Most people think that companies such as HP, Dell, Toshiba, Sony and others make laptops. But in fact, generally they do not. Nearly all laptops are manufactured by companies known as Original Design Manufacturers or ODMs. These companies design and manufacture laptops; they may do so in entirety and all the big name brand has to do is stick their own label on it. Or, they may produce a ‘barebones’ model that the big name brand will subsequently customise and then label. The design may be totally generic, or may have been designed in conjunction with the brand according to their specifications, or designed by the brand.
Most of these ODM companies are Taiwanese and the laptops are assembled in Taiwan or China, with a small number in South Korea (Samsung) and Germany (Fujitsu). The two largest manufacturers are Quanta and Compal, with the former being responsible for nearly 1/3rd of all laptops. Just about all of the brands use these ODMs, for instance:
* Quanta have manufactured for HP, Lenovo, Apple, Acer, Toshiba, Dell, Sony, Fujitsu
* Compal have manufactured for Acer, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, HP/Compaq
* Wistron have manufactured for Dell, Acer, Lenovo, HP
* Inventec have manufactured for Toshiba, HP, Lenovo
* Pegatron have manufactured for Asus, Toshiba, Apple, Dell, Acer
* Foxconn have manufactured for Asus, Dell, HP, Apple
* Flextronics have manufactured for HP
At this stage, very few brand names produce their own laptops. However, a handful do make some models themselves whilst outsourcing the production of others. Examples of companies that do this include Samsung and Asus. It is also the case that some of these ODM companies began life as part of a manufacturer; for instance, Pegatron was originally part of Asus.
Does this matter? In one sense, it does not. Laptops are made from commodity components and provided they are assembled with due care and attention and subject to quality assurance, then things should be fine. It is also the case that the main differentiator between manufacturers is not the hardware or the operating system (Windows) – which are identical – but the utilities and additional software they provide on top. Often known as “crapware”, this unnecessary software can make using any new computer a miserable experience. All brand manufacturers tend to install it, with the honourable exception of Apple. However, one sense in which it does matter is that it can be argued that buying a particular brand is an emotional rather than a rational decision. There are plenty of people who will argue that, say, Dell equipment is a lot better than Acer, being totally unaware that neither makes their own kit and that both may have been made by Compal in the same factory!