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OEM Industry Leaders Interviewed 81

jkwdoc writes "In one of the few mass interviews ever conducted, the crew at HardOCP.com talked to seven different OEM presidents and founders to ask them about the PC industry. The names include Michael Dell, Kelt Reeves (Falcon Northwest), Randy Copeland (Velocity Micro), and Albert Wang (ABS/Newegg), among others. The questions ranged from their business principles, to the effect of the enthusiast and gaming markets, to what dual- and quad-core technology means for the next generation of computing. You'll be surprised at some of the answers." Of course, the article has to span nine pages because they have to show their ads over...and over...and over.
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OEM Industry Leaders Interviewed

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  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @10:51AM (#16453501) Journal
    Nice to see that you still have many different companies competing AND cooperating in an open fashion on the PC platform. The Mac OS world would be greatly strengthened if you have such an open and responsive situation of multiple hardware vendors making machines to run Mac software.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It would make the platform cheaper, but probably not stronger. There's only one brand of hardware that OSX is ever supposed to run on, which surely contributes to its stability / supportability.
      • by krell ( 896769 )
        "It would make the platform cheaper, but probably not stronger. There's only one brand of hardware that OSX is ever supposed to run on, which surely contributes to its stability / supportability."

        Only a little. Do you really think that OSX security would become something full of holes because it had to run on a variety of platforms? You'd also avoid "forced from on high" design errors, such as the time Apple shipped machines with nothing but USB ports when most Apple users had printers that would not plu
        • by nra1871 ( 836627 )
          Unfortunately they never get rid of ancient tech. Most new computers still come with floppy drives and parallel ports (and no I don't care that you need a floppy drive to install your obscure SCSI controller, get rid of the friggin things.)
          • by krell ( 896769 )
            "Unfortunately they never get rid of ancient tech. Most new computers still come with floppy drives and parallel ports"

            Is this a problem unless you have a real tiny laptop? It is not like you have to use them, or that they get in the way at all on a desktop machine. The reason they are still there on many machines is that the market (the users) still need them, although in dwindling numbers now.
            • They take up all sorts of board space (which you may not value but I do), the connectors are expensive (as far as motherboard components go), and most importantly, the motherboard still has low-speed I/O channels to support such silly things.

              Moreover it's easy to find cheap, fairly reliable USB floppy drives, parallel port, and PS/2 adapters. So if you did actually need one of those things you could add it; adding a bit of ancient hardware to the 1/1000 systems that need it seems much more cost effective th
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Actually, we can see exactly what would have happened in that case, since it had been going on: USB would have been included, but no one would ever have used it because they didn't know about it.

          The iMac was not the first computer with USB. USB had been out, and standard, on PCs for years. The iMac just got USB noticed.

          And there were quickly cheap third-party solutions to connect ADB and serial devices to USB ports.
          • by krell ( 896769 )
            Is "forcing of the USB transition" this really so important unless you happen to be in a company that sold USB plugs, cables, and devices?

            "And there were quickly cheap third-party solutions to connect ADB and serial devices to USB ports."

            Or maybe you were in a dongle company at the time. Having both kinds of ports (unless you have a tiny laptop without the room) is a lot nicer. It also frees up USB ports.
          • In other words, I don't like the idea at all that a platform computer makes the decision that it is immoral to use a certain type of peripheral plug, and excludes it for that reason. With competing platform makers, such anti-user decisions get marginalized.
          • by dave562 ( 969951 )
            And there were quickly cheap third-party solutions to connect ADB and serial devices to USB ports.

            But have you actually tried to use a serial to USB adapter on anything like a CNC-machine? They simply don't work. You need a true, honest to God, hard wired serial port. Those serial to USB adapters seem to only be good if you want to run a serial mouse. If you need to do any thing else serial, like the CNC machine, or connect up a console cable... good freakin luck.

            • Why in the heck are you trying to connect a CNC machine to an iMac? Especially when the iMacs first came out? If you wanted to connect to a Mac, the PowerMac G3 had serial ports, and was their professional machine at the time.

              Oh, and I have actually connected a console cable through a USB converter. It didn't work well, but I could do what I needed.

              The iMac was/is a consumer machine. USB did not make connecting consumer devieces appreaciably harder when it was introduced, and makes it much easier now.
              • by dave562 ( 969951 )
                I wasn't talking about iMacs specifically. I was more addressing the issues with USB to serial converters.
            • Those serial to USB adapters seem to only be good if you want to run a serial mouse.

              Overstatement, I think. I use one often to sync my Palm Vx with my desktop via the cradle (9-pin serial).

              If you need to do any thing else serial, like the CNC machine, or connect up a console cable... good freakin luck.

              I've also used them to connect to the console of a Cisco router, no problem.

