The earlier link leads to an interesting article on the PC industry. The WinTel mass market suppliers have carried the Desktop market model into the Laptop arena and are now reaping the downside. [This is what the US Car manufacturers did as well, developing too many me-to platforms and then forcing folks to option up singularly unattractive base models of which there were too many as well. ]
The solution is similar to the car industry as well: in the long run there needs to be an emphasis on base quality and fewer options. (Is it not strange that this is what Apple is doing?)
BUT why not take a step back as well. Components have gotten smaller and a Laptops frame can only get so small without losing functionality. All these companies have developed custom interfaces so they can plug in modules for this and that but also standardized the chassis frames so that they can ‘plug in the modules for this and that.’ In other words they should have a platform to move to the Home Build market and let people build their own. Companies could compete with plastic, aluminum, titanium or bamboo chassis with various levels of cooling sophistication in 17″, 15.6″, 15″, 14″ and tubby 13″. Keyboard manufacturers could offer various keyboard modules. You could buy motherboards with a variety of chip solutions . Graphics solutions. Phone net solutions. LCD Panel solutions. Battery solutions.
Now all of this would require the establishment of an interface standard. IBM did this for the Desktop market almost by accident, but there is no reason that companies like Dell, Asus, Acer, etc could not come together, they build only marginally differentiated systems now, the differentiation mostly based on a ‘keep those rascals out of my hardware’ business model and design history.
What would this do? 1) Make it cheaper to build ma, pa and baby laptops to be sold in the big box stores. 2) Create a market for high-end technology in moderately tight form factors for a range of suppliers 3) Allow those with the tennies to move into building mainline power user, mainline business and high-end units which I believe will owe more to the MacAir than the ThinkPad or Inspiron of yore.