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Rent a Mac in the cloud for development (macincloud.com)
322 points by mwexler on Oct 27, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 171 comments

So let's see who your potential customer is:

- Someone who owns a computer, with a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse (of course)

- Someone with a decent internet access

- Someone who has either invested or going to invested 100's of hours to properly learn the iOS/Mac frameworks

- Someone who is hoping to either make a living off his Mac development or threats this as in important hobby

- Someone who will be able to afford to pay $20+/monthly = $240+/yearly

- And finally, someone who is either unable to afford an older mac mini ($200-300 as noted in other comments) OR someone who has no cheap way to deliver older mac hardware to his home country.

From all the above, the potential market size seems too small to me to be an interesting business. Am I missing something?

Yes, you're missing something. I run a small iOS contracting shop that does continuous integration. When the contracting market is good, we never have enough build servers, which can only be Macs. Virtualization only gets us so far.

There IS NO aws / EC2 service for macs. I can't just spin up some instances to handle the load and spin down after the engineers go home. The options are literally run to the Apple store and blow a few grand on a couple of boxes, which are hopefully in stock, which we then upkeep indefinitely in a physical closet. To handle a big spike, we really need like 10, but that's a big cash outlay for machines that will be idle in 6 weeks.

I am a developer, and hunting and installing Mac Minis, dealing with RMAs and AppleCare, etc., is not being productive for me. We're small enough that getting a network guy to handle that (assuming you can even find Apple network guys) is not economical. This looks like an easy solution.

BTW, maybe you'll be interested – I develop hosted continuos integration service specifically for iOS / Mac developers, see it here http://hosted-ci.com/

Understood, and a service that did this for a _lot_ of different platforms (hardware and software) would be considerably more compelling.

The absence of a "heterogenous" cloud (I know, this is a contradiction in terms) is part of why our business has to drag a server room around...

> Am I missing something?

I think you are. I work fulltime at a bank for my paycheck. I have an internet connection in my apartment, and an office assigned wintel laptop. When I get home at 6ish, I can maybe put it 2-3 hours of coding. Right now I code 8 hours of Scala for my dayjob. Have always been wanting to check out what objective-C is all about. Perhaps I could learn how to write an app. Don't have an iphone ipad imac etc. So paying $40 a month to check this out is not such a bad idea. I'll sign up, see if I can hack objective-C on the iOS, and take it from there.

So let's assume you wills spend couple of months learning iOS, and will decide that you're into it. Will you buy yourself a Mac at that point?

Assuming yes, you've maybe generated them $100 in revenue. They would need 10,000 people like you to generate their first million in revenue, and they have obviously many costs.

Do you think the world has at least 10,000 people interested in iOS development who don't have a mac yet? 100,000?

You are trying to count your chickens before they hatch.Before Netflix came along, the thinking was - if you like a movie you will just buy the DVD so you can watch it any number of times. Its just $10, why not just buy it ? Guess what, I watch tons of movies, don't buy a single DVD. If I like the movie I put it on my netflix queue & then watch it right there. If its not available, no skin off my back - there's plenty of other movies that are available on my queue, some 300+ are unwatched, last I checked. My wife averages 3 books a month. We don't own a single "book". She's on her 2nd kindle and all our books are essentially on the AWS. When she moves to her 3rd kindle & so on...the books will continue to be on the cloud. She downloads one book, reads it & then deletes it & downloads the next. So yes, owning a Mac, or even a PC is not on my to-do list. The bank gives me a laptop, why should I go buy my own PC ? And for what ? 8 hours of Scala per day at my desk is quite enough. I don't bring my work home. Objective-C will start out as a hobby. I don't know if I'm going to be able to complete my app, put it on the app-store, get customers etc. Seems like a daunting task. So no, I won't buy a Mac. And yes, the world has plenty of people who work for big-corp and pull in 150k coding business apps, with no desire to own Macs & PC, while still doing some hobby coding in some fringe language on the side just to retain their sanity. Office work gets boring after a while, and I plan to write silly time-waster apps in objective C, not your standard issue portfolio optimization code which I do at work anyways.

Wait. You are a professional programmer at a bank and you don't own a PC or mac at home? Is this common? How do you keep your skills up to speed?

> Is this common?

Well, its not uncommon. From my unscientific survey among my colleagues I'd say ppl who don't own machines is upwards of 60%. Its not hard to see why. Banks work you quite hard anyways. I stare at a PC 8 hours a day. Plus there's the pager so you can respond to calls at night & so on...the association of PC=Work becomes quite hardwired. Last thing I'd want to do is muck around with a computer at home as well. If I buy a PC/Mac, like a desktop with monitor, where do I keep it ? I have to buy a computer desk and computer chair and all that? Dude I live in a tiny apartment 10 minutes from the bank. There's no space. As to keeping up with my skills - I've been doing this some dozen plus years at this point. I will say if you know how to fold and write a parser combinator, you are golden. I know both, so my comp science degree wasn't a total waste. Most of what I do is just some combination of map reduce filter fold partition, occasionally some lazy eval/Stream, some memoization, rest is just standard finance - portfolio theory, capm, derivatives, option pricing, stochastic calculus etc - you learn those at school anyways, otherwise they won't give you a diploma, and the bank won't hire you without a diploma.

