No Place Like Home
So what's the solution? The answer can be found in the same city that most third-party board vendors call home - Taipei, Taiwan. Much of the culture of Taipei revolves around technology, where various advertisements for IT components litter the street and surrounding buildings. Vendors have created brand loyalty for their products to the extent that 'Gigabyte' or 'ASUS' is as much of a household name as McDonalds or Pepsi.
The bottom line is that vendors are attacking global markets through intangible benefits when they should be promoting brand loyalty through mainstream advertising campaigns. And we're not talking about just advertising in enthusiast magazines and websites either. Rather, vendors need to approach global markets much like they do Taipei, as evident in the photos we've taken during Computex 2005 so far. This may not have been possible five years ago, but with consumers becoming more tech savvy everyday and actually beginning to care about the type of components inside their machines; the Australian, American and European markets are undoubtedly ready for further mainstream penetration by individual vendors.
Companies such as Apple have got the right idea, with a prime example being their iPod shuffle product. The shuffle is relatively small in capacity, boasts a significantly higher price than other flash-based players, and lacks a screen, yet the shuffle accounted for 1.8 million of the 5.3 million iPods shipped in its first quarter of availability (Source: PipperJaffray). The reason for this is simple - Apple's mainstream advertising has made the iPod a household name, regardless of the perceived advantages of the product itself.
At Computex 2005, this is undoubtedly an issue that we'll be bringing up during vendor interviews. It'll also be interesting to see whether these vendors can come up with any further means of product differentiation, but suffice to say, we won't be holding our breath. Hopefully we'll be proven wrong.