dont you think you guys are being a little harsh?it's a step away from the ugly beige tin boxes which is a good step. can't we applaud their desire to be more aesthetically pleasing (successful or not) instead of bashing their attempt?
There is a video you can watch from the CNet website about of the Bill Gates introduction of their new prototype (pictured above). It's called the Athens.
The keyboard detaches from under the monitor and there is indeed a mouse. Both are bluetooth. What that pic doesn't show you is the tacky looking and toaster-like CPU that comes with it and the massive, single (grey) cable that powers everything.
Gates starts off calling it a "hub." Sound familiar? Man, does he have an original thought...ever??? The optical drive is in the side of the display...which is actually quite deep and not all that "flat" after all.
They chose to house many components behind the LCD display, so they could keep their CPU on the smaller end of things. That PC is just NASTY!
Of note too, is that if you actually see the video, the desktop picture is almost IDENTICAL to the default blue with curved swooshes that you get when you first power up your Mac.
It's not bad looking. One look around any office or a new computer store, for that matter, and it's clearly an improvement.
There is a bit of a problem with PC hardware and any stylistic adventures, though. It costs money, and it naturally means your "fancy" product costs more and sells less (volume), for "exactly the same thing". It's actually very hard for PC vendors to take any stylistic chances, because it costs them money, they can measure it, and they can attribute it to the extra styling itself.
It's an issue that always comes up when you sell into a commodity market (ie oil filters, disposeable lighters, window glass). It's Wall-Mart vs Birks, and it's a tough sell all down the line. Actually getting into production is harder, getting it into stores is harder, and getting it home is harder.
Businesses are wary of being percieved as spending on "unnecessary luxury", and as long as beige boxes are acceptable that's as fancy as they want to get, for fear of offending some shareholder or customer. Politicians and Government departments run in fear of a decent looking PC, and for good reason.
Even if it cost the same or less than an ordinary ugly beige PC, there would be resistance to fancy PCs, because it's a percieved extravagance. Business is notoriously averse to offending anyone; to the point where "might offend" is more than enough to kill something that is probably just fine with clients, shareholders and everybody else.
Apple doesn't have that problem in quite the same way; if you want the system you just buy what Apple is selling, fancy or otherwise, and in a business setting people generally assume you use Macs because of some valid business need. No hassles over the nice package (if you think it's nice). You can't do that with PCs and still sell in the volume you need to stay competitive with other vendors.
Now, Sony realised it wasn't going to win head-to-head with Dell, so the decent-looking VAIO line was OK with them. Sony VAIOs sell poorly, however; particularly the desktop models. Most PC vendors wouldn't take the chance.
While not something I think I would buy, this thing isn't that bad. As GordGuide pointed out, it is a definite improvement.
HP, Compaq and Sony have all be refining their designs for some time now, it has been a while since they came out with a "plain beige box".
People do want a better looking machines, the biggest problem facing the manufacturers (Apple especially) is that no one wants to pay for design. in fact, most people don't want to pay for anything at all. A lot of people who walk through the door of my store list off what they want and when I tell them that it will cost over 2000$ they are surprised. Especially when they are after laptops.
"What do you mean I can't get a P4 for less than 2000$?"
Sony is actually not doing so bad all things considered. Their machines cost more, but come with more software (actually, similar to Apple they come with video editing and other digital media software). Their laptops sell as steadily as almost any other, but their desktops do suffer the "design tax".