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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  • BikeDude - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    [quote]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.[/quote]

    Is this provided as an example of an ignorant opinion, or do you have anything to back up your statement?

    FWIW: I spend most of my keyboard time on a MacBook Pro, running Vista64. Best of both worlds as far as I am concerned.

    Sure, Vista64 has "problems" running some crappy antivirus products, but that's due to proper OS design. MS finally had the balls to tighten an old security hole now that there was no point in being backward compatible with old drivers (because old 32-bit drivers won't work anyway).

    Apart from that I haven't noticed much issues with Vista. I've disabled services I don't need or want, just like I did with Windows XP and 2003 (2003 Server was noticably easier in that regard though -- less stuff running by default).

    Oh, I've had driver issues like everybody else, but that is hardly MS' fault. It is not as if Vista shipped ahead of schedule and surprised all the OEMs. Creative Labs et al had _plenty_ of time to get prepared, but instead chose to stick their head up their ass instead.
  • MalodorousYeti - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    Err, I'm going to have to politely disagree with your "minor price differences" comment.
    I've recently been shopping for a notebook to take to college with me and replace my desktop, and I was very keen on the MacBook Pro. I mean, its stylish elegance and great features makes it a perfect candidate, not to mention that it comes with Leopard, which is a very fine OS.
    I configured the MBP in the Apple Store for Education so I could receive the hefty $200 discount. The total for my base-level MBP was still $1800, which was, sadly, too much seeing as how I had a $1500 budget to work with.
    I began to look for other premium laptop models and wandered across the Dell XPS m1530. I like the way it looks, too: the notebook is stylish, but in a different way than the Macbook Pro. I configured the m1530 with the same exact specs as the MBP had, LED screen and all., and the total came to $1600 without any discounts. $200 may not seem like much, but as a student who will be attending full-time at college and paying for it, I think it's a lot.
    To add to the price gap between the two, I used a 25% off coupon and effectively lowered the XPS's price to $1200, literally 2/3 the price of the "comparably equipped" MacBook. That's when I stopped considering the Mac altogether. Still, it was the more stylish of the two (but $600 for style is a little steep, and though the Envy 133 is probably the most beautiful ultraportable I've ever seen, I wouldn't shell out 2 grand for sexy).
    Anyways, that's just my two cents.
  • batu - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    looks nice. i cant understand the choice of font for the keyboard though. the X, H and K keys look virtually identical.

    a ps regarding HP keyboards:
    I wonder if HP will continue to burden the majority of their Canadian customers by only offering bilingual french keyboards for most of their laptop line...i refuse to buy HP laptops with keyboards designed for french. the enter and shift keys are moved and made smaller and the keys are also made busy and harder to read with accent markings. Why doesn't HP do the same to the USA, where a far greater percentage of the population also use accent keys?
  • Barack Obama - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    That laptop looks so good! So expensive but:(
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    "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."

    I can not say I agree with 'Apple is the most innovative player in the PC space right now". Anyone can make ultra portable PC fit in a tissue box using laptop hardware, or an OS run seemingly very well on a very limited hardware selection. HOWEVER, since Microsoft is not the only player in the 'reverse' side of this statement, they are not the only one to blame, and finger pointing just makes the 'pointer' look stupid.

    While I will concede that the Vista launch *could* have gone better, you have to admit that a good portion of that probably had to do with user error. The 'Vista Ready' fiasco with certain laptops etc could have easily been avoided if the two parties involved had stronger communications between each other, or *if* a certain *cough* company *cough* did not try and bully Microsoft into lowering their driver certifications for AERO, forcing Microsoft to take the media coverage heat. But hey . ..we all know everything is Microsofts fault, even if we're too lazy to get off our butts and do something about it.

    Anyhow, I would have to say that Microsoft has been at least as innovative as Apple, and probably far surpassing Apple where software is concerned. That while supporting a vastly larger list of hardware components on their OS. That said Microsoft is far from perfect, and neither is Windows, but you name me an OS that is perfect, and I'll try to keep from laughing . . .
  • michael2k - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    If it is so easy to make a proprietary system explain the lack of success for the XBox or the reliability issues for the XBox 360?

    Microsoft has a pervasive culture that lacks quality and perfectionism.