Do you like what you do? Is the pay or reward worth it?

I'm confused as well by this. From my perspective, in order to keep your business and personal lives separate (and private) you need two separate systems to work on. I have no interest in IT possibly being able to log or monitor my interactions with my personal GMail, bank accounts, etc. Since most companies Acceptable Use Policies provides them with the right to monitor all of this and more, it seems necessary.

Other people though don't seem to feel as strongly about keeping their work and personal lives separate...

I find folders and mail accounts work fine for keeping work and personal stuff separate. Just having one computer to deal with is nice. And cheaper.

With Netflix, their value proposition is:

- Simplicity - it's very simple to select a movie on their website, and you can spare a walk to a DVD rental shop/supermarket. It's even easier to stream a movie.

- Price. $10/month is much cheaper than $15/DVD, if I watch several movies a month and don't plan to re-watch same movies very often

I don't see how that's applicable to the remove development - price argument doesn't work (it's actually cheaper to own an old Mac in the long run) and simplicity could work both ways - it's easier to start with remote development but having a local GUI development is probably easier.

Re: your decision to buy or not to buy a Mac - I just wanted to highlight that on the grand scheme of things - where you want to invest your time, which is your most valuable asset - decision to buy an old mac is an easy one to make.

An old Mac will still take you 6-12 months to price-match this service...and they're running on modern equipment, keeping it updated (hardware and software) for you, and giving you instant access from anywhere, even your iOS device. If you want to use current hardware, you'll have to save money even longer (18-24 months), and you'll have to spend time managing the system & tools configuration.

Sure this all may not be a big deal to most developers. "Most" isn't "all".

Buy an iPod Touch, start writing iOS software. You can be in the black on this within days.

Also, you can directly bill this as a cost to a project/client. It is (for some people) harder to justify charging a client for use of hardware you have on hand than for an external service you're using specifically for their job...

I suspect it might be a sneaky way to work around corporate IT department policies too "I'm not buying unsupported or non-preferred-vendor Apple hardware, I'm just using an external service, just like AWS or Akamai".

I just did some quick calculations and you can buy an used mac for the price you would pay for a year of this service. And your analogy is completely wrong, at least for me, I don't watch a movie much more than on time, unless it is already playing for one motive or other.

But you will use the same computer for a time.

So he has to wait a year to be able to buy the mac or he can start coding right now...

That is indeed right. But we just read this and in my office 6 people are already looking into it.

We are all Linux/Windows Devs. But we are interested in the iOS ecosystem. This service would allows to enter without many barriers. Also it would allows to interact and be part of team developing iOS.

I think idea rocks. We could at last port some of our apps to MonoTouch.(We are using MonoDroid already).

It certainly is a valid point. However, your assumption seems to be that the biggest barrier to entry would be hardware? If so, I disagree, with all due respect. I spent best parts of the summer learning iOS - it's not extremely hard, but it has many non-obvious corner cases that you'll need to spend some time to discover. So with almost any reasonable hourly rate (even at the minimal wage) I've invested much, much more in the learning of the framework that I would spend on a minimal hardware that will allow me to develop for iOS.

Let's face it - if you're serious about porting your apps to iOS, you would buy a mac at some point.

It is hardware and software, it is the Mac ecosystem; at least for me. My core business is the Web and we are getting into Android. I already spent several thousand dollars in Hardware. If I want to develop in Mac I need a Mac. It is not as easy as Linux. I could of course built my own Mac, but still it gets pretty expensive. Specially since iOS is not our core market.

Now, if iOS ends up being big for us, then yeah, we would stop using the service and buy our own machines. But then the service served its purpose.

I guess what I am trying to say is that this kind of service has a market and is not that small. But I do agree with you 100%. If you are serious about iOS development, you need to get your Mac.

BTW, when I said potential market is small, I didn't mean "number of people around me who will find the idea fascinating" is small :). For obvious reason, this is not the case here at HN, but we're a very special crowd.

Lol. I know what you meant. I just wanted to show you the impact in an office of 13. That is close to 50%.

And While I think the market is not big, I don't think it is that small either.

You are right on the numbers and logic for a specific scenario but you are overlooking the fact that there are hundreds of development teams who primarily work on non-Mac platforms and are getting on to iOS and most of these teams have one Mac that they use to test their iOS apps and they cannot afford to move all their teams to Macs (the cost of a desktop is 1/4th as compared to the Mac in India, for example). All such teams and small / mid sized companies would love this sort of a service and would be willing to pay for it. The pricing needs to be simplified IMO but the service is spot on, for certain market segments. And I believe these segments can make up a big market.

So your customer is a student, or anyone who sees iOS development as a moneymaking opportunity but does not have the money to jumpstart the activity. Fact is, there are some of us who just don't have the extra cash to jump in (having spent it on an iPad, now irritated we can't do development for an otherwise awesome platform). Sure we could buy an old Mac Mini for a couple hundred bucks (monitor, keyboard, etc aside), but for that price we could be online with this service for 10 months! we also get the chance, for just two digits, to try out iOS development without getting a POS used box for hundreds of dollars which will go unused if maybe iOS isn't our thing after all.

