Face-Off: Does HP's PC Business Affect Us Enthusiasts?

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AlanDang

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Who is Alan Dang? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power.
 

tacoslave

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[citation][nom]AlanDang[/nom]Who is Alan Dang? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power.[/citation]
calm down kevin spacey
 

demonhorde665

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[citation][nom]nevertell[/nom]No, it doesn't.[/citation]
cheers TO THAT , dumbesta rticle ehader i've seen on tom's todate

NO real enthusiast buys name brand , they build thier own period. pfft , alien ware, lenovo HP just pffft only a wanna be enthusiast would bther with any of these
 

nerrawg

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Good article on a topic that I think a lot of enthusiasts have been dreading. I find it interesting that you guys often metaphorically relate hardware development back to the automotive industry. If PC hardware is the cars, then software is the road network that people driving have to put up with. At the moment I believe that in both cases it is the roadnetwork/software that is the limiting factor. This decade has given us the most thrilling performance cars with incredible bang-for-buck such as the GTR, Corvette, Camaro, M3, Focus RS etc etc. However most of these cars are so fast that most people could never really use them to their potential on a day to day basis. The same can be said about modern PC hardware - its overpowered for the average user. Only the relative handful of consumers who take their GTR to the track on weekends/spend their weekend playing FPS games, can actually take advantage of these products. This in turn is severely limiting the market potential of what on the surface looks like such an amazing product base. People know that even though 0-60 in 3.5 and top 180 is incredible, it makes no difference when your stuck starring at fenders and red lights all day.

Really, the development in hardware tech is amazing, but what we need to keep it moving is a new class of ubiquitous productivity software that demands better hardware. My suggestion for this is to create more advanced interfaces between the user and the PC - we need to replace the mouse and keyboard with motion detection devices and speech recog that actually works. Once the software can do this I believe we will see a drastic increase in performance demand for office software.
 

legacy7955

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This so called article sounds like "marketing" to me

Clearly an agenda going on here, excessive greed by Leo Apotheker and his clown posse.

Notice that "they" keep trying to "INFER" that the PSG division is NOT profitable without saying so, but then have to admit that it IS profitable.
 

bugo30

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The big difference is that, "back in the day," building your own computer was cheaper than buying a computer. In 2011, that's not true. The reason to build a computer is that you can get the parts you want
I think it's more about the upgrade cycle, different parts need to be upgraded at different rates, so buying a whole new computer every few years is terribly expensive compared to just upgrading the parts as the need arises. (off the top of my head...) My keyboard and speakers are older than 10 years, my case is about 9 years old, my monitors are about 7 years old, my PSU is 5 years old, my three hard-drives range in age from 6 to 2 years old. When I upgrade later this year, the only parts I will be replacing will be the motherboard, memory, cpu, and graphics card, and for around $400-$500 I'll have a computer beats the pants off any $400-$500 pre-built. (the one thing it won't have will be a blu-ray drive, but I can't remember the last time I even opened my DVD-drive, so whatever).

So if you think of it as a cycle, I think you'll find it is much cheaper to maintain a high-end computer (or even a mid to low end one) by continuously upgrading a custom build.
 

cangelini

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[citation][nom]demonhorde665[/nom]cheers TO THAT , dumbesta rticle ehader i've seen on tom's todateNO real enthusiast buys name brand , they build thier own period. pfft , alien ware, lenovo HP just pffft only a wanna be enthusiast would bther with any of these[/citation]

I'm just going to assume you didn't read it through (rather than completely missing the point).

[citation][nom]legacy7955[/nom]This so called article sounds like "marketing" to meClearly an agenda going on here, excessive greed by Leo Apotheker and his clown posse. Notice that "they" keep trying to "INFER" that the PSG division is NOT profitable without saying so, but then have to admit that it IS profitable.[/citation]

And same here. It's pretty clearly spelled out in the story that HP's PSG is profitable. Nowhere does it claim otherwise.
 

marraco

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Consider the entire number of x86 processors made by Intel and AMD each year.

Then take the number sold by HP, Apple, or Dell.
It a small, tiny percentage. Nothing.

IBM made the PC. IBM left the business years ago, and nobody cares. They don't matter.

