If you talk to any of the major PC OEMs off the record about Microsoft you'll get the same response: they are frustrated. They are frustrated that the Vista launch went the way it did, they are frustrated with Microsoft's lack of action in addressing major issues that exist today and they are frustrated that the most innovative player in the PC space right now happens to be Apple.

Microsoft's answer to any present day complaints from the major OEMs about Vista is to wait for Windows 7, but by now these manufacturers have heard this before. After all, when the OEMs first started to feel the heat from Apple and OS X, Microsoft said to wait for Vista.

When the major players first started asking me what they should be doing from a design standpoint I kept pointing them to Apple. Apple had the blueprints to successful product design available for purchase; anyone at Dell, HP or Gateway could easily pickup a MacBook and figure out a way to make something at least remotely competitive. The problem that plagues the Dells of the world however is that they don't control the software stack the way Apple does, they are still at Microsoft's mercy.

These PC OEMs could either wait for Microsoft to deliver with Windows 7 and hope that it will be enough to compete with Apple, or begin to try and solve the problem themselves. ASUS is actually a great example of where these OEMs are headed; while the Eee PC and Eee Box are available with Windows XP, Linux is also offered at a lower price point. Going one step further, before you ever boot into Windows on many ASUS motherboards you have the option of launching Splashtop for quicker access to IM, the web or Skype. While these are mostly unpolished attempts at freeing OEMs from being Microsoft dependent, this is just a starting point. I'm not suggesting that PCs in the future will be completely devoid of Microsoft software, there will simply be another option.

HP noticed this same Microsoft dependency issue, just like the rest of the PC OEMs and over the coming years you're going to see companies like HP and Dell become more like Apple, offering systems as complete packages of hardware and software solutions. We'll see broader adoption of Linux and open source software and finally some out of the box thinking.

HP held an event last month in San Francisco to demonstrate a myriad of new products, some of which are clear indications of this new Apple-like focus.

The New Voodoo

Under two years ago HP acquired Voodoo PC, a boutique PC manufacturer that built mostly high end gaming PCs. A few days ago, the existing Voodoo PC site started burning down - signifying a dramatic change in the HP/Voodoo relationship.

It's the new Voodoo

Many were worried that after the acquisition, HP would simply corporatize Voodoo and the brand would be lost forever. If anything, Voodoo has had more of an impact on HP than the opposite. While we still get the impression that Voodoo must fight to continue to operate the way it wants to (which is to be expected in any large corporation), so far the results aren't anything to complain about.

Going forward, the HP/Voodoo relationship is going to work as follows:

Gaming PCs will be built by HP under the brand "HP with Voodoo DNA". The first of these machines was the Blackbird 002 and I'm told that we can expect much more with the Voodoo DNA brand in the coming months and years. One eventual goal being to bring some of the Blackbird experience down to much more reasonable price points.

The Voodoo brand will stop servicing gamers specifically and turn into much more of a lifestyle brand. The focus of Voodoo will be building the sort of out of the box designs that we commonly look to Apple for. The fact that the most innovative PC maker is Apple spells trouble for the Dells and HPs of the world; Voodoo is attempting to change that, at least a little.

The first products out of the new Voodoo are the Envy 133 and the new Omen.

The Most Mac-Like PC Notebook Ever Made: The Envy 133
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  • shady28 - Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - link

    A mac it isn't.

    The biggest problem I find from companies like HP is all the crapware that they load on their machines.

    This touchsmart software is destined to become more crapware. How many times have you seen some interesting somewhat useful proprietary software that a hardware manufacturer like HP loads onto a computer become garbage that needs to be removed within a year or so?

    They have a real neat software package that works on this one computer. In 1 - 2 years, it'll be unsupported garbage. At some point, MS will do something to break it and whatever time / effort the user put into learning and using it will be wasted.

    The fundamental difference here between Apple and HP is that Apple makes the OS AND the hardware. When they roll something out, it's supported within the OS for a long long time - it is not destined to become crapware. Witness iMovie, iPhoto, GarageBand. I've seen plenty of PCs with 'equivalent' software pre-loaded, but ultimately it becomes crapware because they have no intention of using it to do anything but sell that particular season's PC models. Incompatibilities arise, and it becomes buggy and unreliable.

    Then there is the 'crippleware' that's often included - unsupported scaled down 3rd party software. Want to get it supported and make sure it keeps working with each new MS patch? Get out your wallet. Hundreds of dollars for software if you want to get all the full versions buddy.

    What's killing MS and these PC makers isn't Windows itself, its the model that Apple has where the hardware / software is all integrated, supported, and tested by a single company that they can't beat.
  • joey2264 - Friday, June 13, 2008 - link

    The bias is dripping! I expect that from MSM like NYT or Washington Post, but this is Anandtech. If I see another article so unbelievably biased against Windows and towards Apple, I will remove my bookmark from this site and not visit here unless directed by a source like Engadget. I suspect I won't be alone.
  • michael2k - Friday, June 13, 2008 - link

    What is the problem? Windows has 90% of the market-is there some reason you are so affronted when #2 makes better products?

