In a big win for US "white box" computer makers, Intel has joined the North American System Builders Association (NASBA) as a corporate partner. White boxes are generic computer systems that do not carry any particular brand name.
Intel's entry into NASBA, an organisation of more than 7800 white box makers, puts white box manufacturers on a more level playing field with name-brand computer vendors in terms of Intel products, services, and technologies, according to NASBA officials.
"We recognise the tremendous influence systems builders have over users' purchasing decisions, and we know we have to keep them up to date on Intel's products and programs," said Frank Ramondi, Intel's strategic channel alliances manager.
But instead of joining NASBA with a strategy to sell more Intel chips into the white box channel, Intel has simply taken the next logical step following a recent up-tick in the use of Intel processors in white boxes, explained Dean McCarron, an analyst at Mercury Research.
"A lot more of [Intel's] chips have been going into white box systems," McCarron said. "Intel saw this happening and I imagine joined NASBA in response to this, figuring they needed more contact with the channel."
White box makers "are smaller vendors, and they are quicker to react to a customer's needs, as opposed to big OEMs, which build in large volume", he said.
McCarron also pointed out that the increased numbers of Intel-based white boxes were "not displacing" white boxes loaded with chips from Intel competitor Advanced Micro Devices. Instead, the Intel-based white boxes were "taking more share from tier-one OEMs" such as Dell, Compaq, and IBM, he said.