From cases to keyboards, we speak to some of our people to get the lowdown on what rocked their world.
In the mid noughties, long after the VHS and Betamax battle of the 70s and 80s, there was another tech tussle. The ageing ATX motherboard was struggling with cooling the new generation of powerful PCs and BTX was touted as the saviour.
After debuting as an ‘upside down’ mount, the BTX standard soon found a mounting position on the left of the chassis when compared to ATX. It was widely acknowledged that designing PCs in this way offered better cooling features to cope with the increased performance from the surge in CPU power being experienced at the time.
“CPUs were getting so big and hot, the fan assembly alone was like a bag of sugar. They were all enclosed and the heatsink was huge”, recalls Tony Harrison.
We jumped on the opportunity straight away, designing a new BTX case in anticipation of the tide of technological change. Consequently, we were the proud recipients of a coveted Intel Design Award in recognition of the concept of ‘vortex noise reduction’ (OK, we probably made that name up) – that is spinning the air to cut back on the noise the device generated.
Despite an award winning design, and the BTX standard promising IT managers more than the aged ATX platform, the Stone BTX didn’t have a long and successful life. Intel made the decision in 2006 to end support for BTX in pursuit of a new generation of low power CPUs, which obviously generated less heat – reducing the need for the additional cooling that BTX proudly offered.
While it probably wouldn’t win any awards these days for what might be extremely kindly described as ‘classically rugged looks’, the Stonebook was a device that went on to significantly change the landscape of our business.
After many years of success providing a Stone service for Samsung notebooks, the Stonebook was the first time the business had ever bought a container full of notebook chassis with the intention of having the Stone brand front-and-centre on a mobile product.
Launched in 2006, this nifty notebook was the single biggest financial risk the business had ever taken. As Peter Berks our Purchasing Director recalls, “The Stonebook drove a cultural shift internally in the type of business we were, how we saw ourselves and critically how our customers saw us too.
Stone Small Form Factor (Mk1)
The Stone Small Form Factor was the first individually designed chassis that we invested in. It also spearheaded a boom in bespoke builds, taking customisation to a new level.
“This was the first time we had adopted lean production principles as a business; working with our team to see how long each component took and working to make each step more efficient”, explains Peter.
The result was hugely successful, the Stone Small Form Factor, and its future iterations, went on to sell hundreds of thousands of units and were the staple of our desktop range for many years before it was finally put to rest by smaller form factors in 2012.
Stone by Microsoft Keyboards
In a time before Siri, Cortana and…erm…’OK Google’ (still a strange name), there was just the trusty keyboard. Always the sideshow, never the star, the keyboard might seem like an odd choice to include in a Hall of Fame celebrating 25 Years of Stone. But in the early noughties Microsoft agreed to launch a co-branded keyboard to the UK education and public sector markets, with no other than – yes you guessed it – Stone! The Redmond giant had never buddied up with anyone before to offer branded peripherals, let alone anyone as specialist as a Staffordshire-based SME like us.
Working on an exclusive basis in this way broke new ground in the UK, and it obviously doesn’t do your brand any harm either.
PS – I STILL LOVE KEYBOARDS.
With a proud history of our 15”-or-so notebooks, beginning with the original Stonebook in 2006, it’s hard to pick just one for the Hall of Fame. It also polarised opinion when I asked our longest serving members of the team. Some went for the original Stonebook, and others opted for the more recent efforts such as the NT307 in all of its gloss-glory. In the end, we’ve settled on the NT300. It’s fair to say there’s been a series of mobile products that weren’t up to the standards you might expect from today’s Stone notebook range. We seemed to be on a bit of a losing streak, and the NT300 signalled a real turning point in those fortunes with a stonking 15.6” device that blended high performance and affordability in a way that other OEMs didn’t really offer at the time. It also went forever, offering one of the lowest failure rates of any mobile device we’ve ever had.
So hats off to the laptop that put us firmly back on a path to success.