    If anybody could make a ultraportable PC fit in a tissue box... why didn't they until after Apple released the Mac mini? Or the MacBook Air? Prior to the mini, there were only Shuttle sized cases (which, come to think of it, were only released after Apple made the G4 Cube!)

    It's hard to call Microsoft innovative: Zune after the success of the iPod, XBox after the success of the PS2, Live after the success of Google, Marketplace after the success of iTunes Store, etc.

    On the software side, all they have is Windows, IE, Office, MS-SQL, and devtools. Apple at least has OS X, iWork, iLife, Aperture, Final Cut Studio, .Mac/MobileMe, XCode, and Safari.
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    You sir need to pull your head out of that Mac of yours, and take a good long whiff of reality.

    By the way, Creative made an MP3 player FOR THE PC long before Apple had a clue of what may be the iPOD, and this was not even the first 'DAP' made. The first DAP was made in 1997, a full 4 years before the ipod made it to market. Guess what, the software was written for Windows 9x.

    MSN was created in august 1995 LONG before google, or the iTunes store."Microsoft Network" in case you're confused.

    mini ITX was conceived on or just before march 2001, the first motherboard was pushed out by VIA in april of 2002. the Mac Mini G4 was announced January 11 2005 . . .

    OSX has it's root heavily tied in BSD.

    Starting to see a trend here ?

    At some point, I think it is safe to say that very few in the market today are truly original, but Microsoft has shaped the future a bit, and what has Apple done ? They've ported their OS to x86 hardware . . .
  • michael2k - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    I never said Apple invented the MP3 market, so bringing Creative into the conversation is irrelevant.

    MSN, in 1995, was also just a portal and service provider(just like AOL) and cannot be compared to either Google or iTunes store: Google was a search engine in 1998 while MSN search was unveiled in 1999. iTunes store was first iTunes music store in 2003, while the MSN Music site didn't go live until 2004.

    If miniITX was available until 2002, the Apple G4 Cube was on sale in 2000.

    So what is your point? My point is this: Microsoft is not innovative, but derivative (copying, in other words). Apple IS innovative, and derivative (inventing and copying).
  • ElFindo - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    Lets make a quick list:

    1) "Google was a search engine in 1998 while MSN search was unveiled in 1999"


    Quickly scrolling through the article will reveal:
    "MSN Search first launched in the fall of 1998".

    2) "iTunes store was first iTunes music store in 2003" (assuming you meant first online store)


    "In 2000 Sony... available for sale on the internet... pricing of US$3.50 per song track".

    3) "the Apple G4 Cube was on sale in 2000"


    "The NeXT Computer and NeXTcube were high-end workstation computers developed, manufactured and sold by NeXT from 1988 until 1993."
    "packaged in a 1-foot (305 mm) die-cast magnesium cube-shaped case"

    Now I'm not saying Microsoft is better, but your argument is fundamentally flawed. Apple =/= innovative with the references provided, not saying they aren't in perhaps other areas.
  • michael2k - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    Your link betrays you: MSN Search was powered by Inktomi, Looksmart, and AltaVista. I got my dates mixed up but you got your facts wrong. MSN Search was not MS powered until their first beta in 2004, which means Google was out in 1998 and MSN Search wasn't a search engine until 2004!

    You also bring in Sony for what reason, exactly? Never in my posts did I say Apple invented the music store; I only said that Microsoft copied it after Apple did it (and additionally, Apple made it successful AND profitable).

    Finally the NeXT Cube was the inspiration for the G4 Cube. Do you know why? Steve Jobs was CEO of both NeXT and Apple when both designs were unveiled. So if you really want to pick nits, the point was that Apple made the first small desktop computer, the G4 Cube, that was copied by others such as Shuttle. The G4 Cube itself is a logical successor to the NeXT Cube, since Apple bought NeXT in 1996.

    The Via mini ITX was a great contribution to small computers, in 2002, only hobbled by the processors available. Again, what is your point? That Apple doesn't innovate? Or that I am wrong?

    Apple's innovations in this discussion:
    G4 Cube as a small desktop (after the NeXT Cube)
    Mac mini as a small desktop (after the G4 Cube) The Via mini ITX was only for DIY kits
    iTunes store for low prices ($1 a song) and liberal rights (unlimited iPods, 5 to 7 PCs, burn to CD)
    MacBook Air as a powerful small laptop (1.8GHz CPU, lowest price)

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