NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It has always been tough to be an original equipment manufacturer, producing technology to showcase another company's software or basic design. Competition is fierce and margins thin.
But for a generation OEMs ruled computing. From Compaq to Dell, from Hewlett Packard (HPQ) to a host of Asian companies, OEMs whose PCs ran Microsoft (MSFT) Windows could out-produce Apple (AAPL) by a mile, undercutting its prices to such an extent that businesses were willing to wait four years for a graphical user interface that worked, rather than paying up for the Macintosh.
Apple changed the game with the iPhone and the iPad. China made it happen. Parts suppliers and Chinese assembly plants, working directly under Apple's orders, could fill its sales channels no matter how they grew.
At the same time cloud providers, starting with Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO) and Facebook (FB), found they could build PCs from parts and create clouds for much less than it cost to buy servers from the OEMs.
None of this is news.
Compare the five-year performance of HP, the largest Windows OEM, Microsoft, which supplies its software, and Intel (INTC), which supplies its hardware, against Apple.
HP is worth 9% less than it was then, after a ferocious reinvention of the company by CEO Meg Whitman. In mid-2012 it was down over 60% from the mid-2009 price. Microsoft has now joined in the general recovery and is up 74% over five years, Intel up 93%.