Apple forces competition to abandon metal skin for UltraBooks

Thanks to Apple's stranglehold on the supply chain, its competition has no choice but to turn to fiberglass

Apple is once again proving just how powerfully influential it is in IT. By effectively cornering the market on CNC (computer numerical control) lathes, the company is forcing its already reeling competitors to move from metal to fiberglass chassis on their Intel UltraBooks.

The CNC lathes in question are a critical component for building the ultrathin unibody-based magnesium-aluminum chassis spelled out in Intel's design guidelines. But those lathes are in short supply; suppliers Catcher and Foxconn both have over 10,000 each, according to Digitimes -- and almighty Apple has dibs.

Thus, Apple's struggling competitors have been forced to scramble for an alternative to metal, and it may turn out to be RHCM (rapid heat cycle molding)-based fiberglass. The material is actually a mixture of fiberglass and plastic that's resilient, light, and moldable. It's also less expensive than metal and could lower the price tag on PCs by as much $100.

Sure, the price drop might slightly boost the non-Mac rabble's appeal to customers -- especially enterprises -- but that may not be enough. End-users are historically resistant to change and almost certainly will not respond well to have to adjust to an entirely new feel to their computers. Further, IT admins may be hesitant to risk investing in machines made from a nonmetal material that has yet to prove its mettle, as it were. In the end, only Apple will be able to reliably deliver the cool, calming, solid, familiar tactile experience that end-users and IT admins alike desire.

This story, "Apple forces competition to abandon metal skin for UltraBooks," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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