Intel has designs on Apple

Intel has designs on Apple

Summary: The chipmaker is the nearest thing the fragmented, commoditised world of PCs has to a field marshal in the upcoming design-based war with Apple

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TOPICS: IT Employment
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Intel Developer Forum (IDF) just would not be the same without them: every six months or so, some vice-president at the chip giant draws the short straw and has to get up onstage to show off the latest concept PCs.

It's a tradition that stretches back years and, like all the best traditions, there was little good reason to do it -- other than, perhaps, to embarrass senior executives. All that changed when the iPod came along: Apple's digital music player demonstrated conclusively that good design is no longer just a luxury add-on for the well-heeled elite.

Previous concept PCs, at past IDF events, were often laughable. They were a chance for designers -- routinely constrained by cost-conscious PC manufacturers and buyers -- to cut loose. Freed from the bean counters' baleful glare, we saw systems resembling jukeboxes, 60s furniture -- even the monster from Alien. But this year, no one is laughing any more.

Apple has upset the PC applecart. The potential of the immaculately designed Mac mini to replicate the runaway popularity of the iPod threatens to do serious damage to the closed, commoditised world of standard PCs. And that has Intel worried. Why else would it forgo the usual opportunity to let designers go crazy, in favour of exhibiting a concept that is almost a carbon copy of the Mac mini? Intel has realised that design matters to consumers, and is using this year's IDF to communicate its concerns to the rest of the industry in no uncertain terms.

The Mac mini is destined to find a home in education and business; it's small, quiet, integrated and, well, gorgeous. Crucially, it is also cheap (although prices do rocket as you add options) and the whole system works better than any collection of off-the-shelf components shoehorned into a case and topped off with a copy of Windows.

This year's concept PC is Intel's attempt to step into the leadership chasm at the heart of the PC industry. The commoditised nature of the market with its razor-thin margins means that, two decades on, no PC maker has full control over every part of the design, from motherboard to case design -- let alone operating system to applications. But Apple has shown that design is no longer a luxury: it's fundamental, and Intel is probably the only organisation capable of communicating the need for good design to an increasingly fragmented PC industry. Let's hope the PC makers are listening.

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9 comments
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  • WHY, pray tell, do we want the PC designers to be listening??? I, for one, certainly do not want them copying (stealing) any more [software] designs from Apple than they already have. If they ARE listening, then it's only going to prolong the amount of time that the world is going to have to deal with the Windows OS. No, I think not. I pray that the PC makers AREN'T listening so that the death of Windows and Microsoft can be a short, painless one, instead of a long, dragged out one which will only riddle the consumer with more struggles, viruses, and spyware than is imagineable on their PC.
    anonymous
  • Tyler is exactly right. Sure, Intel can design a PC with a smallform factor, but why bother? Intel doesn't have a worthwhile OS to run on it. Or a decent chip to power it. It's like those "cargo cult" pacific islanders, who, in awe of the airplanes they started seeing in the skies started aping them by making airplane-shaped idols out of palm fronds and sticks.
    anonymous
  • It doesn't help that the product Intel paraded was not a even a working prototype. Essentially an empty shell. I guess that's one way to make a cheaper and smaller PC.
    anonymous
  • Apple raised the bar. Unfortunately for PC vendors they maybe able to copy the hardware somewhat but they can't copy the integration of hardware, software and OSX. That's what makes Apple products work so well.
    Shoehorning in software from everywhere doesn't make it equal to the Mac. And well Windows is windows and needs a lot of help.
    anonymous
  • The Mac Mini is a functioning computer. The intel concept PC is an aluminum box. Why is this news. Hey guys I also have developed a concept PC. It's invisible. Feel free to write an article about it.
    anonymous
  • "It's like those "cargo cult" pacific islanders, who, in awe of the airplanes they started seeing in the skies started aping them by making airplane-shaped idols out of palm fronds and sticks." -Thomas Barta, Scientist.

    Scientist and comedy writer.
    LOL

    -Zato
    anonymous
  • That Intel puts an obvious direct knock off of the Mac mini up to be hailed as "The living room PC of the future" only goes to verify where that future lies - with the Mac mini.

    The future is here now, and it belongs to Apple.
    anonymous
  • Imagine if Apple created an empty ugly box to mimic some extremely successful Wintel world product and then presented it at say Macworld. The mind and stomach turn. Every news organization world wide would be denigrating the stupidity of such a move.

    Yet in the desperately out of touch Wintel world this is actually taken seriously! Somebody tell me how some horrid looking plastic shell is anything but a joke, please anybody? If this is an indication of where the Wintel world is going why not sell of the whole group for scrap and give shareholders their money back so they can afford to buy Apple stock cause they're the only viable whole widget company in the industry.

    Apple designers have to be rolling in the isles.
    anonymous
  • Intel isn't the problem for the PC world, it's Dell and the Chinese companies that will continue to offer computers so cheap that the unwashed, numb-minded masses will never be able to "afford" to switch.

    Dell may be able to make a Mac Mini knockoff, but I hope it turns into a loss leader, like the XBox, hardware-wise. Microsoft will then have to reduce the price of the OS to make the box cheap and that will cut into the earnings of both companies! Hopefully that will cause a slow bleed.

    We are now seeing that there are alot of us who are tired of CFO's charting the direction of the computer industry. It should be the engineers and designers job to do that.
    anonymous