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PC Prices Reach $300 Milestone 515

Posted by timothy
from the huzzah-huzzah dept.
Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "Prices for fully loaded, name-brand PCs have slipped below $300 in the last few weeks, a major milestone. 'Ten or so years ago, when PCs cost five or even 10 times what they do now, it was common for analysts to say that they would never become a staple in homes until they were priced the way consumer electronics were, usually defined as costing less than $300,' Lee Gomes writes in the Wall Street Journal. 'In the days when PCs were $2,000 and even more, that target seemed to be something of a fantasy. Now, PCs cost less than some telephones--and less than a lot of TV sets--and can be found in roughly three-quarters of U.S. homes. But while they are priced like consumer electronics, the machines still aren't even remotely as easy to use, and the trend lines there aren't particularly encouraging.'"
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PC Prices Reach $300 Milestone

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  • Put Linux On It (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:41AM (#12801551) Homepage Journal
    The obvious /. response would be: put Linux and KDE (or Gnome if you swing that way) on them and the 'aren't even remotely as easy to use' complaint is solved or at least highly mitigated.

    I now expect I'll be modded up as insightful. :-)

    But in truth... Running IE and Outlook Express out of the box when pre-configured by Dell and hooked up by your local cable/DSL installer, vs. running Firefox and Thunderbird when configured and hooked up by your friend who knows their way around Linux... about the same learning curve. The trick is that if your friend who knows Linux set you up right, you won't be infected with three viruses and 18 types of spyware six months later.

    Windows vs. Linux in usage... about the same. Maintenance... Linux wins.

    - Greg

    • Six months later? I think you're underestimating the efficiency of Microsoft Windows...
      • Six months later?

        That of course, with the assumption it takes the user (6 months - 1 hour) to figure out how to turn the PC on and connect to the internet.
        • I'm not sure that matters any more - I understand that OEM versions of Windows XP now come with several of the more popular viruses and spyware packages pre-installed to save you time and bandwidth.
    • by cahiha (873942)
      Wouldn't it be nice if Dell preconfigured Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice, and stripped out some of the junk in Microsoft Windows?
      • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:52AM (#12801638) Journal
        Yup. And then pay for techs to handle the "omg wtf, why won't this page load. U are the sux0r!".

        I switched my folks over to Firefox, and this is what I got. Ended up putting the IE icon back on their desktop. Told them I will not clean spyware any more.

        • What pages were they trying to view? Even most bank pages I have visited render just fine in Firefox.

          Are you sure the font size wasn't just different, throwing them into a state of confusion?
          • by karnal (22275) on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:50AM (#12802118)
            I read your post as "blank pages"....

            Thought to myself... "Odd. I would figure blank pages would look the same in... ohhhhhh.. BANK pages...."
        • by thesandtiger (819476) on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:21AM (#12801877)
          Wow, your parents are pretty good at 'leet - did they study that Microsoft guide to understanding the terms?

          I'm getting a vision of my mother calling me up and going off like that - "OMFG! i gav birf 2 u! WTFXOR!!! LOL!11"

          Makes me laugh because my mom called me up the other day and, in a triumphant tone, said "Guess what I'm doing? I'm GOOGLING!"

          Five minutes later, I was still cracking up, and even now I get a smile.

        • by pla (258480) on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:38AM (#12802021) Journal
          I switched my folks over to Firefox, and this is what I got.

          As did I... And when they made that same complaint (somewhat more eloquently phrased), I explained that pages not loading (or even crashing their browser) meant, in no uncertain terms, that the owner of that site didn't want their business.

          Problem solved.


          As an aside - I've noticed that quite a few "major" sites DELIBERATELY crash Firefox... Weather.com, as the example I notice most often (since I actually visit it regularly)... I use the User Agent Switcher extension, and if I set it to MSIE (or even to no user agent at all), such sites work just fine. If I set it to FF or Moz - Bam!, dead browser.

          I mean, not taking the effort to make a site compatible, I can understand - But to actually exert effort to deliberately break some browsers? You'd almost think such actions must violate some law...
      • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:53AM (#12801645) Homepage Journal
        Some OEM's TRIED to do this, until MS threatened to never let them sell Windows again... then they stopped.
        • by Adam9 (93947)
          Our university bookstore [muohio.edu] [warning: tacky website] just signed a deal with IBM to buy a bunch of ThinkCentres to sell to the students. Our Support Desk was asked for input on what should be put on the image for each machine. A couple thousand students will now have Firefox installed for them ;) (I'm not sure if we put Thunderbird on there or not)
        • who did?

