What's the biggest bother with getting a new computer? Fiddling with all the files and settings you have to transport to your new machine. As relatively easy as some OS's have made it, it's still not fun, is it?
Okay, how about just upgrading the one you have? Well, there are all those cables and
devices, and putting in a new drive isn't exactly a cakewalk. Unless you shell out for a real expensive 'easy-upgrade' computer, you just have to take the whole thing apart to put in a simple part. Why not make it all external?
This is the CRAM form factor: put the CPU, RAM, and video chip and memory (both upgradeable) in a tiny, easily opened box. Put USB2, FireWire, FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet, and VGA/DVI ports on it, as well as a new kind of docking-station port on the bottom (more on that later). If you want to pay $50 more, you get the legacy ports (PS/2, serial, parallel) too. As for the power supply, I'm not sure whether a power brick (AC adapter) or an internal unit would be better. But even if you put in an internal supply, the relative lack of heat-generating parts, as well as the large cooling surface area compared to the small amount of mass which needs cooling, would allow this to operate fanlessly (or very near it), eliminating the largest part of the power supply (which keeps this thing tiny).
A big difference between this and other slightly similar devices is the ability to boot from a USB2/FireWire(800) device. This makes upgrading your hard drive as easy as plugging in a USB drive, upgrading your OS as simple as buying a disk with your new operating system preloaded. Files and settings? Just copy them over. If you're not upgrading your OS, you can ghost the whole drive to the new one, as you can now. But it's all external; no static precautions, no case-opening, no finger-cutting. You don't even need to shut down to add the drive.
'But I wanna upgrade my CPU/RAM/video card!'
Okay, now you open the case. Flip the top off. Look at it. Just four things: CPU, RAM, video chip, video RAM. All nicely laid out and instantly accessible. No cables except what is common to all computers, the power supply-to-motherboard connector. Do your business (not that business) and close the case.
'But I wanna get a new computer! And I wanna do it on the cheap! Oh, and I don't wanna fiddle with transferring all my years of files and settings to the new machine! In fact, I'd rather just use the hard drive from my old computer, which drive I just got a year ago!'
Then buy a new CRAM box for $300-500, and you get last year's tech, or spend a bit less than $1000, and get the *very* *latest* tech. All your other devices still work. Just yank the plugs out of yer old box, take the box to the store, and get yer new box, saving money for turning in the old one. Plug devices into new box. Smile at newfound speed.
'But I wanna plug in PCI(X/Express) cards!'
Simply buy a $100 PCI station. Plug the box into this slightly larger box--using that special port on the bottom--which has a few slots, and rejoice at the additional dimension of upgradability you empowered yourself with. Most people won't want/need this, so it's offered as an option to make it less expensive for those of us who won't use it, available for those who do.
'But I want portability!'
This will not allow portability like a laptop, but does allow you to take only a hard drive--instead of your whole machine--to your destination, so you can use your files there. Presentations, what.
'But what about my desk? Do you have any idea how much room this would take up?!'
Yes, indeedy, a lot. Just one last component, which you'd need to get only once: a small set of shelves, roughly the size of your existing computer case, made of translucent plastic. Four rods, one at each end, support the adjustable shelves, so that they're open at all sides. Everything is easily accessible. There could even be holes in each shelf to route cables through, so you don't have a big mess. Component computing is here. Upgrading any component is as easy as unplugging it and plugging the new one in.
Now, I understand that this wouldn't be for everyone. Some like everything *inside*. But most of us don't like having to take the computer apart for almost everything, plus all the complexity that goes with it. Not to mention having to take it apart again to put just a few things into the new computer. And paying for a new whole computer when all we want are certain new parts. Who needs a new set of PCI slots with every computer? Wouldn't the other ones do? What about a new case? But getting a next-generation CPU isn't as easy as it should be, so a lot of us shell out for a new everything anyway. CRAM makes it a lot easier.