by Alan Zisman (c)
published in Columbia
What’s the most popular computer brand? Dell? HP? IBM? Apple?
‘none of the above’; in recent surveys the correct
answer was ‘other’,
with over 50% of the results internationally and over a third in the
US. (Sorry, no Canada-specific results).
In other words, NoLogo-branded computers beat out every individual
computer brand in the US, and internationally beat out all the brand
names put together.
How has this triumph for the anti-brand name forces occurred? The
answers stretch far back to the first IBM brand-name PC in 1981. This
IBM PC (Model 5150) was not the first personal computer; Apple had been
successfully selling its Apple II model for several years following in
the footsteps of other, less well-known computers.
IBM wasn’t sure that there was really much of a market for
sorts of computers. And so, while most IBM products were proprietary,
they developed their PC on the quick, using existing, off-the-shelf
hardware and hiring software development company, Microsoft for the
Microsoft licensed DOS to IBM, keeping the right to sell the operating
system to others.
The IBM PC’s success surprised even IBM. A PC from
‘Big Blue’ had
credibility with corporate America. If IBM made it, it was OK to have
(in the words of Bill Gates) “a computer on every desktop and
home”. Other companies quickly realized they could cash in,
their own hardware using those standard parts. If it could run
Microsoft’s DOS, it was ‘IBM compatible’,
letting users run the same
software that ran on a real IBM. Pretty soon, PC
‘clones’ were faster,
more powerful, and cheaper than IBM’s originals.
Most of those early brand names are no longer in business. Building
computers is easy; marketing is hard, particularly in an industry where
it doesn’t take much to get started. (Michael Dell, founder
Computers, one of the survivors, got started at university, selling PCs
to other students in his dorm). Only a handful of companies remain
selling PCs world-wide: US-based Dell, IBM, Gateway (which is in the
process of buying out eMachines), HP (which merged with Compaq a year
or so ago). Japanese corporations: Sony, NEC, Toshiba.
Apple survives by going its own way, selling non-IBM compatible
While Michael Dell went from selling computers to his dorm-mates to
building the biggest computer brand in the US, literally thousands of
small businesses popped up building and selling PCs on a local level.
In Vancouver today, it’s hard to throw a rock without hitting
Most of these shops build computers in the back, fitting together
generic motherboards, processors, memory with hard drives and CD
burners or DVD drives, and fitting the whole thing in a case. Slap the
store’s name on the front, plug in a monitor, keyboard, and
you’ve got a PC, ready to install the operating system and
(In most cases, that’s Microsoft Windows and
combining Microsoft’s brand name software with the
varieties of NoLogo PCs, though the NoLogo clones can just as easily
run free, non-corporate branded operating systems like Linux and open
source software like Mozilla and OpenOffice).
While it takes billions of dollars and years of research to create a
new CPU—the brains of a computer, assembling a computer from
isn’t rocket science. At my school, several 10 years olds
learned to do
it, and now (as mature students of 12) are showing the next generation
how to do it.
Whether assembled by a 10 year old grade 5 student or your corner PC
store, the resulting NoLogo PC uses the same parts as a Big Brand Name
model, and can offer equal (or better) performance and reliability.