The Vista Bounce

It could be called the Vista Bounce. Here is how it works:

First, you have to understand that a good desktop computer costs about $3,000 and always will. A good laptop costs the same.

If you believe differently either you have been believing the ads or you do not know what a “good desktop” or a “good laptop” is.

The reason that a computer is said to cost a certain amount, say “$1850.00″ or “Under a Grand” but actually costs $3,000 is this: The less expensive computer does not have something important, like memory, or a screen, or enough of a hard drive, etc. When you add that stuff on to the computer the price goes up. Also, the less expensive computer, while theoretically possible, is not the computer at the sweet spot. The sweet spot is the place on the price-performance graph (the more you pay the more you get graph) where if you go down in price the decline is gentle, but if you go up in price the incline is steep.

Why would you buy any piece of hardware that was not at the sweet spot?

The sweet spot for a desktop taking into account all of the important factors of processor power, speed, memory, storage, and screen, is $3,000.00. Always has been, always will be.

Laptops are the same exact price because you don’t want and/or can’t afford the same exact processor, memory, and storage configuration for the laptop without going way above the sweet spot. So you settle for less, get less, but because it is a laptop, and laptops (notebooks/whatever you want to call them) cost more per unit mojo than do desktops.

$3,000.00.

But, there is this OTHER number … the price you can actually “get something for” … the price many of you will send me hate mail about (“You moron, I got MY desktop with this and that and that and this configuration for nine hundred dollars and hooked it up to my TV”) … but you won’t post this in the comments (below) because you are afraid you are going to look like a wuss for having such a crappy low powered excuse for a computer.

These “you can get it for” or “I only paid….” prices are usually about half the actual price you need to pay for a non-wuss functional piece of hardware. But these days the price is dropping even farther than that, especially for laptops. At last, some of the hardware/price limitations for laptops have been reduced by the technology. Also, since all processors currently made are way faster than you could possibly use, there is some pressure off the laptop technology.

This is why we are seeing these strange beasts such as a $100.00 laptop, or an “under a grand” laptop.

This brings us to the Vista Bounce.

Imagine the following graph: From left to right is time, and there is a line dropping, dropping, ever dropping as time goes by, reflecting the ever-decreasing “you can get it for bla bla bla” or the “now available for under some-number-or another” price. Cool. Laptops have trajectories pointing to well below $1,000.00, and that is a good thing.

Once laptops reach a price of about one hundred dollars a piece, then everyone in the third world will be able to do what you and I do … spend somewhere between one and two month’s salary on a new, basic machine. (Well, in some cases, $100.00 is closer to a year’s salary, but these tend to be in regions with no electricity of any kind, so if you live there, no laptop for you…)

OK, so here’s the bounce. The line of dropping laptop prices happily trends down and to the right as long as the laptops are running Linux or some other efficient operating system.

But the moment you try to run, oh, say, Microsoft Vista on any of these laptops, well … that just does not work. As the laptop price drops below a grand, the ability to run Windows diminishes very quickly and completely to zero. The line for “windows-ready laptops” hits a certain horizon … maybe about $2,000 or more for a laptop, and bounces right off, incapable of penetrating that threshold at this time.

The Vista Bounce.

By the way, recent reports from various technology labs indicate that Microsoft XP SR 3 is going to have a 10-15% speed improvement. The upcoming service release for Vista will not have a speed improvement.

… bounce … bounce … bounce …

Comments

  1. #1 decrepitoldfool
    November 27, 2007

    The $3K baseline may be shifting. Admittedly it was a student-discount purchase but I got a dual-core iMac for my son with 2gb RAM for $1760. Judging from the profanity I hear whenever he has to use my Windows box, he feels his Apple is better.

    Was in my boss’ boss’ office today, and he just bought an iMac for his home, for under two grand. Now he’s getting frustrated with the fully-loaded Windows machine in his office.

    (Not calling you any names – really! But they might be onto somethin’)

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    November 27, 2007

    I should have been more clear: None of this applies to Mac. Mac’s are generally more expensive, unless of course you get them cheaper.

    All windows machines suck, but all windows machines can be made nice by replacing the Windows with Linux!

  3. #3 steve s
    November 27, 2007

    Why would you buy any piece of hardware that was not at the sweet spot?

