Apple has used security chips embedded in development PCs to prevent users from running OSX on any hardware but its own.

Apple has not confirmed whether the Trusted Platform Modules (TPMs) will turn up in Intel-Apple computers to be sold to the public, but if it does, Apple’s operating system will not run on any machine lacking a chip with the correct encrypted signature.

In principle, the only freedom under such a configuration would be to run other operating systems on Apple’s computer. OSX users will be tied to Apple’s hardware, and possibly even the specific PC they purchased.

The company has a number of motivations. While the operating system is being developed, it gives it some control over who tests the software and on what hardware. Plus, longer term, it will stop Apple’s OS being pirated or run on third-party hardware, something commentators have speculated on since the company’s announcement earlier in the year that it was moving to Intel.

If you want Apple’s prized OSX, you’ll have to buy an Apple PC. It will no doubt look a lot slicker than the typical PC box - not exactly difficult - but its insides will be much the same.

The use of TPM in PCs was supposed to be a means of adding a layer of data protection, especially valuable to business users. That it has turned out to have a copy protection application as well is perhaps not surprising.

The claim about the chip first surfaced in a CNet story, which received the inside information from an unnamed developer.

Apple’s new line of Intel-based computers is due to go on sale in the middle of next year.