It’s a lie to say that HP going out of business is “a change of paradigm”, “the end of PC”, or whatever. All those companies are meaningless.
 

eddieroolz

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Though I believe HP's downfall probably won't affect the enthusiast market, the analysis stepped outside the box. If I understood it correctly, this article tried to explain the enthusiast market to the success of the consumer market, which was what I was not expecting.

Oh, and it was a pleasant surprise seeing the NTT DoCoMo i-mode mentioned!
 

amk-aka-Phantom

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The big difference is that, "back in the day," building your own computer was cheaper than buying a computer. In 2011, that's not true.
BS. 'Nuff said.

The reason to build a computer is that you can get the parts you want (which ultimately are cheaper than buying a pre-built computer and then upgrading it).
THAT is the reason, and he contradicts his previous sentence with it.

@all of you who thinks that enthusiasts don't care about HP, here's a good quote:

If HP was using Asus motherboards, don't you think that the sales of HP motherboards helped Asus subsidize development of other high-risk, enthusiast-grade products?
 

amk-aka-Phantom

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It even has reason to purchase webOS. That would be an excellent platform to run on its smart TVs, phones, and tablets. Samsung could do what HP couldn't by using Samsung memory, displays, and storage.
Again, load of BS. Samsung already has Android and Bada. The hell would they do with another OS?!
 

amk-aka-Phantom

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Intel still charges $1000 for its top-end enthusiast CPU…because it can. AMD would charge $1000 as well, if it had something competitive. The only reason we pay so much less for processors today is because AMD slots in between price point in Intel's lineup where it can offer competitive performance. Frankly, I think that if Intel wanted to charge more for its Sandy Bridge-based chips, it could (come on—$220 -2500Ks blow away even more expensive models in Intel's own LGA 1366-based lineup). But it's so afraid of getting burnt on anti-competitive practices that it pulls the bar down.
This is another bunch of self-contradicting BS. First, he mentions i7-980/990X, then suddenly jumps to SB... And how is Intel keeping prices low just because they're afraid of "getting burnt on anti-competitive practices"?! They're doing it because otherwise nobody would buy Sandy Bridge, that's all!
 

amk-aka-Phantom

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I disagree. You and I have desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. But we're techies. If you had Office on an ARM device, casual users aren't going to be buying PCs anymore.
They think that people are gonna be better off typing on a tablet or something?!
 

amk-aka-Phantom

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In 2011, I'd love to build a small system like the FireBird. Three hundred and fifty watts doesn't sound like a lot, but it's plenty for a Core i5-2500K or i7-2600K, a Radeon HD 6870 or GeForce GTX 560 Ti, and an SSD or two. I'm not sure where I can find a cheap, reliable external PSU with that kind of power.
What. The. Hell. So he thinks 350W is enough for i7 plus GTX 560 Ti? This is final; I don't think that either of the two people in the interview know enough about PCs. Or am I missing something here? :D
 

amk-aka-Phantom

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But PC power supplies are almost always a box at the back of the chassis with a bunch of wires that travel everywhere.
For hell's sake, stop trying to improve something that doesn't need improvement. The PSU is a box with a bunch of wires that travel everywhere because that's what a PSU IS!

On the enthusiast level, we have awesome power supplies like the Seasonic X series, but the best we've been able to do is sleeve the cables to limit turbulence and to have modular PSUs so that we can take out unused cables.
So far, I haven't seen a single mainstream HP desktop with a good PSU. They all crap out within a year or two. And it's always either a mess of unneeded cables (who the hell needs 10 4-pin power connectors in 2010?!) or so few cables that they're barely enough to connect everything that the PC had in it when it was bought.
 

amk-aka-Phantom

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HP rarely engaged in the high-end enthusiast market, but when it did, deeper pockets helped fund ideas that ultimately benefited enthusiasts. As the Honda/Acura NSX, Ford GT, Mitsubishi Evolution, Subaru WRX STi and Nissan GT-R have all proven, a company does not need to have an exclusive focus on enthusiast-products to do something special. Good engineering is good engineering.
Throwing anologies around is nice, but so far I haven't seen HP coming up with a suddenly great enthusiast product similar to the above-mentioned cars.
 

amk-aka-Phantom

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To sum it up: HP is drunk with silly ideas and therefore wants to jump ship. They said that iPad was successful... you know WHY? Because Apple spend a lot of money CONVINCING people that iPad is great! It's called advertisement! So do yourself a favor and advertise your product, otherwise of course no one will buy it!

