Mimicking Apple an imperative for PC makers

PC makers are imitating Apple as fast as they can--and for good reason.

PC makers are beginning to bear an uncanny resemblance to Apple.

Media pads will erode laptop sales, according to analysts.
Media pads will erode laptop sales, according to analysts. Hewlett-Packard

So, what does Apple look like these days? Apple is not as much about the Mac anymore (in case anyone didn't notice). And it's not just about a successful gadget sideshow, i.e., the iPod. It's about the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. So, what do you do if you're a PC maker whose business is still all about the Windows-Intel PC? You slavishly imitate as fast as you can.

If the chronically sold out iPad isn't evidence enough, analyst reports are showing that sales of the iPad and similar tablets will likely jump in 2011, with some of that growth coming at the expense of laptops.

Apple's 10-inch class media pad boasts PC-esque functionality sans Windows or Intel--bedrocks of the PC world. Enter the Hewlett-Packard PalmPad , HP's most anticipated tablet/slate device--essentially Palm's version of the iPad. No PC operating system here.

And Dell. That PC giant has got the Streak , which runs Google's Android operating system and a Qualcomm ARM processor. Again, no Windows (or Intel) here.

HP and Dell will of course continue to sell plenty of Windows-Intel PCs (and probably some Windows slates), but there is clearly the potential for a very large future market beyond traditional WinTel PCs. That's where the real action will be. And that's Apple's message.

That means Android, Apple's operating environment, and maybe Palm (now HP) and BlackBerry OSes. And a smorgasbord of competing silicon, to boot. And mainly from companies that are not PC processor suppliers.

And let's not leave other players like Motorola and RIM out of the picture, either. Their media pads will compete with low-end laptops. In addition to Motorola's large Droid X smartphone , a tablet is expected later this year, which, most likely, will use similar software and silicon. A BlackBerry tablet is also rumored from RIM.

Wintel has its place in PCs and servers. But the iPad is breaking old molds and spurring the PC companies to do the same.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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