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When I headed off to college, first-person shooter games and the famously illegal Napster
This meant that I wanted to head off to school not with just any computer, but with a brand new juiced-up computer. (OK, I was also a little bit of a geek.) At the time, my options included such familiar names as Dell
I ended up with a top-of-the-line PC made by Micron
Eight years later, my younger brother's just heading off to start college, but his need for a robust computer is no less important. Instead of Napster, Apple's
Notebooks are now increasingly popular on campus, and today's models could easily run circles around my hulking freshman-year desktop. It's also far more common, and far more important, for students to have their own computer, rather than relying on campus computing centers.
The evolution of the college computer has been a mixed blessing for the companies selling them. Though the market has expanded by leaps and bounds, prices have been squeezed, and margins are far slimmer than when I plunked down a few thousand for my Micron.
The landscape has also changed. Though Dell and HP (thanks to Compaq) are the industry's two major players, Apple's sleek designs and iPod-assisted cool factor have put it back in competition as well. Foreign rivals are also much tougher; Lenovo has major presence thanks to its IBM acquisition, Acer just bought Gateway, and Sony, Toshiba, and Fujitsu are also snagging U.S. sales.
Despite all this change, however, one thing remains very much the same about computers on campus: their vulnerability to spilled bee -- uh, I mean, soda.
Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy was pledge master for three straight years at its frat in college, and it misses having pledges bring it breakfast in the morning.