might guess, in Apple laptops, but in the MSi Wind.
The drivers, which are currently available via the MSiWind.net forums, though not yet on the Realtek site itself, provide a fix for OS X’s refusal to recognize the built-in Wi-Fi card on Wind portables running an OS X86 install of Leopard. Before now, the only fix was a hardware one, which meant cracking the case on the Wind and swapping out a more OS X friendly network component for the Realtek one.
Besides removing what is arguably the last significant barrier to running a hacked version of OS X on the Wind for less advanced end-users, the move reveals another potential threat to Apple’s OS X sovereignty. Realtek is not Psystar or EFi-X USA, they’ve been around for a while, and they’re not doing anything that will necessarily attract the serious attention of Apple’s legal team, but their move should still be a wake-up call to Cupertino. It shows, indirectly, two things. One, and this is good news for Apple, there’s significant demand for an Apple netbook if Realtek is willing to develop drivers that make it easier for their customers to buy even a hacked one. Two, if Apple doesn’t want to play ball, then third-party component manufacturers, responding to consumer demand, certainly are.
In short, Apple, the netbook train is leaving the station, and unless you want to be stuck on the platform holding your luggage, you’d better hoof it and jump on that caboose. Realtek knows where your bread is buttered, do you?