And you don't need to target an "enthusiast" market to make a good product. Simply stop using these crappy PSUs, ugly-looking chassis and faulty boards with locked BIOS. Is it really that hard? They keep mentioning how great and innovative their workstations are, but what about mainstream?

HP mainstream computers represent everything that Mac users love to accuse PCs of: loads of bloatware (in case of pre-installed OS), unreliability and ugliness. YOU give PCs a bad name.

And to address the subject of enthusiast PC becoming a "niche market"... I really don't care what they call them. Sure, the prices will go up, as they did with above-mentioned example of musical setups. But when the world will be tired of playing with toys, desktops will be there.

There's a whole bunch of arguments for desktops dying for an average user. Let me address a few...

1) Cloud computing. However, when you think of it a little, average user doesn't need it, because we have external storage that can be used with all your electronics. I've seen people saying that cloud storage will be perfect so that they can access their data from all their iCrap - sorry, you're a minority; the rest of us have USB on our tablets and whatnot.

2) Tablets and smartphones. When you get tired of typing on the touchscreen and throwing birds at pigs, calling yourself a gamer, come back. Before you say "we're gonna hook up a keyboard and a screen to our tablet, and THEN!..", let me just tell you that you're coming back to desktop already.

3) Technology gets better, and soon our tablets will be just as powerful as desktop PCs, blah blah blah. A foolish argument, because I don't see what prevents PCs using the same improvement and getting even better, still leaving mobile devices far behind.

These "experts" keep complaining that the people don't buy new PCs every month, thus depriving them of profit... that's right, you greedy bastards. We won't buy new PCs just for the hell of it. Phones and tablets are made for that (though, if you get a really good one, it will serve you for years, unless you're into getting the most hyped device all the time), PCs are meant to be bought and used until you NEED an upgrade, not just WANT. For some, want = need, but not everyone can afford it. Just like they said, if a person already has a 2-year-old PC and it can do everything s/he needs, there will be no upgrade, and it makes sense.

Tablets and phones are made to be changed all the time - just look at the OS support... old Android phones would often not support the newest Android, and I don't see a reason for it other than trying to force the consumer to upgrade. After all, even my 10-year old PC supports newest Linux and would support Win7 if it would have enough RAM.

So, please quit acting like there's something terribly wrong with PCs. We know that you're simply unhappy with comsumers buying a device once and then walking away and not paying you regularly for some reason. So you want to force cloud computing, subscription-based games and streaming services... convert this one-time purchase into a money-sucking session, by all means. I understand that intention. It's perfectly healthy for business. It's not very healthy for a customer, though, but when did it ever stop you?

All that trouble arises from general computer illiteracy of a common user. You don't need to be able to come up with a perfect desktop build out of your head or remember the list of all CPUs ever made. You just need a little bit of common sense to see what you are paying for. So, what do you want, a device that you buy once and that can do all your work for you (hell, it can be even portable, get a leptop, lol) or a much hyped shiny toy that will play Angry Birds but cost as much as small APU-powered laptop and that becomes obsolete within a few months? I know what I want and why I want it, what about you?

P.S. Don't tell me "you're an enthusiast, hence you don't understand what non-enthusiasts want" - I know enough non-enthusiast PC users to assure you that tablets and smartphones won't cut it.
 

AlanDang

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amk-aka-phantom, you've brought up a lot of great points, so I'll touch base upon them.

1. Building your own PC and cost
The Windows tax is what kills you. If you're building from scratch, you're looking at $100 just for the OEM license. Celeron 450 2.2ghz is $40. 2GB for $15. 500gb hdd for $40. LGA775 mobo for $50. DVD burner $20. Keyboard/mouse $15. $50 for the case and 250W supply. That's $330 before cost of Newegg's per-item shipping and then you have the labor of putting it together and then you don't have the luxury of a one-year warranty. If I was building a PC for someone, I could do it for a few bucks less than HP, or I could just send them to HP and not have to deal with being their tech support guy for life...