          I'm quite sure that Microsoft wouldn't love anything more than being able to enforce such things but I doubt that this is the main issue why oems don't do it.

          The main issue is cost. Most (read all) businesses aren't about ideology. Why would they go through the trouble to disable some of windows and install Openoffice and firefox? If for example real was paying them to isntall their play, then I could understand but going through the trouble to install 3rd party software is not on the oem's agend

        • by Safety Cap (253500) on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:57AM (#12802173) Homepage Journal
          Some OEM's TRIED to do this, until MS threatened to never let them sell Windows again ~.
          So, what date do you last remember? August 20, 1993?

          Oh man, you've been in that coma for a while [internetnews.com].

    • Re:Put Linux On It (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:50AM (#12801612)
      The trick is that if your friend who knows Linux set you up right, you won't be infected with three viruses and 18 types of spyware six months later.

      Sure, if you're the type of friend who likes to get calls at 8pm on a Sunday night saying "Hey, I bought this USB video conversion thingy and want to edit my home movies, but the software doesn't install. How can I transfer my movies from my video camera to my PC and then burn a DVD of it?"

      Sure, Linux can probably do it, but do you really want to spend the next 8 hours walking your friend through downloading and compiling packages, kernel modules, or hunting around for software to accomplish the task? Either let them use Windows, which 95% of the software out there assumes you have, or prepare to be their phone support for the next 2 or 3 years.

      Face it, no matter how hard you try, some users are just not going to get it. I've had to explain to my mother how to drag and drop a file to copy it in Windows 30 times over the past 5 years and she keeps forgetting. Sure, it's probably a convenient excuse to get me to talk to her for more than 5 minutes, but I've got other shit to do.

      • 5 minutes? (Score:5, Funny)

        by mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:48AM (#12802103)

        I've had to explain to my mother how to drag and drop a file to copy it in Windows 30 times over the past 5 years and she keeps forgetting. Sure, it's probably a convenient excuse to get me to talk to her for more than 5 minutes, but I've got other shit to do.

        C'mon dude, this is your Mom we're talking about.

        Besides, it's not like she's charging you rent to live in her basement.

      • Re:Put Linux On It (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kae_verens (523642) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:14AM (#12802304) Homepage
        Face it, no matter how hard you try, some users are just not going to get it. I've had to explain to my mother how to drag and drop a file to copy it in Windows 30 times over the past 5 years and she keeps forgetting. Sure, it's probably a convenient excuse to get me to talk to her for more than 5 minutes, but I've got other shit to do.

        The problem here is that she is learning to follow step-by-step instructions - and not learning to abstract what is actually happening. I notice this a lot when I'm helping non-techy people.

        Maybe she would remember what was going on if you showed her how to do it, then asked her to repeat back to you exactly what you just described, using completely different words. That way, she would have to assimilate what was going on, in order to rephrase it.

        • Re:Put Linux On It (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nametaken (610866)
          The problem here is that she is learning to follow step-by-step instructions - and not learning to abstract what is actually happening. I notice this a lot when I'm helping non-techy people.

          This is exactly right. It was also well outlined in "In the Beginning was the Command Line" by Neal Stephenson. Basically he details how various GUI's are a brutal facade over the actual functions you perform on a PC, and how this level of abstraction can be terribly confusing for people, instead of helping the user
      • Re:Put Linux On It (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ajs318 (655362)

        I've had to explain to my mother how to drag and drop a file to copy it in Windows 30 times over the past 5 years and she keeps forgetting.

        That's because dragging and dropping a file to copy it is ultimately a counter-intuitive action.

        It looks pretty, and I'm not going to dispute it takes a fair bit of computing power and some programming prowess to make the computer copy a file when you drag an icon -- but it really isn't what you'd expect to happen. Dragging and dropping suggests moving, not copyi

      • Re:Put Linux On It (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ucklak (755284)
        They they get a Mac. It's a hell of alot easier to do video on a Mac than a Windows machine. And might I add that only on a Mac can you do video out of the box for under $600.
      • Re:Put Linux On It (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shazow (263582)

        Sure, Linux can probably do it, but do you really want to spend the next 8 hours walking your friend through downloading and compiling packages, kernel modules, or hunting around for software to accomplish the task?