I'm literally selling blood to buy a MacBook Air just for iOS development. It's taking a while...yet for 2% of that cost I can start tonight. I teach beginning programming. I've hesitated suggesting an iOS class because the hardware isn't there and won't be considering both school and student wallet contents...but with this service, any PC or iP* becomes an iOS development tool.

Awesome that now the entry point for iOS is a $200 iPod, $99 annual deloper fee (when you've got something ready to sell), and ~$20/mo bootstrap fee. Nothing else needed.

> I'm literally selling blood to buy a MacBook Air just for iOS development

I admire your determination. Look, I've bought an iMac to learn IOS in my spare time. Why don't we trade - time on my iMac, and you answer my iOS questions? PM me.

:-) would like to, but as I don't have a Mac I haven't done enough iOS work to answer any questions yet. Sounds we're at about the same level now.

Email me anyway. My iMac is idle 20 hours a day. teyc@cognoware.com

If you are having to stretch that much to purchase a Mac, why go for the Air? Get a less expensive Macbook Pro ... or even just a Macbook. Buy used off of eBay, max out the RAM and you'd be in good shape.

Because my home computer is a 7-year-old Sony ultraportable featuring a Pentium M with 0.5GB. My upgrade pattern is: buy maxed-out top of the line, then grind it into the ground.

Well, that makes sense then! :)

This is a good devil's advocate summary, except feasibility of remote development with a GUI. I don't agree with a few of these points though.

"Someone who has either invested or going to invested 100's of hours to properly learn the iOS/Mac frameworks"

I think a lot of people will just want to experiment with something, or see some app, in my case I need to fix a bug in a desktop app I use. The kind of bug that I think just requires running a build and then searching forums, etc. for the error. I think the 100s of hours would have been wasted setting up virtualization and the toolchain but I can pay 20-50 a month to have that done for me.

"someone who is either unable to afford an older mac mini ($200-300 as noted in other comments) OR someone who has no cheap way to deliver older mac hardware to his home country."

A lot of people will want to try things out. There is a huge convenience value to just paying a monthly fee and logging in to a virtual system that is already setup versus the hassle of buying a mac mini, connecting it all up, setting up a virtualization, installing all the junk you need for development, etc. Not to mention the upfront cost of buying a mac mini will most likely be more than experimenting for 2-3 months. I'll need to update the software on it regularly, etc. And lastly, it is just another thing to take up space on my desk that I don't use that often that: collecting dust, taking up plug space, needing to not spill coffee on, etc.

The real question I have is developing in a GUI over remote access even feasible? How good does your inet connection really have to be? How much can be done via non-GUI ?

You're right - I missed the "feasibility of remote development with GUI" part.

Re: your other comments - sure, I totally see who the service will appeal to some customers. The market is certainly there.

What I'm concerned about is the market _size_: I still believe that any current/future iOS/Mac developers will buy a Mac eventually, and there may be not many people like who only need a Mac to fix an occasional bug in an open-source Mac app, which by itself requires a significant skill.

Not every company has to be huge or insanely profitable.

I'm working on a productivity software startup which is currently working on the flagship product. In the interests of starting small, I'm targeting the platforms I have easy access to: x86 Linux, AMD64 Linux, and Win32. My dev machine allows me to test x86 Linux and AMD64 Linux builds, and I have been building binaries for Win32 and doing basic testing under Wine, with plans to test on a real Windows system using AWS or similar.

A service like this would make it easier for me to support Mac OS X; to build for OS X, I would most likely try to set up a build VM on something like PureDarwin, and test on something a real Mac using a service like this.

That said, I don't think there is a good reason to hold back my release for Mac, so it would probably be worth waiting, and if sales go well on other platforms, I would probably be better off investing in Mac hardware.

You're forgetting multi-platform development. I'm creating an Android app (still unfinished) using appcelerator titanium, and was thinking about porting it to iOS later - it should be pretty easy. This kind of solution looks very interesting for me. Not a big market, but there is a market.

I maintain some tools (mostly open-source) and would like them to work on OS X as well. I run a mixture of Windows and Linux boxes and VMs, and there's no legit way (that I'm aware of) to run OS X inside a VM.

Wouldn't this service be good for me, allowing me to easily test my code on OS X?

A bit too expensive, though.

You're missing that $240/year isn't your only option. Let's say I'm writing a cross platform library/server/non-gui app. I'm developing it in Linux, and regularly testing it on FreeBSD and Windows, all of which I can boot into from my main computer. Being a able to pay a few bucks every release to make sure it compiles and runs on OS X as well would be well worth it, and depending on your release schedule would probably end up costing less $50/year.

It's ridiculous that this service has plans that allows you to "log in from 9am to 5pm, max 5 hours per day". It looks like it's 1999 all over again where you have online services that are only available during certain hours because the servers are rebooted or turned off every day. This is not "cloud"-like at all, and is especially bad when you don't live in the same timezone.

Are there any guards against using the cheaper "early morning" plan against a fake timezone to make it a "daytime" plan?

