Close Encounters of the Small Kindby Jarred Walton on December 8, 2004 12:05 AM EST
- Posted in
Reactions to the Small Form FactorDepending on whom you ask, what happened next is up for debate. Either the SFF was a colossal success, or else we simply have a case of "monkey see, monkey do." Whatever the reason, the reaction of the industry was clear: SFF became a hot topic, and virtually every motherboard manufacturer came out with their own design.
As is often the case, the quality of the derivative efforts varied. Some were better in certain areas and worse in others; other designs were cheap, quick copies that failed in nearly every aspect, but few and far between were the designs that wholly improved on the original. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but flattery isn't worth much in the business world - just ask Xerox how much money that they had earned off the "flattery" of both Apple and Microsoft.
(Those who follow computer games have witnessed a similar phenomenon with the "revolutionary" genres: Wolfenstein 3D created the first-person shooter, and in a short while, there were dozens of knock-offs. Then it happened again with Doom and Quake; Dune II and Warcraft spawned the real-time strategy genre, and there followed a slew of clones of varying quality.)
Meanwhile, it's difficult to say what actually happened in the computer community. For all the reviews that have been written on the emerging world of SFFs, they don't seem to be that common. This is a personal view, but I have never been asked to service a computer that was in a SFF case, I've never been asked to build a SFF system for someone, and I never really gave the subject that much thought. With all the choices out there, what did people buy? I think a lot of people simply felt overwhelmed and went with what they knew: the old, reliable ATX case.
Why would all these companies put so much effort into this market when it doesn't seem to be all that popular at retail? Perhaps the manufacturers like creating a complete system, with a power supply and case that they approve for use with their motherboard. They might even be able to make more money off the sales - case manufacturers have to make money to survive, as do the power supply manufacturers; combining all three would give you all the profits, assuming the margins make it worth the effort. It could also be that the cases are actually selling very well and I simply don't run in the same circles as the typical SFF purchaser.
Regardless of the explanation, the fact remains that until recently, I had read plenty about SFF cases, but I had never actually touched one. Why would anyone want to spend more money for a system that had less expansion possibilities? I certainly couldn't see a reason for it! After all, if a new CPU socket came out, your case would now need to be replaced along with your motherboard and CPU.