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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  • araczynski - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    its looking like these voodoos are also trying to imitate apple in their higher pricing.

    no thanks, they can both keep their fancy schmancy designs. joe schmoe wants an affordable computer first and foremost, not a fancy paint job or case that'll just end up getting scratched to all hell anyway within a few months.

  • michael2k - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    Joe Schmoe definitely wants the fancy paintjob and case, but since he can't afford it he will settle for the affordable computer.

    Every Joe wants a fast, fancy car, a stunning wife, a Rolex or Omega watch, and a shiny gadget.

    Most of the time Joe just can't afford any of it.
  • Mr Perfect - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    "The Voodoo brand will stop servicing gamers specifically and turn into much more of a lifestyle brand."

    A lifestyle brand? So their premium gaming PC line will be reduced to a fashion statement? Words fail me...
  • Inkjammer - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    Exactly what happened to the XPS line. XPS used to be awesome gaming systems, now they're just flashy, expensive laptops...
  • Bobattack - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    It is amazing that after all these years, with all the various kinds of iMacs and Powerbooks and PowerMacs - that the big PC companies can't figure it out.

    Many years ago there was a site trying to make something different, but nothing came of it. Check it out, it still looks like a neat idea:


    Its old, but what is out there like that?
  • dysonlu - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    In the past, PC companies strived because people just wanted a computer. The computer, whatever computer, was fascinating in itself and they just wanted one. That's why those PC clone boutiques that appeared like muchrooms in your neighborhood were a sustainable business.

    Then, the computer became a commodity -- every family has one, or two, or three. The market has changed. The average population now want more than just a computer -- they want a trendy, cool and fashionable machine. They want something that distinguishes itself from the crowd of typical PC clones. People are more discriminating in terms of styling.

    Apple, with the iPod success and effective marketing, was able to capture these average joe's attention and imagination, the average joe who's cares more about form than function. I'm not claiming that Apple computers offer more form than function; just that the majority of people wanting an Apple computer are motivated by form rather than by function.

    Now those PC companies need to do catch up. The Apple brand is firmly engraved in the public's conscious as the stylish and cool computer brand, thanks to the iPod and the huge marketing machine (everyone in movies and TV shows uses a Mac). It will be tough for the PC companies exorcise the public out of this spell.
  • Bobattack - Thursday, June 12, 2008 - link

    In the OLD days of computers - Many of the NON PC-Clones were about syle - including the IBM PS/1 & PS/2 which we kind of see today with Lenovo's (Ex-IBM) ThinkCenter designs. But yes, I understand the Clones were about commodity - without the Clones, the PC and Microsoft would not have survived in the form they are now. Remember, until Windows95 - Only Amiga and Macs had a top-notch usable GUI with a 10year head start.

    Look at the Amiga 1000, Amiga 3000, Atari ST, Atari TT, Mac II, Commodore 128 & 128D.

    I build my own PCs of course, using higher end $100+ cases because I don't want some generic looking $30 Dell/HP little case.

    PS: I couldn't past a working link last time, I don't think I did it wrong, perhaps it disabled?
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    I wonder if they'll end up having reliability issues with putting a wireless access point in the power brick? I know my power brick can get pretty hot when I'm using my notebook heavily while charging. My router gets pretty hot too, and while a access point is no doubt cooler, it's also serving as a bridge to the ethernet port too, not just being an end user. It's an interesting idea though.
  • hamiltonguy - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - link

    cripes gimme a break with the "it's all Microsoft's fault crap" The OS is not the reason why dell and HP are having a hard time selling pc's. Vista is a fine OS that yes has some quirks but works quite well. I have been using Vista as my primary OS for over a year and it is fine, even better with SP1.

    you want to know why Dell and HP are losing Marketshare

    1. Boring designs, thick and hot - not sexy at all.

    2. LOADED with CRAPLET's - HP is the worst at this. I refuse to recommend HP to any family member as it's always a huge chore to uninstall all the crapware.

    3. BRUTAL Support - There is no one worse than Dell Support. Web sucks, buit-in task pane support too sucks, 1800 support is friggin brutal. HP is not much better

    4. 0.0000 inovation, what the hell do these guys bring to the table that set's them apart. Where are the cool hardware features, where are the cool free software tools. - ONLINE BACKUP is not cool.

    HP seems to be moving in the right direction with this voodoo line and the TouchSmart 2, but they still have a long way to go.

    Dell - Now that HP have caught you in the price department, you guys are screwed.
  • gochichi - Friday, June 13, 2008 - link

    You know, I just don't agree with you at all.

    Dell has excellent support, very friendly. Dell has very good prices. My inspiron 530 is as reliable as a computer can get (perfectly reliable, never crashed or even misbehaved). It may not be a Mac Mini, but it's like 2-3 times faster for a little LESS money than apple(quad-core). My only real gripe with it is that it can't run MAC OS, because having all of that Video editing capable hardware and no Apple software to harness it is such a waste. Apple is a tremendous SOFTWARE company inspite of itself (can't stand the snobbery, can't stand being forced to buy expensive pretty hardware when I just want something that looks alright but is beastly fast, like Dell).

    In terms of designs, the build quality of the XPS M1330 is the real problem, I'll even deal with the decorations falling off, but the design itself is very slick and it's a VERY fast 13" laptop, if there's a faster 13" laptor, I haven't seen it (with Nvidia 8400 upgrade). Again, my main complain BY FAR on this laptop is that it doesn't run Mac OSX. To be perfectly honest, once you start using both Windows and MAC OS you're just bound to be dissapointed... cause they both have really big pros and cons. I much prefer PC hardware though.

    The crapware on my two Dells was minimal IF ANY. (I wouldn't call Roxio burner software crap, nor Works, etc.) Very little probs there. Do have a problem with being stuck with Vista 32-bit and having no option to have the 64-bit version (free of charge or at least low cost, Dell doesn't offer 64-bit at any price for the Inspiron 530).

    Dell is here to stay, their LCDs are very high quality, their designs on their desktops are clean and simple without being extreme and costly (in $ and performance). Their laptops are shifting, but yes, they have had some of the frumpiest laptops for a while. The XPS M1330 being an exception, as well as the new 13" Vostro. They are a big company, and they are listening. I think HPs designs are misleading, they look good in the store but then you take them home and you realize that the hinge isn't smooth and the screen is dim (not like the gorgeous LED on the M1330).

    I have to be perfectly honest, on both the Inspiron and the XPS M1330... the only thing that I felt left me wanting more was in the lack of Mac OS X. Mac OS X LOVES horsepower,yet they keep selling you desktops with laptop parts at outrageous prices... and the new iMacs are a "HELL NO" for me.

    I don't need any sexier than a Dell (the right Dell), what I need is a more pleasant to use OS. Ultimately, you can navigate and get Expose like functionality and stuff like that.. but iWork, iLife, etc. are just good software that can take your work over the top, make it stand out. Office 2007 IS better than Office 2008, but I don't like either too much... kind of prefer 2003, besides VM FUSION takes care of that stuff.

    Coming from Apple, and just recently switching to Dell... I am a BIG DELL FAN. Apple, however, is a tremendous software company, don't be fooled by the Windows-zealots... it just is a software powerhouse. Miss some of the software, do NOT MISS the "sexy" or the prices. Dell may fall, but they won't fall easily.

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