It doesn't appear to be due to server reboots, instead it's to spread the load. If you're an after-hours coder--doing things as a side project after your day job is finished, or just like being up at night--the 9a-5p plan isn't for you. As someone who is up all night (basically 9p-5a), I appreciate the ability to pay less because I'm never going to use the "peak time."

It's ridiculous that this service has plans that allows you to "log in from 9am to 5pm, max 5 hours per day"

To be fair, they offer "Anytime" plans which cost more, but let you log in any time you like :)

Interesting idea, but the pricing is just much too complex. By having to choose between monthly/weekly, morning/day/evening and then number of hours there are perhaps 50 different plans available? I'm just too confused to make a choice.

That's how I feel too. I saw the title, and I thought: "Wow, I could really use this". Looked at the pricing, and was too confused to continue any further..

The pricing isn't just confusing, but (unless I'm misunderstanding it...) also plain stupid.

For example, as a monthly plan it's $30/month for anytime access up to 5 hours a day; but also $30/month for evening access up to 3 hours a day!? Who is the later plan targeted at, exactly?

It says "Total Login Hour Options (Limited Time Discount!)" for the anytime access--so it seems that it normally costs more.

Still a pretty complex pricing model, wonder what they're doing on the backend to swap sessions around.

Indeed, my first thought on seeing all the options was: how could I game this?

For example, if I live on the east coast (UTC-5) and select the lowest-cost option (3 hours of use from 1am until 9am for $20), but claim my timezone is the Alaska (UTC-9) I believe I could actually use the service from 5am until 1pm in the east coast.

I don't know if that's how it would actually work, but it certainly is confusing.

That said, if you look at the academic pricing plans the presentation is much clearer and easier to understand.

What is a "3 hour minimum"? Do I have to log in for that amount of time each day?

It's how much you commit to paying for, whether you actually use it or not.


The top of the box says "Monthly". To me, that means I can log in any time during the month I have paid for. Does the "minimum" really mean I can only use it 3 hours a day for each day of the month?

I understood it as meaning that you can use it for at least 3 hours, but if they have 'time over' you're allowed to use more. Not sure though.

Ah, that makes more sense. I would have chosen the word "daily guarantee" over "minimum", but I guess that word choice would irritate some lawyers.

I agree, its a pain point and will loose you signups. Swallow the bullet and implement a simple pricing scheme.

Conceptually awesome. Poorly delivered. Someone do this right and you will be making money.

What I'd like: Personal files/certs etc. on my local HD, then I log in to my cloud mac and it uses my local HD files as an external hard drive of sorts. or even uses dropbox for my files. Is this possible?

I was going to try it out, but once you've registered, you have to raise a support ticket to ask them to put a free trial on your account.

> Step 2 - Experience a Free Trial After registering your MacinCloud website account, please log in and create a new Support Ticket under Help > Support > New Support Ticket. Click New Support Ticket -> MacinCloud Trial -> Sales, and request for a trial. Please attach a note and let us know if you have any specific needs.

Um, no, sorry. I don't have that much patience. Honestly this could be a great service for Windows-based web developers who just need a few hours on a Mac now and then for testing, but the signup process needs to be instant.

If you scroll down to the "Where can I save my files?" section they do mention support for dropbox and other cloud based file storage systems.

I run OS X on VMWare, it's fast, it's perfect.

I wonder if they're doing the same (virtualized OS X, which works well but is, I believe, against Apple's EULAs) or if they use actual Macs (which would be quite burdensome)...?

Edit: confused iOS and OS X. I feel stupid.

Which version/edition of OSX are you using? I tried this with a couple of original DVDs and pirated copies, but none of them would boot properly under VirtualBox.

Virtualized OS X is allowed within limitations. 10.6 required the Server version to be (legally) virtualized, while 10.7 allows 2 extra copies to be virtualized. In both cases, the host needs to be OS X, on Apple hardware.

iOS or OS X?

This conflation is happening all over the place .. people don't understand that iOS and OSX are different, it seems. I wonder if this is going to, at some point, work in Apples favour .. ?

> I wonder if this is going to, at some point, work in Apples favour .. ?

Many people have speculated about the changes in 10.7 that made it much more like iOS, with the exact idea that one day iOS and OSX will be essentially the same thing (at least from the user perspective anyway). I certainly see them heading in this direction...

Me too. I imagine the next iteration of Macbooks will basically be an iPad-formfactor device, albeit with Macbook-scale screen sizes, and a removable/attachable keyboard/trackpad combination, with some variation in the onboard OS that allows either 'iOS'-style touch interaction, or traditional OSX WIMP-style interaction for those that need it. I'd certainly buy an iMacBook-thingy that was a 17" iPad'ish thing, that could work in both modes.

Going to be interesting times .. I suppose I have to hold onto my aging 2007 MBP another year or two and then upgrade on the next generational bump.

OS X, you're right (edited the parent).

Is OS X on VMWare supported, if you are not using a Mac has the host system with VMWare Fusion?

(If so, that would be news.)

Yes it is possible to have OS X running on VMWARE, quite easy actually, A quick google/youtube search will point to you a number of guides to do so.

Edit: While it is possible, I wouldn't by any means call it 'Supported'.

