Do you know who really built your computer? Most of us own computers sold by HP, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Dell, Sony, and the like. They may sell them, and they may brand them, but they didn't build everything they sell.
Some of the brand names do build (assemble) their own systems, but others buy systems that are in fact built by other companies. Those other companies are known as the original design manufacturers, or ODMs.
Original Design Manufacturer
An original design manufacturer (ODM) is a company that designs and manufactures a product as specified and eventually rebranded by another firm for sale. Such companies allow the firm that owns or licenses the brand to produce products (either as a supplement or solely) without having to engage in the organization or running of a factory. ODMs have grown in size in recent years and as of 2015 many have the scale to handle production for in-house the products that are branded by the buying firm. This is in contrast to a contract manufacturer (CM).
This model is especially used in international trade, where a local ODM is used to produce goods for a foreign company that sees some advantage in the transaction, such as low labor-inputs, transport links or proximity to markets. Innovative and/or patented technologies developed/owned by the ODM are another cause for this product distribution model. ODM models are also used where local ownership-laws possibly prohibit direct ownership of assets by foreigners, allowing a local firm to produce for a brand company - either for the domestic market or for export.
While the brand names are well-known, the actual manufacturers are not. Here is a list (courtesy of Wikipedia) of the major ODMs and the brands the manufacture for:
The vast majority of laptops on the market (94% in 2011) are manufactured by a small handful of Taiwan-based Original Design Manufacturers (ODM), although their production bases are located mostly in mainland China.
Major relationships include:
- Quanta sells to (among others) HP, Lenovo, Apple, Acer, Toshiba, Dell, Sony, Fujitsu and NEC
- Compal sells to (among others) Acer, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo and HP/Compaq
- Wistron (former manufacturing & design division of Acer) sells to Dell, Acer, Lenovo and HP
- Inventec sells to Toshiba, HP, Dell and Lenovo
- Pegatron sells to Asus, Toshiba, Apple, Dell and Acer
- Foxconn sells to Asus, Dell, HP and Apple
- Flextronics (former Arima Computer Corporation notebook division) sells to HP
Now for the fun part: some of these ODMs also sell under their own name, or under the names of lesser known brands. They sell the same computers they manufacture for the big brand names, they just come in different, usually less beautiful, cases. They also sell for less; after all, with a brand name you're not just paying for the hardware, you're paying for the brand name. Of course you're also paying for a supposedly higher grade of customer support, but - as anyone who has called customer support can attest - the promise of support is often more illusory than not. You also tend to get a much higher degree of customization than you get with the big brand names.
You won't find these systems in places like Bestbuy, but you can find plenty of smaller resellers who do. A good place to get an introduction to what's out there is a forum I used to frequent quite often: notebookreview.com
These systems aren't for the faint of heart, but for those who don't mind a little DIY when it comes to their computers, you can get systems that you cannot find elsewhere.