              I'm not familiar with CNC machines, though. Are you sure the problem is the USB to serial adapters in general, or could it

    • by Guppy06 ( 410832 )
      "The Mac OS world would be greatly strengthened if you have such an open and responsive situation of multiple hardware vendors making machines to run Mac software."

      Making machines that run OSX or machines that claim to run OSX? Part of the reason why I don't touch OEM any more is the use of second-rate hardware and second-rate drivers that cause issues with the OS (be it Windows or Linux), and one of the main selling points of OSX (and the hardware it runs on) is "it just works."
      • Apple is miss out on a big part on the mid-end market by not having a mid-range head less system something that would not happen in a open market. Now that apple is using x86 hardware there hardware lock in may hurt them even more and why did apple have to lock you it to only useing video cards from apple with there new systems?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by truthsearch ( 249536 )
          by not having a mid-range head less system

          You mean like the Mini [apple.com]?
        • Now that apple is using x86 hardware there[sic] hardware lock in may hurt them even more and why did apple have to lock you it to only useing[sic] video cards from apple with there[sic] new systems?

          Umm, Apple does not lock you into using any video cards in any of their systems that I've seen. Most of their offerings are small form factor, or laptops, which use integrated graphics like every other computer of the same style. You can use any video card that supports Apple systems and firmware in their tow

          • In the macpro you can't use any pci-e video card you must use one form apple that has a efi rom on it.
            • In the macpro you can't use any pci-e video card you must use one form apple that has a efi rom on it.

              Apple does not make video cards. You can use any one of a number of offerings from ATI, NVidia, or any other company that makes them and supports both EFI and drivers for OS X. Apple has done nothing to lock them down at all and you can buy them from Apple or some other store. If you look on the Web sites of those vendors you'll see them for sale.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Apple tried that, mid-90's.

      It didn't help. And it hurt Apple's sales.

      (Yes, perhaps the situation has changed, but never mind. Apple only has two unique things at this point: their industrial design, and their GUI. They are competing on both with everyone else. Get over it.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by krell ( 896769 )
        "Apple only has two unique things at this point: their industrial design, and their GUI. They are competing on both with everyone else"

        On the first, the "uniqueness" has eroded a lot, as the platform has evolved to be able to take the same mice, monitors, and plug-in cards everyone else uses. Used to be that this wasn't the case. As such, this uniqueness was never really a strength.
        • You are talking component design, more than industrial design. Industral design is how it all fits together, and what the end result looks like. Apple still has a very distictive look.

          But I agree with you on the fact that Apple's previous unquieness on components wasn't truely a strength. It was on occassion when the components were truely superior, but overall they were behind as much as they were ahead, and the uniqeness had it's own disadvantages.
          • by krell ( 896769 )
            "You are talking component design, more than industrial design. Industral design is how it all fits together, and what the end result looks like. Apple still has a very distictive look."

            You are right; the main desktops (iMacs) really stand out. It's less so with notebooks, where extravagent design flourishes are less tolerated. Remember the orange toilet seat notebook computer? Not one of their best moments.
            • I still have one, that gets used regularly. ;) (Though it is the 'bondi-green' color instead of orange.)

              They were decent computers, and the design has many nice aspects. It's biggest probablem actually is that it doesn't fit in standard laptop bags. It is also bigger and (slightly) heavier than it needs to be. Still, it was a decent experiment. In many cases it is actually more portable than a standard laptop. (It has a built-in carry handle which helps quite a bit...)
    • The Mac OS world would be greatly strengthened if you have such an open and responsive situation of multiple hardware vendors making machines to run Mac software.

      The OS would be strengthened by needing to support more, less centrally controlled hardware? The OS would be weakened, however, the platform of OS X running on a computer would be better for end users as they would have more granular choices and competition in the hardware part of the market. It is too bad this is not really a viable business pl

      • by krell ( 896769 )
        "The OS would be strengthened by needing to support more, less centrally controlled hardware?"

        Exactly. Multiple platform vendors compete with each other to provide hardware features that satisfy users. There's much less of a problem with one vendor deciding that a useful port (for example) is not needed anymore even if the users still need the port. You end up with a more versatile hardware platform with more features (likely costing a lot less too because companies compete for the customer dollar). With
        • Multiple platform vendors compete with each other to provide hardware features that satisfy users.

          That strengthens the platform for end users, but does not strengthen the OS itself.

          In other words, you fight it with another monopoly???

          Not at all. Apple does not have a monopoly on any of the elements of the bundle they sell. Other companies, like Dell and Lenovo sell competing computer systems. But because they provide their own OS, in house, they are not subject to the monopoly influence on those com

          • by krell ( 896769 )
            "I think maybe you're failing to understand what a monopoly is." Good points otherwise, but I still disagree that platform diversity and increased installation doesn't "[strengthen] the platform for end users, but does not strengthen the OS itself."

