Jason Perlow wrote a really funny (yet oddly touching) piece this morning about homegrown enthusiast PCs. These are the souped up computers that bigger geeks than most ZDNet bloggers spend lots of money on to achieve better frame rates, faster video editing, or whatever it is you do with an 8-core PC on your desk.
To paraphrase Jason, this market is now dead. Who has disposable income to improve their PC gaming experience anymore? Besides, Dell has Alienware, HP has Voodoo, and even mainstream PCs have lots of power. Moore's Law is our friend. I couldn't agree more.
Except on one little point. While the enthusiast market is dead, the homebrew market is not. There are two places where it still makes sense to build your own PCs. The first is for us geeks who know what we're doing, can undercut Tier 1 vendors by going to places like Frye's or TigerDirect, and get precisely what we want and need. Especially those of us who favor Linux can save some cash (or take Jason's approach and buy low-end OEM systems from Cosco or BJs and buy some moderate upgrades on the cheap).
The other place where it can still make sense is in K-12 educational settings. Lots of us are looking at 1:1 initiatives (many made possible by cheap and plentiful netbooks), but we also need dedicated lab settings. Most of us also offer some introductory computing courses, giving us a pool of "skilled labor" needing hands-on experience. In this case, if we can save money over the major vendors and give students some time not only building computers, but defining system requirements, conducting end-user acceptance, etc., then homegrown computers can be a real asset.
True, they lack a warranty or support, but given the right setting (appropriate classes, motivated students, limited budget, and motivated teaching staff), whiteboxes can allow schools to access purpose-built machines (whether high-end multimedia, low-end kiosk, server, or generic desktop) at rock-bottom prices.
What do you think? Is it worth it to roll your own in a school? Computer, that is.