This might be a good missing link for PhoneGap Build - https://build.phonegap.com/ - which requires that you have a Mac for your certificates. I've seen a few people complain about not being able to use PhoneGap to build an iOS app because they don't have a Mac and don't want to buy one.

I'm not sure that this would solve the certificate problem. With the standard iOS dev program you can only use 1 machine to develop on. If you want to move to another machine you have to invalidate all your old certificates. If you are working off the same part of the server every time it might work but otherwise it would still be problematic.

Also it might not be very secure for the company to allow you access to Keychain.

Gonna be brutally honest here, those pricing plans are shit. Allow me to log in for an unlimited amount of time and lower the price a bit, and we'll talk.

While you are at it, get me a cup of coffee... Aren't you asking for a bit too much (specially on the "lower the price" bit.

I really don't think it's asking to much. Maybe they could charge a smaller amount for command line/shell only access. The premium you're paying here seems like it's just to stream the OSX GUI over the RDP protocol.

Paying $30 a month for 5 hours of use is really stupid.

Really? I need to submit a ticket after registering to give it a try? Ok, cool, thanks but, too much work to try it out. Would make more sense to queue me in and limit sessions to 5 minutes or something like that, but that much interaction is a deal breaker.


How would one deploy a iOS app using this service?

It seems interesting since i don't own a Mac and am interested in iOS Development, but don't want to fork out the cash for a mac mini or something similar.

Then buy up the oldest Core 2 Duo mini you can find. Probably $200-$300. You can download Xcode for free. Used iPod touch 3rd gen maybe $100-$150 if you don't have an iPhone.

Back when OS 10.1 came out I took a look at Cocoa documentation and some sample code, read up on Interface Builder, and felt intensely that this was the clean, user AND developer-friendly well-packaged Unix platform I had been dreaming of. I had to learn it, despite having a pure Unix background (Vim was my editor for many years at this point). I paid more than $3000 for a mac desktop. That was more money than I had spent on anything in my life. It also opened the doors to my next job, and my job after that. Invest in your future.

I just pirated a copy of OS X and installed it in a VM under my Linux/Windows dual boot (the VirtualBox VM file can be opened in either Linux or Windows). I don't know about laptops, but with a decent desktop (probably cost me ~$1000 to build it ~6 months ago with components from Newegg and Amazon, but $500 would be sufficient), you can virtualize OS X without any problems.

That's a great question. I imagine you wouldn't be able debug on a device with Xcode, and that could be a hindrance to development. But you could use a service like TestFlight to deploy builds to your iOS device. Ultimately I think this would work for trying out iOS/Mac development, and if you decide you like it after a few months you'd get a Mac for more permanent development.

You'd need to import certificates every time you booted the VM (I assume) which would get old pretty quickly.

Edit - looks like there is persistent on-VM storage, from the homepage: "In additional to local hard drive space..."

It's unclear if that local space is shared with others that might be logging in after you though.

Really cool concept overall, but there's a good amount of uncertainty in there. There's a handful of gramatical errors too, so maybe they aren't really ready to launch?

Why wouldn't it be like unix where each user has their stuff in their home directory. OSX already has this concept with user switching. This just allows you to login as multiple users on an OSX machine at the same time.

"I'd like to become an electrician, but don't want to fork out the money to buy wire cutters or something similar."

Yes, the analogy falls apart because you don't run proprietary software on wire-cutters. I understand that you might want to "try before you buy" with Mac and iOS dev, but I'm speaking to a slightly different issue.

If you want to do a job, you either acquire the tools to do the job (wire cutters/a Mac) or you Work Harder rather than Working Smarter (bend the wire until it breaks/shoehorn OS X onto a Hackintosh.)

That analogy is utter nonsense.

With a Linux or Windows desktop equipped with a good toolbox we can cross-compile to a wide range of architectures. That this range doesn't currently include the iPhone is completely accidental; it's merely a consequence of a business decision by Apple (and it might even be a good business decision for all I know). It doesn't tell us anything about the adequacy of a Linux/Windows desktop as a tool.

Cocotron or GNUStep plus Chameleon will get you most of the way to developing iOS apps on other platforms. I imagine there is some work to do to round out the experience, but tis the nature of open source.

There's definitely nothing stopping you from developing iOS apps on other platforms though. It's just going to be a bit more work than using the polished packages from Apple.

[1] http://cocotron.org/ [2] http://www.gnustep.org/ [3] http://chameleonproject.org/

This is pretty cool, thanks. Do you know of any tutorials that would guide the Apple-noob through the process of compiling a "Hello, world!" type of App for iPad/iPhone entirely on linux ?

The ones I found were talking mostly of Objective C development for other platforms, not on other platforms. Being pretty much 100% linux-only, I do not feel like purchasing the Mac just for toying around. (And maybe this kind of service "in the cloud" could be for me - but would be curious if one can do it on linux).

I think there is a difference between "effectiveness of the tool in general" vs. "effectiveness of a tool for the particular purpose".

Pliers are a fantastic tool. You can even put the screws in with it. But it is a very poor tool for putting in the nails. Arguably it is merely a consequence of a business decision to have nails the way they are. For that you need a hammer.