            A diversity of platform vendors means a larger market. That means more installations. This means more users of the OS. This translates into a "better OS" because there is more software for the OS, and a larger and more diverse user base provides more pressure
            • This translates into a "better OS" because there is more software for the OS, and a larger and more diverse user base provides more pressure on the OS makers to refine it.

              More software for an OS makes the platform better, again, not the OS itself. A more diverse user base is your guess as to what would happen, when in reality it might mean a smaller user base. As for pressuring Apple to innovate more, they are already under more pressure than simply straight up competition would provide. They survive by

              • by krell ( 896769 )
                "So in the eyes of the law, you can have a monopoly on cheese, if you are the only company selling cheese, even if another company sells pizza that comes with different cheese on it. Any cheese not sold or bartered in the primary market, does not in any way lesson the monopoly's ability to break the capitalist model."

                Did you intend this as an analogy? In the OS world, many companies sell cheese. Some products are cheesier than others!
        • by Trelane ( 16124 )

          Why rely on frivolous lawsuits and punishing companies for having too many features in their software?

          By categorizing and then dismissing out-of-hand the lawsuits as "frivolous" and "punishing [Microsoft] for having too many features", your bias wrt this topic has already been displayed.

          Why not just let the options compete, and let the users decide?

          I'll answer this with a question. What chance does a lone soccer player have?

          • by krell ( 896769 )
            "By categorizing and then dismissing out-of-hand the lawsuits as "frivolous" and "punishing [Microsoft] for having too many features", your bias wrt this topic has already been displayed."

            I am indeed biased against frivolous lawsuits, and companies that compete by conniving to get the government to punish their competitors (instead of merely providing better product). An example of the former is Netscape (which combined making a crappy product with filing frivolous lawsuits and presenting false testimony
            • I am indeed biased against frivolous lawsuits...

              Why would you mention this in this same thread 20 minutes after responding to my post where I pointed out to you that there are no "frivolous lawsuits" or even regular lawsuits, only criminal indictments for breaking the law?

              ...and companies that compete by conniving to get the government to punish their competitors (instead of merely providing better product).

              Yeah, it sure is crazy for them to expect the government to enforce the laws against those who

            • by Trelane ( 16124 )
              I note your lack of replying to my question.
    • Why don't they start selling their own software. Why didn't they move into other product areas. What's stopping them

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/07/13/microsoft _ japan_trouble/ [theregister.co.uk]
      http://www.thechannelinsider.com/article/Tangent+S uit+Claims+Microsoft+Soaked+Partners/171923_1.aspx [thechannelinsider.com]
      http://slashdot.org/articles/02/04/27/231221.shtml [slashdot.org]
      http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/f212700/212766.htm [usdoj.gov]

      re Re:Nice to see a competitive open environment
      • by krell ( 896769 )
        "Why don't they start selling their own software. Why didn't they move into other product areas. What's stopping them"

        What does this have to do with anything?
  • "You'll be surprised at some of the answers"

    Not realy, I couldn't get through more then a page of that marketing/manager speak. I didn't see the word "synergy" but you know they where having to choke back saying it.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Monday October 16, 2006 @11:06AM (#16453689)
    That page was surprisingly free of any ad for me, thanks probably to the filter in Firefox. But it was also unsurprisingly devoid of content, as most of what those execs have to say is rah-rah or generic bollocks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      That's what Firefox needs, a generic bollocks filter! Adjustable settings could include stuff like "corporate press release," "mainstream news," and "emo livejournal." Somebody, write a plugin!
      • That's what Firefox needs, a generic bollocks filter! Adjustable settings could include stuff like "corporate press release," "mainstream news,"

        Sounds easy to do: your filter just has to look for "is a leader in", "empowers customers" and "breakthrough" to zap PR bullshit; "Bush" and "Iraq" should cover mainstream news. As for emo livejournals, I have no idea what emo is I'm afraid...
        • your filter just has to look for "is a leader in", "empowers customers" and "breakthrough"

          For fun one day go to the jobs section of gamasutra.com and look at the description of the game companies. It's amazing how many "award winning", "leading developer/publisher", "highly creative", "most innovative", and "ground breaking" companies there are. You would think that not a single crappy game has ever been made.
      • You could just block Slashdot at your external firewall...

        Not to troll (my karma has already had the crap beaten out of it on more than one occassion), but if Hemos agrees that 9 pages of ads isn't great, why'd he still put the story on the front page? Here's an idea, don't put such stories on slashdot; the internet will be a better place as a result.

