Somewhere in the news coverage of Psystar’s countersuit against Apple today, I was reminded of the car analogy I use to help friends and family understand how to buy a computer.

Under the hood of a car, everything is the same. There’s an engine, transmission, battery and some spark plus, belts and hoses. It doesn’t matter if the car is a Mercedes Benz or a Kia. All cars (at least in the pre-hybrid days) worked the same. The major differences were found in the upgrades – more powerful engines, performance handling designs, enhanced safety features and so on. Even the leather seats, power windows and in-car navigation systems are upgrades. That’s why some cars cost more – and often times, perform better – than others.

Take that concept and translate it to the personal computer. Motherboard, processor, hard drive, video card, RAM and so on – they’re all in there, regardless of whether the box says Dell, HP, Sony or even Apple. That’s not to say that all chips and video cards are the same. Some components are faster and more powerful than others. That’s why you’ll see performance PCs souped up for gamers priced higher than a $500 eMachine at Wal-Mart – just like you’ll see Toyota Yaris priced significantly lower than the top-of-the line BMW X5.

And, with the right components and the technical know-how, anyone could build one. I’ve seen dozens of homemade PCs in Silicon Valley homes and have even purchased some RAM and an internal optical drive off the shelf at Fry’s Electronics. And who’s to say I can’t build a machine at sell it at my own price? That’s basically what Michael Dell did out of his dorm room back in the 80s to start what would later become Dell, Inc., one of the top PC makers in the world.

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