Hello and welcome to this week's edition of Fooling the Idols. I'm not Ryan Seacrest, but I can do a pretty convincing impression of his hairstyle, given enough spray.

We're getting close to the final showdown here in Hollywood, and today, we'll have a look at how the remaining quartet of songsters get their computing done, to the sweet sounds of the Bee Gees.

For whom the bell tolls
First up tonight is LaKisha Jones, seen here hacking away on a Gateway (NYSE:GTW) laptop. Like LaKisha, Gateway is having an identity crisis, as even its own employees can't tell what sets the company apart from the competition. That's hardly good news in a day and age when consumer electronics sell on brand names as much as on features -- if not more.

CEO Ed Coleman took the wheel only six months ago, so it's only fair to give the guy some time to grease the wheels of this creaky old machine. But the facelessness of the Gateway brand is undeniable, and the company also runs less efficiently than the competition. LaKisha will probably choose the wrong song for her voice again and finally face the music, much like Gateway, which has lost so much of the name recognition it once had. Maybe the company should never have abandoned the old cow-themed image.

Stayin' alive
Then there's Jordin Sparks, happily annotating her lyrics on a Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) machine. When Jordin is on her game, she'll outsing anybody. Likewise, Dell's direct-to-consumer manufacturing model can produce some pretty sweet results, and this company can scrape by on thinner gross margins than anybody else. That gives the company a retail pricing advantage right off the bat.

But Dell recently lost its long-standing top spot in the PC manufacturing race, and founder Michael Dell has taken over the reins again after a short hiatus. The firm has broadened its product offerings by putting AMD (NYSE:AMD) chips in some models rather than the all-Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) strategy of old, but that's probably better for AMD than it is for Dell right now.

Supporting multiple platforms means distinct chipsets, doubling the need for details like technical support, quality control, and compatibility testing. Now that Dell isn't competing from the pole position anymore, that's unneeded pressure on the bottom line.

Like I said, have Jordin sing "To Love Somebody," or get Dell back to the operational excellence that used to be its hallmark, and it's game over for the rest of the field. But both of them can sputter badly, too.

You win again
Here's Melinda Doolittle, warming up for a predictably brilliant rendition of some obscure Bee Gees tune you never heard of. She still can't believe how nice her Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) notebook is.

HP and Melinda are the clear front-runners these days. The Mark Hurd era is off to a very good start, snagging that crown off of archrival Dell's head. It also helps to have a highly respected printer division, and a strong line of enterprise servers running the HP-UX flavor of Unix. When the bread-and-butter PC market turns south, as it is wont to do from time to time, these other divisions can pick up the slack. Melinda, who could give you goosebumps singing a shopping list, would agree that diversity is a good thing.

Jive talkin'
That leaves us with the dark horse in the field. Say hi to Blake "Beatbox" Lewis and his Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) MacBook. He's cooking up a scatty slant on "Saturday Night Fever," nearly guaranteed to appeal to his target audience.

Knowing your customers is key in this competition, as well as in the computer industry. When Mac OS X was new, it was a radical departure from previous versions. But it had the ultra-reliable innards of BSD Unix and several helpings of the design panache of Steve Jobs. It was an undeniable upgrade and a smash hit with the Maclots, and that was arguably the start of the Mac's renewed relevancy.

Riding the coattails of the iPod phenomenon didn't hurt either, and then the Intel-based systems filled the performance gap between Apple and the PC crowd. These days, you can boot up Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Vista on your Mac if you want to, and there's a hacked version of OS X available for running on vanilla PC hardware.

The Mac is now clearly playing on the same field as any other system builder, and doing just fine. Nobody expects Apple to overtake Dell or HP anytime soon, but you never quite know what tricks these guys have up their sleeves.

That's a bird's-eye view of the field, folks. We'll send one of our Idols home tomorrow night, but the PC makers will keep on fighting for supremacy for a long time to come. Foolcrest -- out!

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund is an AMD shareholder but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. His deep, mellow baritone is great for putting babies to sleep or loosening tooth fillings. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure sounds great in the key of Cash Major.