Tag Archives | Acer

RadioShack’s $99.99 (Kinda! Sorta!) Netbook

trs80model1001There’s something (mildly) magical about the idea of a computer that sells for $100. It captured the imagination back in 1982, when Timex introduced this one. People still call the OLPC XO a “$100 laptop” (plug: we’re giving one away) even though OLPC hasn’t yet ground the price down to $100. And now RadioShack–who some of us former still TRS-80 groupies think of as “The Biggest Name in Little Computers”–is selling Acer’s Aspire One netbook for $99.99.

Yes, there’s a catch. It’s the same one that every cell phone carrier uses to drive down the alleged price of most of their phones:  The ‘Shack is offering the Aspire at $99.99 only if you sign up for a two-year contract for AT&T 3G wireless service at a minimum of $60 a month. (The netbook has 3G capability built in.) In other words, you’re commiting to a total expenditure of $1539.99 (before taxes) over two years to get a computer for a penny under a hundred bucks.

Just how much do you save on the Aspire by signing that two year contract? RadioShack is selling the netbook at an unsubsidized price of $499.99. That seems a tad pricey given that a similarly-equipped Aspire (except without 3G) goes for $380 elsewhere.

My instinctive reaction to the ‘Shack’s deal is the same one I have to almost all ones that involve subsidizing an immediate purchase with a long-term contractual obligation to pay a fixed monthly service price: Don’t do it. The price of 3G service will likely fall, and relationships with wireless carriers tend to be better when you can cheerfully call them up and tell them you’re planning to dump them immediately for a competitor. (In addition, AT&T 3G coverage remains spotty–going online with the Aspire won’t be much fun at all if you happen to be in a neighborhood where you can only connect at EDGE speed.)

Of course, the utter universality of two-year contract pricing in the phone world proves without a doubt that the average American is willing to do the deal, rightly or wrongly. So I think it’s possible that these Aspires will fly off of RadioShack’s shelves. And I’m curious to see if other electronics merchants will roll out their own “$100 netbook” offers.

Would you take the bait?

(Image of TRS-80 Model 100 from OldComputers.net)


Gateway: Direct Sales No More

This is kinda sad: On Friday, Taiwanese PC giant Acer announced that its Gateway subsidiary will stop selling PCs direct to buyers over the Web and will focus on indirect sales–that is, through retailers such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Costco. Along with Dell, Gateway created the direct-sales PC market starting in the mid-1980s; for a long time, it was the only way to buy a Gateway, and the company’s whole reason for being centered around the idea that the best way to buy PCs was directly from the manufacturer.

There was a time when it looked like most PCs might end up being sold direct. And at its best, it was and is a wonderful way to buy a computer. Now only Dell remains as a major manufacturer focused on the direct market, and it’s dabbling in retail itself and generally no longer a shining example of the virtues of buying direct.

Today’s news is no shocker, since Acer not only doesn’t sell direct but has thrived in recent years by actively spurning direct sales in order not to compete with the retail outfits that sell its PCs. Only a really schizophrenic company could have done business both the new Acer way and the old Gateway way.

A lot of us whose memories of PCs go back to the 1980s probably retain some residiual fondness for Gateway–the plucky, quirky upstart founded as Gateway 2000 by Ted Waitt in in Sioux City, Iowa in 1985, with the wacky, cow-centric marketing. That company disappeared a long time before Acer bought it–it was certainly gone by the time it launched an ill-fated attempt to reinvent itself as a consumer-elecronics company and then ended up acquiring eMachines, and eMachines’ business strategy. in 2004. But the warm fuzzies for the Gateway name have helped sustain it, even though the company in its current form has almost nothing in common with its original incarnation except the word “Gateway” in its name.

Okay, the cow spots remain, too…

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