Therefore I believe the parent analogy makes perfect sense. If you wanna write iPhone apps, get the tool that does the job. At this point in time this is a Mac. Linux/Windows is a fantastic tool, but for making iPhone apps it is rather useless.

I don't get your point. OK, a Linux desktop is normally useless to make iPhone apps. But this thread is about a tool that allows you to you use your Linux desktop to make iPhone apps. I was disagreeing with a comment implying that somehow you must have a physical Mac to make iPhone apps.

My point was: "can" != "should". At least not in case of serious development.

For myself - I'd probably consider using this to tinker with XCode and see if maybe I should get myself a Mac if I get into iP(hone|ad) app development beyond trying to compile "Hello world".

Anyway, having Linux as my only OS for circa 8 last years (minus some powerpoint operating system use due to practical constraints @work), I would be curious if you have any experience developing for iPhone/iPad on Linux/Windows that you can share.

But the OS isn't the tool: the project-building, code-compiling apps are the tools.

Wire cutters cost a couple bucks. A decent Mac you could use for development is a bit more expensive.

Replying to delinka here because I can't reply directly:

It's very sad that there should be any kind of pay wall behind tinkering with your mobile phone. I get that if you intend on making an app that's going to earn you millions then buying a Mac is small change. But what if you're just starting out, and are curious about how to go about making iOS apps?

It's a real disappointment that anyone would think attaching a $1,000 price tag to programming is a good thing.

The cost is not relevant to my point. If you want to start a courier service in a fairly large area, motorized vehicles are a bit more expensive than a Mac.

Can't afford the tools? Find another line of work.

I don't see how the fact that I don't want to pay for a specific set of tools (a mac machine) prevents me from being interested in alternative tools.

In the case of iOS development, alternative tools have their own cost: effort to set up and maintain. Akin to how most operating systems besides Windows take additional effort to set up on that new Dell. If you can afford this extra effort (i.e. have the patience to work through the quirks), then you're welcome to it. Complaining about needing to obtain a Mac to gain the convenience of Apple's development environment is pointless.

Oh, I agree on that. My point is that it's my own decision to choose what works best for me. I was more reacting on your "find another line of work".

It's the artificial limitation that drives everyone crazy.

It's the difference between having to buy a van to start a courier service, and having to buy a BMW because someone says you have to. I understand the necessity of having to own a van to run my business, but why do I have to pay extra for one that has no extra capability?

I did mobile dev for a living. Cross compiling across architectures and OSes is part and parcel to the beast. The fact that Apple won't let you is an artificial restriction.

The cost certainly is relevant. You can lease or rent a cube van. You can't rent $10 tools.

One can also lease computers. Including Macs.


The price of leasing a Mac Mini from Apple is $25 per month ($34 with more RAM, but that would be silly to pay for). Much cheaper than the model of renting a virtual machine, plus works with your local devices. The only problem is, Apple Business leasing has a minimum order.

Of course, if you can't stand Objective-C and want to stop, the virtual machine gives you a simpler path to quitting.

Actually, it's more like being an electrician and wanting to work on a particular job, but having to buy a very specific, very expensive tool just for that job. I'd like to dabble in iOS development but I've already paid a decent amount of money to buy a machine that does any other programming work I need, so I don't want to spend another £1000 - £1500 just to experiment, and I wouldn't use the Mac for anything else.

It's very common to hire tools, particularly expensive ones that you don't use very much.

Does it seem weird to anyone else that it requires a connection speed of 1 megabyte (not megabit) per second? Also no contact information? No mailing address?

Edit: By requiring 1 megabyte per second you're technically requiring the same data rate that you would need to stream dvd video. Requiring that data rate seems more consistent with the VNC protocol and not RDP.

The pay system should be "pay as you go". Obviously, the daytime hours are going to be more expensive, and they can easily chart it out. Kind of like how toll bridges scale their cost based on traffic: http://wstc.wa.gov/highwaytolling/SR520Bridge.htm

Awesome service. Way to complex pricing. Make the user choose between two choices. Plan A: limited to X hours/day, Plan B: unlimited usage.

Price each accordingly to achieve the desired outcome. My bet is, the actual usage of "unlimited" users will be similar to users of the limited plan, with a few outliers.

A simple "help me choose a plan" type of wizard would definitely help strip the complexity of the pricing to the buying process.

The customer base seems to be people who do not own a mac , but would like to spend some time on one. this is truly a fleeting and shrinking population. Think about this...on a macro scale, if mac's marketshare goes up, your user base goes down. if the share goes down, then your service is irrelevant. there are plenty of virtualization/remote solutions out there. some as a resource addendum ( aws) and some for variable platforms ( deviceanywhere-for phones). aws - cause an individual developer cannot own such resources ;deviceanywhere-cause the phones and their os platforms change at a rapid pace. where does your service fit in this landscape? i can see your product being used by offshore dev teams , but still paid for by US companies. that again is an even smaller market.

Personally, I would use it. I don't feel like shelling $600 for a Mac, I but I would shell $20/month for 6 months and get some work done. Time value of money is worth a lot.

The pricing turns me off however. Keep it simple with free month trial and simple monthly dues after that based off of hours/day. Why do I have to pick a specific time zone? Why do I have to pick a specific time to develop? I understand the need to scale I suppose but, really, forcing users into one time zone doesn't quite help scale if they all pick the same one.

