A Dual Existence
Serving The Needs Of Two Customer Bases
PC makers have faced a specific quandary for quite some time. That is, how to meet the needs of the business market while still keeping the consumer-centric enthusiast market happy? Surprisingly, it has not been the corporate market that has driven and supported radical advances, it has actually been the enthusiasts.
Gamers, in particular, have again been at the forefront in this regard. Would there have been such a massive push for 3D accelerators had it not been for the rise of the first person shooter? Hardcore gamers have been the ones willing to fork out $300 on a kick-tail video system so they can crank Q3A up to 1024x768 at a blistering 100 frames per second. Rest assured, you don't need a GeForce 3 to accelerate bar charts in Microsoft Excel.
It has been the gamers and enthusiasts that have pushed for faster, more accurate controllers. They have been the ones to push for more capable sound cards and more powerful 4.1 and 5.1 speakers. DVD drives have not been a big hit in the corporate sector, but they sure have on the consumer side of the market. While corporations who have a number of file servers may be grateful for advances in storage densities, it has been the consumers that have helped push IDE technology farther and faster.
At the office, it's rare to find 40 or 80 gigabyte drives on desktop PC's, but on the consumer side, they are becoming commonplace. Why? Because games take up a lot more space, and you need massive megabytes to convert your vast (and completely legal I'm sure) collection of audio CD's to 160 bit or 192 bit MP3 files. At the office, it is not that common to see a large number of individual CD-RW drives in place. But home users are snapping those drives up with each and nearly every system so they can create their own custom music mixes while tucking the original CD's away so they are safe from harm. It is the gamer who is more likely to make backup copies of their games so that they can take them to LAN parties while the originals are protected at home.
The Consequences Of Dividing Your Focus
The case could be made that if it were not for the need to serve both the business and consumer communities, there would have been many more advances in the marketplace then there has been to date. Trying to be all things to all people is a very tricky effort, and seldom results in a truly great line of products.
Integrated motherboards should have become the norm by now, but consumers want the flexibility to empower their own machines with the latest video card or audio solution. Companies are often very content with the solutions provided by the 810 or upcoming nForce chipsets. But try to ram those setups down the throats of consumers, and they will choke and gag with such great force that you will spend your time Heimliching the masses instead of reaping the profits.
At the same time, it is the corporate market that has been hindering progress in the move to new technologies. Why do PC makers still produce ISA slots at all? Because the existing corporate infrastructure still has a lot of inventory that are ISA based. From proprietary network cards to modem to SCSI drive controllers with tons of memory built in, there is an entire generation of products out there that still use that technology. The move away from ISA has been happening, but it is 20 years from the introduction of the first PC and those slots are still in production. There always seems to be just one or two critical items, particularly on the IT infrastructure side, that just can't be found in modern component catalogs, and eliminating that device and switching over to something new would impact uptime and productivity. Businesses are loathe to try new things, and who can blame them? They have been forking out millions and millions of dollars to build a working infrastructure and are still waiting for a return on their investment. Why fix it if it really isn't broke? No matter that it may be held together with duct tape and baling wire, people can still get their work done, and that is really all that counts.