The Orange revolution

Andrew Wooden talks to Charlie Cooper, head of OPC development at Orange, about a new hybrid PC...
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The product appears to be a cross between an electric guitar amplifier and a PC. How relevant for PC stores is this?

We spoke to some retailers and they said a lot of the issues they have when customers are buying audio products is that, with an audio interface for instance, a lot of the time they bring it back because of compatibility issues. A lot of people are getting into music recording at home because computers are getting faster now for the average consumer. Combined with upload sites like MySpace, it’s getting more and more affordable. But to do that you need to know what you’re doing; you need to get the right speakers and you need to get the right audio to analogue digital converter, one that works well and ones that’s got a low latency. On top of that you need to get the right software too. So we spoke to a lot of hardware manufacturers and a lot of musicians and we addressed all these problems. And with computers getting more powerful its makes sense to have a machine that’s more relevant to what they do.

Much like you’d have a specialised gaming PC?

Alienware do gaming computers – this is a computer for musicians. It’s expandable like a standard desktop tower as well. We have everything in place to make it easy to upgrade. There’s a PCI express slot, so if a user happens to be a gamer they can add a graphics card in. Or if they feel they are missing Firewire they can add a connection in, or an extra hard drive, and so on. It’s designed to sit between a laptop and a desktop. Laptops are really portable but it’s a nightmare when it comes to recording, desktops are not portable but are very fast and easily upgradeable. So it sits in between these two categories.

If retailers and resellers were going to take on this machine, how customisable are they?

It's very similar to a normal PC, we’re using standard parts, but we’ve optimised some of the audio parts to make it sound better. So you can add an extra CPU or a hard drive.

So if it’s that close to a normal PC, couldn’t people just put something similar together themselves?

Yes they could, but the idea of this is for people to just work out of the box. The good thing Apple does with its computers is they just work out of the box. There’s not a computer out there that works very easily out of the box when it comes to this. You have to buy the correct speakers, get the right audio interface, and so on, but that’s true of a lot of things. If you know what you’re doing you can always make a custom PC, but for everything in one box, this is it. The other thing is if your going to build your own rig you’d have to get all your own software for it. With this it’s all pre-loaded. We have an advantage here as when it comes to software we have a lot of contacts in the music industry. So we’ve managed to get the full retail versions on here for free.

How big do you think the market is for that sort of music fan? Do you have any projections?

It’s difficult to say, but we’ve had a lot of registrations on our site. The music industry and the computer market have been merging. Back in the day, computers were really for geeks only, then Apple came in and tied it up with music and design a bit better, and now it's all converging.

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