I saw this service before I purchased my Mac Mini for iOS development.

I opted out because tho it was more affordable and would probably fit my needs, I just didn't want my code on someone else's mac somewhere in the world.

So, tho this seems pretty suitable for development, there are probably a lot of developers like me who like to keep their code in their own hands.

I appreciate the notion, but the massive success of github's private repositories (which of course are stored on their servers) would suggest otherwise.

If you buy a used mac and end up not liking iOS/Mac development you can most likely sell it for the same amount that you bought it for.

If you're renting time on a mac like it's AOL back in the '90s you're almost certainly losing out in both the short and long terms.

Very interesting technology. The problem I see with this is that the product is directly competing with Macs.

For instance, at the high end of Rent-a-Mac you will be paying $49 a month or around $600 a year. In this case it would make more sense to buy a mac mini for $600 which will no doubt perform much better than a virtualization.

I think there is probably a pricing model for this type of service, however I'm guessing it would be geared toward large groups (companies) that don't want to invest in buying 20-50 new Macs. It would need to be much much cheaper than the current model or most companies will choose to just buy new Macs especially because they can get a tax write off for new equipment.

Good idea but there is just so much text in there. It makes it seem too complex.

Just have a look at the "getting started page" http://www.macincloud.com/getting-started

Nicely done! We have just launched a similar concept for Windows desktops at leostreamdesktops.com.

I think the growth of tablets is really going to drive the cloud desktop market as people switch to tablets as their primary access device.

Check out a company called Aqua Connect for a similar concept. Except that you purchase the server software for your Mac. Also uses RDP.

Edit: I do not work for this company and have not used their product.

With the way that apple computers hold their value, I'm surprised that there aren't physical leasing systems from third parties. $30/mo on a mini, $45 on a low-end air seems doable.

As an iOS Developer, what I could see the value in was getting access to older development version of Xcode/iOS SDK for short periods of time. 30-60 minutes at most. I'd pay a small amount for that.

Another opportunity is for academic classes to teach iOS Development. It's cost prohibitive right now, but it's something to look into to.

The problem is that I don't see the business being one that has long term clients. If anyone is developing for more than 4 months, they'd probably have obtained a machine by then.

Has this been done before? If not, then why not? With all of the available services like this for Windows and Linux, why not Mac? Is there some sort of license fee or restriction that makes this type of service difficult to profit from? I'm just trying to figure out why I have not seen more of this type of service for Mac, especially with the large number of responses to this that seem to be really interested in it.

Licensing I think. IIRC, Previous versions of os x did not allow virtualization. Lion does not have this restriction.

What a novel idea. I have many friends without Macs who would be interested in this. (I am a little curious about the logistics though.)

I have an overseas developer (with a mac), but that wants to test xcode/ios simulator and have the location services work in the US as it does for a US-based developer. Are the servers in the US, or is this configured such that the ios simulator thinks its in the US (and if so, what location?)

If your developer needs to be somewhere physically to test location services, he's not very good at researching alternative solutions:


Thanks coob. This was my requirement on a testing scenario to ensure my app is working correctly with Core Location, and my app is U.S. locations only right now. He's in Europe and he used a different 'fake location' work around (BTW, thanks on your link!), which is nice generally speaking to test app, except when the point of the test is to make sure everything OK with Core Location against my U.S. service data. While he can remotely use a mac on my network for this test, my question is to explore if this is viable option in place of that.

Ah finally. I was wondering why not more people would come with this. I need this so often. Thanks guys :)

Your screenshots show an out-of-date version of Xcode. Hopefully that's not the only version you're providing.

What is the "2-Hour Daily Minimum" on the weekly plan or the "3-Hour Daily Minimum" on the monthly plan? Does the customer not have it for the full week or month?

Is there a similar WinInCloud, where you're able to easily rent a windows pc in the cloud? Needs backup, automatic upgrades and web interface. I know WMWare and others do this for enterprise customers all the time, but I am a private customers.

I've been considering something like this for outsources who don't have access to macs.

Anyone tried them? What the interaction lag/jitter is like?

(edit) Also, it seems there might be an issue with using their Macs for developing commercial software. Who knows where the contents of these Macs will end up being copied or backed up.

So how did they work this out, licensing-wise? AFAIK, MOSX is only allowed to run on Apple HW to be license compliant. Did they develop their own VM or are they using something like ESXi 5 for the virtualization on Apple HW?

It's a real Mac. From their FAQ:

> Am I renting a real Mac?

> Absolutely! We use only authentic Mac computers made by Apple. We do not use any virtualization or sandbox technology to synthesize the Mac experience.

Thanks for that.

Too bad they don't support Linux as a client. Wonder if they're using VNC?

Neat. This will allow my team in India to develop without using logmein.

Logemin is free though, isn't it?

Arguments for/against this service miss one other notable point: development anywhere anytime. Pull out your iPhone or iPad (heck, even a $200 iPod Touch given open WiFi) and work away.

I'm looking for a good solution for continuous integration of OS X/iOS builds. By the looks of these comments, this isn't it. Does anyone have more worthy suggestions?