    That statement is so uninformed by economics that I don’t know where to begin.

  4. #4 Benjamin Franz
    November 27, 2007

    No. The sweet spot is currently just under $2000. I know – I recently priced what it would take me to build a gaming machine.

    My specs:

    Two 320 GB RAID rated SATA II drives (WD3200YS): $180
    One 8600 GTS x16 PCI-e HDCP ready, SLI supporting video card: $214
    Four gigabytes of fast DDR2 1066 memory: $300
    One GA-X38-DQ6 X38 motherboard: $260
    One Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4Ghz processor: $280
    One 24″ HDCP capable widescreen LCD monitor (KDS K-24MDWB): $390
    Keyboard and mouse: $150
    WinXP: $200

    Total: $1974

    You would have to either be ‘gold plating’ a system (or buying from Dell) to reach $3000.

    Rule of thumb: If your budget is less than $1000, just go ahead and buy it from Dell. You probably can’t beat their price. If it is over that, build it yourself. The profit margins on higher end pre-built systems are quite large.

  5. #5 the real Fran Cisella
    November 27, 2007

    What about this laptop? It seems that it could have some nice residual Vista post-bounce ;-)

    http://www.laptopgiving.org/en/explore.php
    http://www.laptopgiving.org/en/index.php

    Have you followed the way that Microsoft wages war against this idea of One Laptop Per Child (running Linux)?

  6. #6 decrepitoldfool
    November 27, 2007

    Sorry, didn’t mean to be dense. Our experiments with Vista are not encouraging; we have 500+ computers in our building, running XP, all < 4 years old, and only about 120 of them can run Vista effectively. Many of the specialized applications we use in our business courses won’t run at all in Vista and the companies that develop them are running behind in creating updates.

  7. #7 decrepitoldfool
    November 27, 2007

    (comment broke for some reason) …all less than 4 years old. Only about 125 can run Vista effectively and many of the specialized business applications break entirely in Vista. The companies that make them are behind in updates.

  8. #8 Matt Penfold
    November 28, 2007

    Surely it depends on what you want to use your computer for ?

    If you want to edit videos, or play the latest games, then yes, you will need to spend a fair bit to get a pc with plenty of of processing power, a decent graphics card, plenty of RAM and a large HDD. But if all you want to do is browse the web, send emails and write a few letters then almost any PC being sold today will do. Indeed any PC sold in the last 5 years is probably going to do, especially if you add more RAM which is by far the cheapest upgrade you can normally do.

  9. #9 greg laden
    November 28, 2007

    Ben:

    Your monitor sucks, and your graphics subsystem probably does too. No fair building the system on your own, you have to buy it from Dell.

    Steves: You could begin by saying something less troll-like and making an actual point. In what way is what I said wrong? Why do you think they (economists) call this a sweet spot? Do you pay more than you need to unless necessary? Would you buy a 120 gig hard drive instead of a 400 gig hard drive because it costs ten dollars less? Huh? Get back to us on that, buddy.

  10. #10 Benjamin Franz
    November 28, 2007

    Greg: Video card http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130291

    While short of gold plating by buying a 8800 series card (at nearly twice the price), it is still an excellent card.

    As for the monitor, I would be intriqued by what you consider a ‘good’ monitor. No specing $1000 monitors. Those aren’t anywhere near ‘the toe’.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    November 29, 2007

    Holy crap, Ben, are you telling me I can get a 22 inch flat screen monitor for 300.00? Well, that clearly drops a grand off he sweet spot price for a nice computer. Is it for real? Are they sharp and crisp and clear ? I can’t use fuzzy monitors.

  12. #12 Benjamin Franz
    November 29, 2007

    Greg: “a 22 inch flat screen monitor for 300.00?”

    Sure. Here is a good one

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16824001096

  13. #13 Benjamin Franz
    November 29, 2007

    It occured to me after posting that you might be trying to spec a flat screen CRT monitor. If that is what you are trying to do, you are going to have to give up. CRTs of any type are becoming speciality items. The monitor market is now nearly entirely LCD.

  14. #14 greg laden
    November 29, 2007

    I have one of those flat screen CRT’s in the garage. Want it?

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