What is an ODM (Original Design Manufacturer)?

Original design manufacturing refers to companies who produce a product that will later have a different company’s logo placed upon it. This is commonplace among laptop manufacturers and is a process used by most of the big names in the industry, although there are a few exceptions.

msi whitebook

MSI "Whitebook"

The ODM process lets the companies focus on their core business and not deal with the process of actually producing their product to the end consumer. For example, the “designed in California” moniker used by Apple is often complemented with “…but made in China”. This is hardly a trade secret; the manufacturers that aren’t actually located in China usually outsource their production there. You’d be hard pressed to find a laptop that has been built from scratch in the US or Europe, although there are some companies such as Origin PC that assemble their products in the United States. There are similar vendors in Europe.

On the other side of the coin, the companies that offer these services don’t have to worry about expensive marketing aimed at the end user. For practical purposes it doesn’t really matter to most consumers if their laptop or other gadget was manufactured by the company whose logo appears on the item or if it was made somewhere else, but it might be an interesting piece of information nonetheless.

In a nutshell, the ODM process is outsourcing of the manufacturing process, or at least the final production of the product. Most big brands employ ODMs, but one exception is MSI (pictured), which both make its own gaming laptops and supply barebone laptops or “whitebooks” to partners. Another is Asus, although some of their unique designs never get rebranded.

Common ODM Laptop Manufacturers

The interesting part is perhaps who makes what and for whom. Quanta, Compal, Winston, Inventec, Pegatron, Foxconn, and Flextronics make most of the laptops, netbooks, and tablets on the market. Even competing manufacturers may use the same parts. Quanta components are used in HP, Alienware, Apple, Toshiba and others. Compal is the second-largest ODM and also build laptops for HP and Dell, as well as Acer.

All of these brands obviously line the shelves of Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and other major retail outlets, and the fact that an original design manufacturer has been involved in the process has no effect on the overall quality of the product–in that case all major brands would be affected.

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