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October 23, 2002

Cheap gigahertzen

So, my parents are kind of cheap. Cheap enough that I've never been able to get them to buy a Mac. Their last two computers have been IBMs bought through the employee discount program, but the newer one is a K6-233 with 32 megs of RAM and a 3-gigabyte hard drive. I looked at upgrading the memory and hard drive, and it was going to run about $150-200, so I checked into prices at my local white box outlet.

I priced their bottom-of-the-line Celeron system: 1.7 gigahertz Celeron, 400 megahertz front-side bus, 256 megs of DDR RAM, 30-gigabyte Maxtor ATA-133 drive, 32 megs of (integrated) vidoe RAM, an ASUS CD burner, ethernet, keyboard, mouse and speakers is $376 out the door.

October 23, 2002 in General computing | Permalink


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yeah, this kind of thing and the writeups on the PPC 970 have me wondering why Apple stays with the PPC architecture. From some of the writeups on the 970, it sounds like even the fast G4s are neutered by insufficient bus bandwidth, exacerbating the MHz gulf. Maybe an 800 MHz 750 is as good or better than a 1.7 GHz Celeron: at that price, who cares?

When it comes down to dollars and cents, does the moral superiority of RISC vs CISC mean anything? I feel like we're seeing the shakeout of the early horseless carriages where gasoline, steam, and electricity all vied to be the powerplant of this new mode of transport.

If Marklar exists, I say, turn it loose.

Posted by: paul at Oct 23, 2002 7:09:30 PM

I can't see any valid reason not to sell Intel-based Macs, especially if they can run Windows, too. (As I've said, Apple should acquire Connectix for their Virtual PC technology and take things from there.)

Actually, I can see one good argument: Apple doesn't want to own the support headaches that would come with selling PCs that run Windows.

Posted by: john at Oct 24, 2002 12:25:27 PM

To quote Dennis Miller, I don't mean to get off on a rant here, but WTF? Let's look at this one thing at a time. Do we really want to step in to the choas of the PC hardware world with IRQ conflicts and hardware that's incompatible with other hardware because they're both trying to use the same kludge in the BIOS/OS? And even if that mess could be ironed out (Plug and pray), why would Apple certified Intel boxes be any cheaper. Would we be happy with an Apple that had to live on the thin margins of PC hardware manufacturing?

Ok, I'm gonna go find my coffee...

Posted by: Howard Fore at Oct 24, 2002 2:38:05 PM

We're fine with rants here....

I don't want to step into the PC IRQ conflict world, but I would be happy to pay Apple a premium to do so, just as I'm happy to pay Apple a premium for coming up with functioning default httpd.conf, smb.conf, etc.

I'm sure that if Apple were to restrict itself to its own hardware, the IRQ issues would be no more complicated than a lot of hardware issues they already deal with. The boxes would be cheaper because in addition to the commodity pieces already in your average Mac you would add a commodity motherboard, processor, and integrated chipsets.

Certainly we don't expect Apple to embrace the predatory world of PC margins. I would argue (as a shareholder, so I have a small stake) that they might actually make better margins with PC hardware, since the parts would cost less, and they would spend less engineering money creating their own proprietary motherboards.

My example Celeron system is not without middlemen -- GIM probably deals with a distributor(s) who actually reps for the hardware manufacturers -- so it's reasonable to believe that Apple could build a PC compatible that costs Apple the same or less than I'm paying without sacrificing quality, and has custom casing plastics. Build in a 50 percent markup to Apple and a 50 percent markup to the retailer, and I'm up around $800 out the door.

I've been led to believe actual markup numbers in the PC industry are lower than that (and you call them "thin"), so the $1600 low-end G4 tower prices look way out of line.

Posted by: Frank at Oct 24, 2002 3:25:55 PM

It's not like Apple hardware doesn't have IRQs, you just don't see them. So I'm sure they could make them just as invisible as they are now, on any hardware.

As for a set of default .conf files, this is hardly worth a premium: you can get that information from Google and it's the kind of thing they only have to do once and then just make available thru software update or iDisk.

Remember that there's a *lot* of cross-pollination happening within Apple and FreeBSD (which has an embryonic PPC port): we can be pretty sure OS X is running on some subset of commodity PC hardware.

The thing in Apple's favor is there would be no legacy support issues (trying to run OS X on a 486, frinstance). If they drew a line at Jan 1 2003 and made no claims that hardware older than that would work, I think we'd see something interesting. Just as BeOS required a certain hardware configuration, so could Apple, but there's would be much more broad.

Posted by: paul at Oct 24, 2002 3:37:04 PM

I agree that Intel-based Apples would not need to have razor-thin margins, and I'll recite the Sony VAIO and Alienware PCs as examples of high-end machines selling for a premium in a commodity market. As I've said elsewhere, an iMac that runs Windows (*and* Mac OS) would have sold at an amazing rate; it sold quite well running only MacOS, of course.

I disagree with Frank's statement re: motherboards. Apple would likely design their own MBs so they could include features like Gigabit Ethernet and Firewire.

Posted by: john at Oct 25, 2002 10:50:35 AM