I've been building PCs since the 80286 era and even then, I was going enthusiast grade by running an NEC V20 instead of Intel's chip. I was overclocking when it meant desoldering and resoldering a new crystal on the motherboard. In those days, it didn't matter if you were building a high-end system or a low-end system, it was always considerably cheaper to build than it was to buy. The gains we can make by eating up the cost of labor, warranty/support, and not having to make a profit are offset by the ability of these companies to buy components in such bulk that their per-unit cost is cheaper than what we can get from Newegg which is the closest thing we have to getting "bulk rate" discounts.

You still do okay building your own PC because of component selection, but that isn't how it always was. In fact, if tier 1 OEMs had unlocked BIOS's for overclocking potential, the cost difference between buying and building would shrink even more.

2. I appreciate that you understand the importance of HP subsidizing enthusiast manufacturers. ASUS started off building circuit boards for Dell before they started building whole motherboards for Dell before they started building "just about everything." ASUS and Asetek are probably the two most obvious ones imho.

3. Samsung will never license WebOS. By licensing Android they've run into the scenario they have now. "Historically" the trick with Google was to rotate suppliers for their reference platform. HTC = Nexus One, Samsung = Nexus S, Motorola = Xoom. It keeps all of the tier 1 licensees happy and lets everyone get their turn at being the reference platform. Now that Google owns Motorola, it becomes a trickier situation.

Licensing WebOS puts them in the same situation as Android, only Android is 100x more popular. Buying WebOS outright gives them a lot of flexibility and value-added capabilities in terms of Bada. Some of Bada's strongest points are the advertising engine. But Samsung's experience with user interface isn't as strong as Palm's was and from a pure "let's ignore the app situation" perspective, WebOS is far more usable than Android. It'll all boil down to price. If WebOS was $100K, they'd buy it right away. If WebOS is $100M, they're not going to jump on it just yet.

Guys like Qualcomm got their graphics expertise by outright buying ATI's mobile graphics division, which itself was an outright buy of BitBoys. That means that San Diego based Qualcomm has a Finnish division focused exclusively on the graphics technology. For Samsung to buy out WebOS, there needs to be a Samsung OS division based in California. It makes sense from a technical standpoint if you know the strengths/weaknesses of WebOS and the strengths/weaknesses of Bada and believe that there is opportunity for integration of Bada's strengths into WebOS (more likely than the other way around). The financial standpoint is something that only can be determined if you have inside info on the numbers being thrown around.

3. Re: Office on ARM.
The mistake that everyone had was thinking that Google was just a search engine. Or how the iPad would just be a big iPhone. Remember that ARM was engineered as a desktop CPU for Acorn "back in the day." I'm saying stuff like Office on a ARM-powered notebook and desktop. If it had honest-to-goodness 100% Microsoft Office support, I think you'd see a lot more casual users skipping the PC buying experience.

And my argument is that economies of scale help the enthusiasts too.

4. On power supplies.
I've been writing about power supplies before it was vogue to talk about power supplies.
http://www.firingsquad.com/guides/power_supply/default.asp

There are two areas where we've run into trouble when it comes to PSUs. The first is overclocking. As enthusiasts we're so used to overclocking that you're bummed if you're not running a Nehalem or Sandy Bridge beyond 4GHz. We take that for granted. Same with the GPU.

With the Firebird, HP was pulling off SLI'd 9800M GS's which probably put your load at about 120W. The Core 2 Quad 9550 had a TDP of 95W like every other Intel CPU, but at 12MB L2 and 45nm, it was actually closer to that than not.

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/power-consumption-overclocking_16.html#sect0

With a GTX560i at 170W, we're eating up another 50W or so. But the Sandy Bridges are almost half the power consumption of the Bloomfield core first-gen i7's at the same clock speeds.

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/core-i7-2600k-990x_12.html

Then by going with SSD instead of a platter drive, going with modern motherboard chipsets instead of the old nForce stuff, you're making incremental gains. Then, consider the fact that our power supplies are much more efficient today than they were before. That means for the same rated PSU, you're actually getting better performance. The Seasonic X is my preferred design right now.

It's crazy, I know, but it's definitely within striking distance provided that you had a fully custom system and PSU where the rails and the design was balanced just right. We just go with over-engineered PSUs because it lets us overclock without second thought about whether or not a PSU will be the issue, because it'll let us choose any GPU we want, and because it just lets you forget about it.

It would require a lot of careful design and execution, but it's 100% possible with everything being custom manufactured.

