I think it is safe to say that the computer market has matured or has at least grown to the stage where prices are probably close to the lowest they will ever be. The computer system has become an everyday household appliance ? something that almost everyone has and uses on a regular basis. So as with every market, companies selling in the computer market need to find new ways to profit. Selling more systems is always the immediate answer, but with systems from companies like Dell and Gateway selling for under $500 where does that leave the smaller custom computer maker?
Every market is defined by the participants that choose to do business in that industry. On the audio side, the home theater market has changed very little in the way of technology over the last 10 years compared to the computer market. And there is a distinct difference between a $300 Denon receiver and a $2000 Denon receiver in the way of features. The same holds true in the car market. I do not think a single person reading this can argue that a Ferrari and a Daewoo use the same parts; and you certainly cannot build a Ferrari for the price of a Daewoo using store bought parts. But when it comes to the computer market however, there is very little difference between the high-end computer systems being offered between various PC manufacturers, and a system you choose to build on your own; except the price.
The first question we really need to ask ourselves is whether the computer market is defined by computer manufacturers such as Dell, Gateway and HP? Hardly, and I will tell you why. If that were the case, the home theater market would be defined by the likes of Emerson, Craig and Fisher. And the car market would be defined by Daewoo, and Hyundai. But the sad truth is that the computer market is shaping up to where there will be little difference between each computer system and everything will be forever priced below $500. But there is still hope in the form of specialized niches within this industry.
One such niche is the home super-computer market. Companies like Alienware, VoodooPC, and Falcon Northwest have been thriving on selling mega powered cutting edge systems with the latest computer hardware and award winning paint jobs. To the average home computer user, a system sporting the latest video card, processor and hundreds of gigabytes of hard drive space may be overkill. But to the hardcore gamer and PC enthusiast, it commonplace and often required.
Even Apple has recognized this market with the introduction of their new Apple PowerMac G5 computer. The PowerMac G5 is the first personal computer with a 64-bit processor and PCI-X architecture. Add to that the ability to support up to 8 GB of RAM, AGP 8X, Gigabit Ethernet and dual 1GHz FSB (front side bus) you mean dual 1GHz FSB Processors right? and you have a home super computer. But Apple doesn?t stop there. A close inspection of the inside of the system will confirm that the PowerMac G5 is a work of art, complete with folded IDE cables and a hardware management system unlike anything I have seen.
While Apple may be ahead of the game hardware-wise, most high-end PC computer companies are struggling with separating their products from what can be bought on the store shelves at your local Best Buy. Recently, someone posted a link in our forums to a new computer company that hoped to break into this high-end computer niche. What I saw left me utterly breathless.
Called Liebermann Inc. and started by Hollywood film director Miguel Liebermann, this new computer company is to the PC market what PowerMac G5 is to the Apple market ? and more. Their systems offer faster processing speeds, more hard drive storage space than any other home PC I have seen.
In fact I have no idea how they were able to build a computer with as much cutting edge components as they have. The L Mach 3.8 for example is running an Intel Pentium 4 Extreme overclocked from 3.2GHz to 3.8GHz with a 950MHz system bus. It uses a state-of-the-art Sub Zero Vapor Compression Cooling system, can handle up to 8GB of RAM, has integrated FireWire, Bluetooth, 802.11G, Gigabit LAN, and up to 74 PCI expansion slots. Now this is cutting edge technology! If they can do everything they claim, it would seem that you can now truly have a computer system unlike anything else out there. Of course the price of these new Leiberman systems can reach close to $8000, but you are paying for this advanced system. It makes me feel good to see a company that is not bound by OEM parts and specifications, and shows that there is still hope in the computer market for continued growth.
Another market niche that I would like to see grow is the Home Theater PC (HTPC) market, however the start has not been good. Companies like Microsoft would like you to believe watching television on your 17? monitor is better than watching it on your homes 36? TV, but don?t be fooled. What needs to be created is a PC that you hook up to your home theater; just the reverse of what Microsoft and computer manufacturers have in mind. They are taking the easy way out by slapping a Media Center operating system on a standard computer and calling it a Media Center computer. For years people have been building systems that are compatible with their home theater using standard store bought parts and modified cases. If a company were to take this theory and create an upgradeable HTPC using parts that you cannot purchase in a store, but which offered performance and technology above and beyond anything a person can build; then you would have a success. Of course do-it-yourselfers would not like this approach, but there are those of us that would spend our money on a product this unique. We are the same type of people that spend our money on hi-end home theaters and luxury cars.
In order for the home computer market to evolve, PC manufacturers need to offer systems that cannot be built using store bought parts, while at the same time offering more power, more advanced technology and features. Because as it stands, there is little difference between top-of-the-line systems from various manufacturers; a unique paintjob or better organized inside is little justification for a $2000 price difference. Companies like VoodooPC, Apple and Leiberman are certainly on the right track, but I have a feeling that we are only touching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true possibilities out there. We cannot let OEM?s and assembly lines define what our computer market will be. PC Manufacturers need to stop worrying about selling millions of cookie cutter products with little margin, and start concentrating on selling innovate products again where they can charge a premium price.
I am ready to spend my money, just give me a real reason to do so.
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The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.