Last week brought the interesting news that hard drive vendor (and TidBITS sponsor) APS plans to start selling a line of Macintosh clones, probably sometime in November. APS initially plans three machines in the M*Power line, two desktop machines based on 160 MHz and 200 MHz PowerPC 603e chips, and a minitower based on a 200 MHz PowerPC 604e chip. The motherboards come from Motorola, and APS plans to differentiate its clones by allowing customers to specify precise hardware configurations on top of the base configurations.
The basic specifications for the two desktop machines, the M*Power 603e160 and M*Power 603e200, include three PCI slots, 16 MB of RAM, 8x CD-ROM drives, 1 MB of VRAM (upgradable to 4 MB) and 1.2 GB hard disks, with prices at $1,399 and $1,599. The 603e160 ships without a Level 2 cache, whereas the 603e200 comes with 256K of Level 2 cache, and both machine can take up 512K of Level 2 cache.
The $2,599 M*Power 604e200, which comes in a minitower case, features five PCI slots, 24 MB of RAM, a 8x CD-ROM drive, and a 2.5 GB hard disk standard. It has 2 MB of VRAM and a 512K Level 2 cache.
Although these prices include ADB keyboards and mice, they do not include monitors, and I expect most people will want more RAM as well, given the rapacious RAM requirements of many of today's popular programs.
When I asked APS vice-president Paul McGraw about the clone market, he explained the move, saying, "We're already supporting most of the system, and this is the natural leverage of the knowledge, inventory, and internal systems that we already have." In other words, APS has proven that they know how to assemble, sell, ship, and support a wide variety of storage devices - moving up to Macintosh clones is a logical extension of these skills.
In addition, APS is probably looking to evolve its product line for the future. Hard disk capacities continue to increase as prices plummet (the smallest disk APS carries is now over 1 GB). The obvious result of those facts is that within a relatively short time, most normal users will have all the storage they need for some time. High-end users will always continue to purchase 10 GB drive arrays and the like, but the market of people upgrading from 80 MB disks will continue to shrink.
From an industry standpoint, I think it's great to see APS making Macintosh clones. Although I'm of course biased since I've long liked APS, I think it's important for Apple and the Macintosh market in general to have more clone vendors, especially those that are already well-known within the Macintosh hardware market. Also, it appears that APS's machines will come in on the lower end of the price scale, which can only help get them in the hands of more people.