I'm launching such specific solution – http://hosted-ci.com/

Mac Mini off of Craigslist is a good bet.

Buy a Mac Mini.

Hopefully this includes alternate versions of OSX for testing purposes? Then I can really see this being useful. Running a bunch of versions is hard / expensive.

Cool for people who want to try things out / test on macs, but complicated pricing and hassle of key management would put me off using this as a real dev platform.

Has anybody been able to register? I signed up with my email/password and now it says to use username to login , which wasn't even in the registration form :/

How exactly do you try the app that you built on the device if it's running in a remote VM? Does it somehow remote-map the usb port?

Interesting idea. I wonder how the UI would feel, though, given the considering amount of compositing that Mac OS X uses.

It's going to composite everything into a buffer on the Mac just as quickly as normal. Transmitting that buffer across the Internet is going to run into lag. It will be anything from a minor annoying delay to a completely unusable lag. You probably aren't going to do gaming or videos (or Quartz Composer, etc) on your remote Mac.

you should fix the free trial flow. i just signed up to try it out. the first obvious thing is that you ask for my email but the login form asks for a "username", which is my email, but it is confusing.

the important bit, though: after signing up i have to open a support ticket to get started? that's where you lost me.

This is the least expensive service of its kind, and yeah there are a few too many options for times, but it is a great idea to limit it to X hours and provide a cheaper monthly rate. The closest competitor is much, much more expensive. I don't have the money to buy a decent Mac, and I really need to set my new web software system up to run on OSX.

Interesting concept/idea but a business model? Really theres a demand?

What kind of Mac developer wouldn't just get a mac?

I've never owned a mac before, never really had the inclination, but have been curious about developing on the platform.

This is the perfect kind of solution (albeit poor pricing plan) that would allow me to give things a try before I commit to buying the hardware.

I see this kind of service targeted at folks like myself who are interested in making the leap and obviously not for people who might consider themselves Mac Developers (tm).

Someone who doesn't have $1,500?

Edit: Well a Mac Mini is $600 (with no monitor), but still... if you could rent a virtual Mac for $20/month that's still over two years before you're money ahead.

Also, someone who lives in a country that is not loved by Apple.

Here in central Europe, a Mac Mini goes for 1200$ without a monitor, and that's in the cheapest online store (where you will have to wait for over a week for it, as they do not have them in stock).

Also, since there are no Apple stores, repairs and warranty in general is a pain to deal with.

Considering these circumstances, a "Mac in a cloud" seems appealing, especially if you need it just as a testbed.

Most EU Apple online stores have them in stock for €599 with free shipping.


That's about 850USD. Where are you being charged $1200?

Ship to a USA service that ships to your country. Apple has free US shipping, and DHL costs around $120 from US to Africa (Tunisia, I think EU will have the same price).

You'd be likely to hit import taxes on that.

Are import taxes of 100% ((1200 - 600) / 600) realistic?

They are in Argentina. If you are lucky enough that they will actually allow you to receive the package at all. Just try to buy a Kindle, once it reaches customs they keep it there and there is basically nothing you can do about it.

yes, in many countries. plus there's a significant chance your electronics will get "lost"...

You can buy used imac or mac mini at around $300. Even 5 year old late 2006 imac, which I got from one of my friends for free, can install Lion and be used for iPhone app development.

I believe lots of iOS/OSX app developers want to make money out of the apps they are planning to develop. So why would someone just not invest money on a computer (which is a really good and hi-quality) machine imho) that is going to make them earn money?

I suppose it's primarily useful for people that develop cross-platform applications and want to test/develop on a Mac as well. Sure, if the Mac is your primary platform then it makes little sense not to buy one.

have you not been reading? not everybody is an ios/osx dev. web devs need to test on macs sometimes.

Someone porting their software to OSX/iOS, who doesn't need another computer in the house? In other words: plenty of people will find this useful.

A good example is a site I do work on that seems to have very occasional problems with uploadify only on Macs. I can't recreate on any win-based browser, don't have access to a Mac and really don't want to have to buy yet another computer just for this very occasional bug.

I don't own a mac (never have probably never will) but I find this service to be awesome! I don't even need to sign up for a year - rent one for a couple of months is all I'd need.



You can even develop on an older PowerPC which is what I did years ago when I wasn't sure I was going to like Xcode. It is an amazingly simple change to the installer script and simulator settings. I paid short money for an 04 iBook, did some coding and eventually upgraded. My girl inherited the iBook and its still runs like a champ.


hahaha, the existence of this service... are macs expensive? How expensive are they really? "Yo a desktop mac is so expensive there's this service to give DEVELOPERS (knowledge workers) access to one on TIMESHARE." Like real estate.

And then you could rent another max from that mac. How deep can you go?

So what kind of "developer" can't afford a computer of their own?

I am a developer, I can't afford a Mac (and thus have never learned iOS). Are you suggesting that I should be able to afford any sort of computer?

Should offer a boot CD iso that works in recent x86 devices with as many NICs and wireless adapters as possible, and support all inputs on almost all x86 PCs, and most display adapters, then I might use it as a virtual Hackintosh on my underpowered x100e netbook.

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