5. The PSU form factor is not beneficial for modern system cooling. That's why we had stuff like motherboards that are rotated 90 degrees or the old Lian Li PC-V line which tried to use the PSU fan to cool HDDs (but would only work for a front-flow design as opposed to a top/down).

I'm going to say that you just don't know what's possible, system-cooling wise, if we weren't tied down the legacy form factor.

6. HP tends to source their consumer PSUs from Hipro which is actually a reasonable manufacturer. The problem is that on the mainstream CPUs, they provide the bare minimum power required for a stable system with the possible configured options.

http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=Story&reid=148

In the HP systems I've seen at work, etc. They haven't died within a year. The question is if those systems have a big buildup of dust and if ventilation is a problem. (Getting back to my "PSUs suck because of legacy design choices soap box").

7. HP enthusiast products? Not a lot. Articooler. Primary OEM of Asetek water cooling. Major OEM of Asus motherboards and GPUs. Developer of Voodoo Blackbird (which started before the Voodoo buyout). Voodoo Firebird. That's probably it. From a workstation enthusiast product, I don't think there's a better workstation than a Z800 + Dreamcolor display.

But it's not about buying HP products directly. It's what a major OEM does for enthusiasts indirectly when that OEM is a company like HP.

The firebird and blackbird were exactly what you were talking about having a good chassis, and good BIOS, and a good motherboard. They got too cocky and tried to push the limits. Just as crazy as you think a 350W i7-2600K and GTX560 Ti might be, a modern day Firebird would probably go for something like that with a external Seasonic X style PSU. It ended up being too expensive for consumers.

1. Cloud computing.
Do you use Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo? Remember it's the average consumer that we're talking about.

2. Tablets/smartphones
You keep assuming that ARM = tablet/smartphones. I see the big companies looking to cut costs by giving "average users" poor performing hardware that seems to do what they need. You can complain about Apple dumbing down the public, but sadly, that's the public that exists today.

3. PCs will keep getting faster and faster. There's no question about that. But our software isn't keeping up and average users aren't seeing tangible differences between fast/slow CPUs. There was a time when a faster CPU actually meant that your web pages loaded faster. That was thanks to bad browsers, crazy table based layouts, and the state of hardware at the time. Average home user is still happy with a Core 2 Duo. When tablets reach Core 2 Duo performance, will they care that the Ivy Bridge CPUs are super fast? Not unless there are applications that convince them to do so. Outside of games and digital imaging/video, I'm not sure what CPU-intensive or GPU-intensive tasks exist for normal users.

"Just like they said, if a person already has a 2-year-old PC and it can do everything s/he needs, there will be no upgrade, and it makes sense."

Exactly. And the danger/concern is that with today's software/hardware, the upgrade cycle will be even slower. Maybe it'll be like a car. With Windows 8 being more efficient than Windows 7, do you think consumers will be able to do "everything s/he needs" with an i5-2500K in 2015?

Then, while this is true, do you think the *R&D costs* for next-generation GPUs and CPUs are going down or going up? What about R&D costs for better motherboards?

If the PC mainstream market slows down, that's less R&D play money for the companies making enthusiast products. That's what I'm worried about, and that's why the HP future concerns me.
 

cangelini

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[citation][nom]amk-aka-phantom[/nom]This is another bunch of self-contradicting BS. First, he mentions i7-980/990X, then suddenly jumps to SB... And how is Intel keeping prices low just because they're afraid of "getting burnt on anti-competitive practices"?! They're doing it because otherwise nobody would buy Sandy Bridge, that's all![/citation]

A $220 Core i5-2500K, which can easily be overclocked 1 GHz+ (and includes Quick Sync) matched or exceeded much of the LGA 1366-based lineup, including the Extreme Edition parts when you're talking about gaming situations. This is why those $1000 parts don't receive recommendations in our monthly Best Graphics/CPU For The Money columns.

Sandy Bridge-based parts could easily command a higher price. Now you're going to see AMD forced to price its next generation of CPUs against those parts, though, rather than the expensive Bloomfield and Gulftown models (remember that those $1000 SKUs came out before and of the second-gen Core parts). The good news is that this will turn out better for enthusiasts...but it didn't have to end up that way.

I'd be happy to provide links if you've missed any of the benchmarks we've published!

All the best,
Chris
 
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