        Now karma burn!
      • That's what Firefox needs, a generic bollocks filter! Adjustable settings could include stuff like "corporate press release"

        Didn't you mean to say Fox News, not Firefox?
      • by ediron2 ( 246908 ) *
        Back in the day, slashdot used to be a relatively effective part of this sort of a peer-managed geek filtering system. Generic crap in, only the good stuff as headlines.

        Nowadays, they're up to their eyeballs in the BS. Heck, I'm not a conspiracy theorist type, but it does seem like they've changed at a pretty fundamental level. Granted, content often comes wrapped in these paragraph per page of ads schmears, but if slashdot as a group doesn't try to exert some influence, what good are they!?
    • by yuna49 ( 905461 )
      I especially liked the responses about the enthusiast and gaming markets. They all said how important these markets are to them. I suppose the smaller retailers might care about them because they can't compete with the Dells and HPs on price, but Dell? What proportion of the PCs that go out their door do you think are designed for gaming? I'd bet it's way under 10%. I'm sure few, if any, of their large corporate clients care about having machines designed to play Oblivion.

      I would have loved to hear one
  • Is it just me, or were others expecting a lot more from the ABS/Newegg camp? I mean, it's almost an insult leaving his comments in there. Not to say I still won't shop there. The real question is, how do I get a job at Falcon Northwest?
  • With Dell and Hp buying up boutique oems how is before they can build a system that is as good as a Falcon Northwest system for a lot less then Falcon Northwest and other make you pay?
  • Supply/pricing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jense ( 978975 )
    It seems to be a universal concern across this panel that the dependency on hardware vendors (and their ever-lowering prices) is choking the ability to sell at a high profit margin, and the future of these companies lies in their value-add or approach to the problem. Dell seems to be leaning to the ever-successful volume model, while smaller niche companies will be focusing on specialty services differentiation. In the end, though, it's likely that many of the smaller companies will either be bought (like A
  • This may well be modded "off topic" but I'm curious nonetheless.

    Albert Wang (ABS/Newegg)

    Is he related to the old Wang computers? Perhaps some of you remember the old joke:

    Q: "What were the first two computers?"

    A: "Eve had an Apple and Adam had a Wang"

    Seeing as Slashdot is loaded with computer engineers, I figure one of you might know.

  • Of course, the article has to span nine pages because they have to show their ads over...and over...and over.

    No, they just had to make space for Albert Wang's contributions. Geez, can't that guy shut up?!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Q1: What is the current state of the computer hardware manufacturing industry?

    Michael Dell: We pretty much own what we can get of the US/European market, so we're trying to find out how to sell in other parts of the world where people want computers but don't have money.
    Wang: Mumble mumble buy this now
    Falcon Northwest: We don't really care, we just sell whatever is most expensive
    Maingear: I am a nerd
    Velocity Micro: I went to graduate school
    Puget: Our computers are cool, and we're cool
    Overdrive: Hello, I use
  • I see that they offer to install Linux for you. [pugetsystems.com]

    No idea if they remove the price of Microsoft Windows from the total but it is a start I guess.
    • I work at Puget Systems, and if you want Linux we can remove the cost of Windows from a system. We don't support Linux, as we aren't getting any money from providing it, but we will pre-install it for you. We can also sell systems with no OS, if you want to do that yourself. The only exception to this is our Certified Systems (http://www.pugetsystems.com/certified.php) where we require a Windows install (along with having other hardware restrictions).

      Feel free to email us at sales@pugetsystems.com for mo
      • Thanks for the info. It is nice to hear of a company selling a computer without the windows tax. I will keep you in mind next time I can afford to upgrade.
    • by sharkey ( 16670 )
      They even pre-install Fedora Core 6! Talk about being ahead of the curve, they're even ahead of the Fedora Project itself.
  • The summary lumps generic retailers (newegg) with PC retailers. They are completely different.

    NewEgg is a straight retailer. Boxes come in the back door, priced and shipped out the front door. They don't even come in the front door anymore, they just ship them straight from the distributor in many situations.

    PC retailers brand Other People's stuff. The Other People are mostly no-name (and some not-so-no-name) pc parts manufacturers. (think computex, & China) Their value is discriminating the good f
    • by jkwdoc ( 1009885 )
      ABS, the SI that owns Newegg, was being talked about. ABS was making systems long before Newegg was around. Albert's comments, such as they are, were in the context of ABS, not Newegg.
  • IMO, the games-oriented CEO's were close to their customers' needs, while others, Michael Dell particularly, were almost clueless. Michael Dell sounded like a politician in a close race who is afraid to say anything substantial or controversial.

    Why don't I recommend Dell computers anymore? Because tech support sucks. I'd like to give Dell a clue: Your systems don't work flawlessly every time and you need to have better tech support. And when I get to the third-level support tech who is supposed to know some

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