If you've been following the news from the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, you'll know that Intel has offered a $1m bounty to anyone who can help it design sexy, small, stylish PCs.
The Intel Core Processor Challenge was sparked to evolve consumer perception of PCs being "big, grey boxes", and bring to market living-room-friendly designs that fit Intel's Viiv brand of in-home media-optimised PCs.
As fascinating as this is, it's hardly surprising. Intel has long been making fantastic components that beg to be paired with equally attractive base units. This has happened in a small number of instances, like the Shuttle XPC mini X 100 or the Evesham Mini PC, but for the most part we've had to put up with ugly, noisy boxes that give Windows-based PCs a bad name.
Apple's acceptance of Intel components in its latest batch of PCs has helped, but if you're one of the millions of consumers that wouldn't touch Mac OS X with an extended bargepole, you're stuck in Genericsville, Tennessee.
Crave asks why things have come to this. Why in the year 2007 -- an era where you can buy cars with Gucci leather seats, customise mobile phones with fascias that depict your own face and even design your own offspring to have a certain eye colour -- do our computers live in massive beige cases or generic, cookie-cutter black and silver yawnboxes?
Some point the finger at Microsoft. While Apple continually delivers clever, trendy-looking hardware to match its equally clever and trendy software, Redmond's finest is happy to let Windows users wallow in a sea of mediocre cases from every Tom, Dick and Acme with a design budget and a hammer.
Sure, Microsoft is primarily a software vendor, but you only have to look at the Xbox 360, Zune or just about any of the company's PC peripherals for proof it can also deliver attractive hardware. Does it not make sense for Microsoft to release a couple of kick-ass PC designs that make the most of its software? It would annoy a few hardware vendors, but so what? We, and apparently Intel, are fed up with the crap they've been churning out for the last decade.
We welcome the Intel Core Processor Challenge and so should you. Feeling adventurous? Why not enter the competition yourself? All you need are a few bits of wood, some paint, glue, a sliver of imagination and an Asus N4L-VM DH motherboard, as used in our ultimate quiet PC feature, and Robert's your father's brother.
Intel will award the grand prize winner up to $300,000 to help enable the mass production of the winning system and $400,000 for co-marketing activities. Systems submitted for the challenge must be fully functional and cannot be in the market prior to March 2007. You can get more information on the Intel Core Processor Challenge Web site Let us know how you get on. -RR