Mossberg Tells PC Makers To Cut The Craplets

from the the-ad-supported-PC-is-back dept

Anyone who has bought a new PC in recent years knows all about the rigmarole associated with getting them going once they've been taken out of the box. In addition to all of the preferences, the user is faced with an onslaught of what are basically software ads in the form of trial services. Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walt Mossberg, who has certainly seen more than his fair share of computers over the years, was nevertheless struck by how ridiculous things have gotten, after experiencing the joys of setting up a new Sony Vaio laptop. In addition to two dozen pieces of teaser software for services from Napster and AOL, the computer came pre-loaded with four feature-length movies from Sony Pictures. Of course the movies, which were taking up valuable space on the hard drive, couldn't be viewed without first paying Sony. The problem, as Mossberg correctly identifies, is that computer manufacturers act as if the computer doesn't belong to the user, but is instead some platform for them to pitch services. It could be argued that all of these pitches help subsidize the cost of the computer, or at least help defray the growing Windows tax (the fact that as hardware prices continue to drop, the portion of a computer's price that goes to paying for Windows goes up). But it's not surprising, then, that consumers are increasingly interested in alternatives, like desktop Linux, as a way of avoiding the whole mess.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2007 @ 7:05am

    I am a PC technician, and have built just about every computer I've owned (the ones I haven't were given to me). I can tell you right now that all the OEMs cut so many corners on their low-end machines, it's not even funny. They use crappy slow hard drives, cheap generic memory, flaky motherboards, power supplies that die within a year or two (often taking other components with them), etc. A good chunk of what you are paying for is operating costs, people's salaries, and warranty work, not the PC. This type of PC is fine for some people and certain situations, but you aren't really getting your money's worth out of it. Plus, if you are the type of person that actually knows what kind of components you want, chances are extremely high that you will never get the options you want from any OEM. There is a plethora of options for computer hardware available that the general public never sees because they don't know about them or understand them.

    I think everybody needs to either start learning how to build their own computers or buy a custom-built computer from somebody who does. OEMs may have customer service that can listen to your requirements and offer suggestions for a purchase, but they are bound by their product line, which may not fit your requirements, or your budget. When building custom, the sky's the limit. Just a couple weeks ago I built a brand new gaming system for a friend of mine, using all high-quality brand name parts. It was complete with a 19" digital LCD panel, Microsoft Comfort Curve keyboard and laser mouse, and a Creative Labs 7.1 surround sound speaker system, which btw was plugged into a Creative X-Fi Xtreme Gamer sound card, not crappy on-board audio, and I loaded Windows XP Media Center edition on it, which was the XP "Ultimate Edition" since it has all the features of XP Professional (which is actually more expensive) as well as the multimedia stuff. And with a GeForce 8800 card driving the video, it took any game we could throw at it and kept asking for more.

    The parts for the system were purchased exclusively from and came to total of just a bit under $1950, and that includes all the shipping costs. Any OEM system that could rival the power of this machine would cost closer to $3000, possibly more with shipping and tax. The only problem with building your own is that if any problems come up, you have to service the machine yourself (unless you bought a custom rig from a mom-n-pop shop), and you are stuck with the individual manufacturer's warranty for each of the parts. However, I don't buy the cheap crap that usually breaks down, rather I just buy the good stuff at reasonable prices. Of all the systems I've built, hardly any have had any sort of hardware failure that was due to a component failing on its own (as opposed to, say, a power surge blowing out a PSU and motherboard). Also, if you use good parts, your system, which already cost you less, will easily outperform any OEM piece of junk that comes preloaded with a bunch of crap. If you don't believe me, go buy a $1000 Dell Dimension PC, then get somebody to build you the fastest custom rig $1000 can buy (while trying to maintain equivalent specs to the Dell), then set them up side by side, turn them on, and watch what happens. If the custom rig was built well, it should make the shiny new Dell appear bloated and sluggish.

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