PC box assemblers try to mimic Apple hardware designs, but have no answers for Mac OS X, iLife, etc.

“PC makers have begun a radical overhaul of their machines’ appearance. They’re racing to replace boring boxes with sexy silhouettes that will differentiate their products, entice new buyers and command higher prices,” Robert A. Guth, Justin Scheck, and Don Clark report for The Wall Street Journal.

“In the process, they’re hoping to compensate for factors over which they have little control, such as software options. Unlike Apple, famous for its easy-to-use operating system and other original programs, PC makers largely rely on Microsoft Corp. for the underlying software. And that company’s latest version of Windows, called Vista, has been panned by some reviewers, despite healthy sales,” Guth, Scheck, and Clark report.

MacDailyNews Take: We couldn’t have written that little paragraph much better ourselves except to point out that Vista’s “healthy sales” are due to its being preloaded on most new PCs. Buyers are stuck with it by default. They certainly aren’t buying boxed copies of Microsoft’s latest mess. The dime-a-dozen PC box assemblers made their beds, now they have to lie in them. Microsoft’s Windows is the albatross around their necks.

Guth, Scheck, and Clark continue, “PC makers need new ways to spur consumer demand in the U.S. and other mature markets. By wooing buyers who care little about technical features, they hope to better tailor PCs to specific users — including women, students, PC gamers and sports fans.”

“‘It’s a very dangerous route to go,’ says Sohrab Vossoughi, founder and president of Ziba Design, which has designed PC prototypes for Intel. ‘Things go up, and things go down.’ A possible pitfall, notes Mr. Vossoughi, is misinterpreting the lessons of Apple’s success, which is hardly based on design alone. Rather, Apple’s forte has been to create synergies among its hardware, software and retail stores in order to make its cool machines more au courant and simpler to use,” Guth, Scheck, and Clark report.

MacDailyNews Take: Today is “French Day.”

“During most of the industry’s 30-year history, PC makers didn’t worry much about style… the biggest change agent was Apple’s iMac, introduced in May 1998. The unusual one-piece design, in its first iteration, sported a colorful casing in translucent turquoise and gray. The computer sold so well that competitors scrambled to improve their own designs,” Guth, Scheck, and Clark report.

“Apple’s Steve Jobs, who in the prior year had returned to lead the company he co-founded, kept conjuring up design breakthroughs. The iMac, for example, slimmed down as cathode-ray monitors gave way to flat-panel displays. With better prices and profit margins than its competitors, Apple can simply pay suppliers for design changes such as shrinking a circuit board, says Patrick Gelsinger, an Intel senior vice president who has spearheaded its design crusade,” Guth, Scheck, and Clark report.

“The company in 2001 elevated the utilitarian laptop with a PowerBook model clad entirely in titanium, a metal more frequently found in fighter airplanes. That same year, it introduced the first iPod, which transformed digital music players with features such as its smooth shape and DJ-like wheel for navigating through songs. Along the way, it made white cords a staple of the new tech-chic,” Guth, Scheck, and Clark report.

“Will more-engaging designs pay off? The numbers from Apple are encouraging; for the quarter ended Sept. 29, the Cupertino, Calif., company says Macintosh sales rose 34%, more than double the world-wide PC growth rate of 15.5%,” Guth, Scheck, and Clark report.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Citymark” for the heads up.]

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: They can try (and fail) to match Apple designer Jonathan Ive’s award-winning team all they want, but, as Mac users know and the general population is finally picking up on, it’s the inside that really counts. PC box assemblers’ OS-limited machines cannot offer Mac OS X, iLife and all of the rest of Apple’s often-best-in-class applications. A chrome-plated turd is still a turd. Only Apple Macs are OS-unlimited and capable of running all of the world’s software.


  1. A perfect example is the gateway one. What is that? It looks huge, I’d rather have a more traditional 2 box design. The iMac has a bit of a chin, but the one is ridiculous. Other companies only ever try and copy small elements of Apple’s overall philosophy, as a result they end up with poor approximations which ape certain generalities of Apple products whilst retaining the same old shit elsewhere on the system.

    Irrespective of what they build, the bottom line remains that they’re stuck with Windows, what they can do is limited by what Windows can do. If Apple want to add something they can just do it.

  2. It’s funny that my office supply store Vista rack is full of empty plastic boxes to make it look like they stock 40 copies, when in fact, they probably only stock 1 in the back to see if it sells.

  3. This is great news across the board for Apple. All of these custom PCs are more expensive than their beige box counterparts, and help to prove that a Mac is not an expensive option anymore.

  4. From the slideshow:

    “Hewlett-Packard Co., which leads the PC industry in global sales, has notebooks embossed with dragons in silver and black.”

    Is that to give them more credibility when the battery explodes with fire?

  5. Vista is definitely the lynch pin when comes to PC manufacturers. I love my MBP and Mac Pro but in all fairness have seen some decent hardware from other companies (HP comes to mind) Lets all hope that 2008 will offer more choices regarding a pre-installed OS (Linux) after all, competition is good for everyone.

  6. this has been a long time coming. Every mac user knew it was really only a matter of time before people started to realize that macs and OSX were superior to windows. The issue is not as much design as it is windows. Yes the franken-box builders can slightly benefit from more slick hardware but in the end they are all tied to windows…. and if thats not an anchor around the neck of all box makers I dont know what is. I bet linux is gonna get a much bigger boost by them in the new 2 years.. they have no where else to turn.

  7. It would be nice if MDN found a better horn for its “call to battle” than the rather tired “OS-limited” rube. Sure, I use OSX – just managed the three-day update to Leopard on my wife’s AliMac. But there really isn’t THAT much an up-to-date Mac can do that an up-to-date and well-configured Linux box cannot match. Well, OK, there IS the ease-of-use business and the ease-of-configuration stuff – both in the Mac’s favor – but those things aren’t precisely TASKS. And the Linux system is nearly as malware-free and as crash-free as a Mac. A bright, technically-adept user might well take issue with the Mac’s “OS-unlimited” tag as being “real”.
    BTW: I’m sure I could have updated my wife’s AliMac in a single day, had she been home and hovering over me issuing pointy comments. A single 36-hour day, maybe. And then, only because I had another Mac to browse the web with. The first couple of attempts left me DOA and the “successful” one left me unable to log in. THEN I had to deal with a hyper-active fan and its noise – YES, the AliMac has a truly sufficient fan inside and it can rev-up a storm if called upon to do so.
    Now all I need to do is figure out how to attach to the NAS on our LAN. Anyone have any useful ideas?

  8. “But there really isn’t THAT much an up-to-date Mac can do that an up-to-date and well-configured Linux box cannot match”

    spoken like someone who has never tried to upgrade a linux install and then get everything back to the way you want it……

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