    Do you think AMD shouldn't get good press for it's innovations? How about the XBox 360 or the Zune?
  • eraigames - Friday, June 13, 2008 - link

    My friend succumbed to the Apple hype and bought one of their laptops because it was so small and cute. I had brought over my Dell laptop which despite its faults cost half what my friend’s mac did, performs better and has more usb ports. While using his laptop he kept complaining about what a pain in the ass it was to use the mac OS. Despite Apple’s minor advances by switching to Intel, their hardware is still proprietary, slower than the competition and overly expensive but their greatest fault is their horrible software. Sure the mac OS has some visual fluff but it is just that: fluff. Has anybody actually tried zipping around the mac OS and multitasking? Impossible. Despite the fact that computers are tools to be used, macs are obviously not designed with the user in mind. Apple products have always been and continue to be about one thing only: fashion. What was it that sold all those ipods? Was it because they were such wonderfuls piece of engineering? NO, it was because of all those silhouette ads that branded the ipod as a trendy fashion statement. Anyone who’s ever used an ipod knows what a pain that stupid circle button is and how tedious scrolling through long lists can be. -Never mind the horror that is itunes… The new Ipod Touch is a step in the right direction but even then most people only bought it because it’s cute and it looks like the new iphone they wish they had.
  • Mogget - Friday, June 13, 2008 - link

    You quite clearly haven't the faintest clue what you're talking about. Take this (out of any sentence -- I commend you for being so consistently wrong):

    Has anybody actually tried zipping around the mac OS and multitasking? Impossible.

    This is beneath even sarcasm. Multitasking on OSX is ludicrously easy. Spaces (http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/spaces.html)">http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/spaces.html) makes having many apps open at once simple to manage, and swtching between them takes no time at all. Please refrain from making sweeping statements based on you incompetence with (and no doubt minimal exposure to) the OS in question.

    There are plenty of valid reasons for critcising Apple, so please use them instead of spouting garbage.
  • wvh - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    My girlfriend bought a portable recently. She's not a "technical" computer user, unlike me. She just didn't want anything with Microsoft Windows on it. There is no way of getting a laptop in Europe from any major manufacturer that doesn't come with Windows. It's bloody disgusting. The one alternative option we could find, was a bit too geek oriented.

    So she spent a bit more than she was planning for and bought a MacBook Pro... Just because it wasn't Microsoft.

    I've never tried Windows Vista, but especially on laptops and small form factor devices, there are much better options. The biggest issue that was holding back Linux was support from hardware manufacturers. If manufacturers start designing their system and hardware with Linux in mind, just like Apple does, Microsoft will get a serious beating. If you need to buy a new computer just because of the operating system, there's something wrong.

    I can't wait for Microsoft to loose its stranglehold on the industry.
  • sprockkets - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    Let apple open up the OS to other manufacturers, and see what the first step they would do. It is easy: they will undercut Apple on price every time. Then they will offer machines that are plain clones, offer off shore support, since the machines are so cheap.

    Now, what do you think will happen? If people really like OSX, then they will buy it cheap on other machines. Then apple will be forced to go cheap and skimp on their support and design. Hell, maybe they will be pressed to stop advertising their products on 4 different times and channels a day (the mac book air commercial aired each day during The Daily Show).

    Obviously, Apple does not want their crap being sold as a commodity. They want the supply to be small. While keeping complete control over the hardware and software is a valid reason, it isn't the only one.

    And that is what happened to the pc market at the turn of the century. Everyone stopped offering a pc with distinctive features and designs, and started making the same old computer.

    And why? One reason could be that emachines with their "What the hell? A $400 PC? Wow I'll buy!" forced everyone to go cheap. Of course, everyone who bought one found out you got what you paid for.

  • tbcpp - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    But under all the fluff, it's still MS Vista crap. A turd with whipped cream on it doesn't make it any more palatable.
  • AssBall - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    I beg to differ. It slides right down with less fuss, and tastes better.
  • Focher - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    Why do I often sense that those who launch into anti-Apple diatribes actually have no direct experience with their products? They hang their opinions on false premises like "Apple products cost more" which is patently untrue. Take a comparably equipped Apple computer and compare it to any other major vendor and you get only minor price differences.

    If you don't want to buy a particular brand or product, that's fine. If you don't feel that you get the value from a particular brand or product versus another, fine. But do us a favor and if you've never used the product just spare us the opinion.

    I use XP, Vista, various flavors of Linux, and OS X on a regular basis. Vista is, as MS's latest offering of cutting edge, a pathetic OS. Yeah, it works ok but it's practically the first major OS MS has released that is not even somewhat better than its last one. It provides nothing new of significant benefit to a user while forcing a user to endure layers upon layer of bad architecture and user interface design. To claim that MS's OS offering is not a fundamental cause of the lack of interest in PCs seems a silly proposition. After all, Apple's sales are doing quite well. What's the difference between the two markets?

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