Party like it’s 1984

Posted: 09.13.11

The industry is dominated by followers and just one leader

Apple’s 20th anniversary All-In-One – circa 1996

Remember the famous ad Apple ran at the Super Bowl in 1984? It featured a woman with the sledge hammer. That was the beginning and the end of innovation for the PC cloners.

That was when Apple took the leadership position in PC design, and has never looked back or given it up. Sony couldn’t challenge it, Dell couldn’t do it. The closest the industry came to a contender was HP, but HP lacks one important characteristic—courage—with one notable exception—the all-in-one category they created. Oh wait, Apple did that first too back 1996 at CeBit for their 20th anniversary.

Apple introduced a concept PC, and built a few hundred or so of them that was a thin screen with a detached keyboard. They didn’t go into production with the idea until 2006 with the first iMac Core Duo. HP came out with their AIO in 2007; and, it was the first to offer touch-screen.

Apple, unlike the clog of IBM PC clones, has never had a sticker on any of its machines. They were never an IBM PowerPC, Windows, or Intel PC. They didn’t call out the graphics in their machines. They were and are Apple PCs.

Dell, Lenovo, HP, and the other me-too PC providers don’t have the courage to offer a PC without those stickers because to do so would deny them the marketing payola they get. And as we all know, except for Apple, the margins are SOOoooooo thin in the PC industry if it weren’t for the payback Intel, Microsoft, and AMD give the PC builders, well, they’d just die and fade away, except for Apple of course.

When Apple comes out with a new design, the rest of the PC industry makes their plans. The PC industry is a gaggle of followers, either following what Apple does, or following what Intel or Microsoft tells them to do. To do otherwise would make them different and that would confuse the consumers.

What a glorious paradox—we can’t compete because the industry is being commoditized—but we can’t be unique because we won’t be able to compete. HUH? When I’m in I’m out…..?

Earlier this summer, Apple eliminated its entry-level plastic-clad MacBook to make the just-updated MacBook Air its mainstream computer. In doing so, Apple signaled its view that the future of laptops will be lightweight machines that increasingly rely on cloud services. Leaping into action Intel announced the Ultrabook concept—the clones’ salvation.

So no longer does Dell want to beat HP, or HP beat Lenovo, or all of them wish they had the style savvy of Sony, now they just sit at the front door of One Infinite Way and wait to see what Apple has thought of lately. That’s Microsoft over there by the newsstand waiting to find out what Windows 9 will be like. There’s Samsung holding a mobile phone with a direct line to Korea ready to launch into production. And shoved over by the parking lot is grey old lady Dell. HP’s spot is empty, it’s out on the street with a big cardboard sign waving at passers-by—Company For Sale—Going out of Business Sale. Sony couldn’t make it, cutbacks and budget woes. Panasonic is throwing its laptops at the wall to see how far they can bounce and Toshiba is reading the China Daily News.

Innovation in PC land died in 1984, did anyone even notice?

Breaking out of the mold – circa 1984