        Although I agree that usually getting things done on linux is a bit more complicated than doing them on windows, I feel must point out one thing:
        SSH.

        It's a blessing to be able to SSH into a friend's computer and fix it up in seconds, instead of spending the next 8 hours telling them "ok, c

      • Re:Put Linux On It (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arodland (127775)
        Er...

        with Windows, you would have to go out to the store, buy three different software packages, and install them all while you hunt for license keys and hope that they don't all overwrite each other's DLLs.

        With Linux, the driver for the video doodad is probably already installed; for everything else there's apt-get. No compiling, no driving, and probably less total time spent than the Windows approach :)
    • Re:Put Linux On It (Score:3, Informative)

      by strongmace (890237)
      Linux for most people is not easy to set up. A lot of people dont even know how to install programs properly, let alone an operating system. Most linux installers are not easy to use, especially for the free distros. Linspire or Xandros are what most people would probably be most comfortable with.

      Now, I will grant you that if somebody knowledgeable sets up linux, they can make it so that the interface is very simple and easy to use. That said, many people are still simply comfortable with windows. T
    • I beg to differ. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CdBee (742846) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:55AM (#12801666)
      I disagree. Purely on the grounds that many users have Windows experience from office work, and also because Gnome and KDE are both built on the same principles as Windows XP and use exactly the same concepts. There's no usability advantage to Linux when configured thus.

      An obvious security advantage, yes, but at the cost of obscurity. I build PCs for home users and I find it very difficult to sell Linux and mac based systems because users insist on being able to run the educational/edu-tainment titles they can buy in PCWorld (here in the UK) or presumably CompUSA on your side of the pond

      Ultimately, home users want Windows and are generally willing to pay out for NAT routers, antivirus and anti-spyware apps to protect them from the consequences. As an aside, the cheapest branded PCs you can buy in the UK are about £300, which considering the state of the Dollar on the foreign exchange markets is a bit of a rip-off...
      You can get a Mac mini for the same price (no monitor though)!
    • Re:Put Linux On It (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      when configured and hooked up by your friend who knows their way around Linux

      Isn't that the point of being easy to use? I'm sure I could find anyone who's an expert at anything to configure it for me... but that doesn't change the fact that it's too complex for the common user in the first place.

    • I can't tell for maintenance but setting up Linux will take you as much time as setting up Windows and maintaining it for a whole year. I mean that installing Linux is most often very easy, or at least somewhat easy, that is if you read the instructions in case you are a newbie but once you actually get to your desktop the real set up actually begins and it is a long one, just finding your vid card in Mandrake for example is a serious pain, it shows you every possible video card maker and each of their prod
    • Re:Put Linux On It (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kilodelta (843627)
      Why on earth would I want to put a stable operating system on a friend or acquaintance's machine?

      The $50 minimum to clean up spyware, viruses etc. adds up to $500 a month for me. Why would I walk away from that?

      Of course when I'm asked to build a system for someone it is built with all patches applied, AVG, users choice of firewall both hardware and software, Firefox and Thunderbird. That tends to cut down on the repair side but happy people are more valuable.

      It doesn't necessarily need to be Linux and K
  • One problem... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:44AM (#12801573)


    Interesting article...but it seemed to fail to mention one important dynamic.

    As time passes, operating systems and applications become progressively larger and more complex, requiring correspondingly more robust hardware to run on. I doubt that the 'entry level PC' (whatever that means) of a year ago is equal to the 'entry level PC' of today.

    • How much extra memory and resources did you allocate for slipstreamed Service Pack 2?

      Me neither. The pig got 512 meg 3 yrs ago, and the same today.

      With PCI Express, DDR2, Dual Core, x64, the sexy changes IMHO will be hardware, and those will filter down to everyone.
    • Re:One problem... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Minwee (522556)
      On the other hand the "Entry level PC" of ten years ago is the handheld mobile phone of today.
      • On the other hand the "Entry level PC" of ten years ago is the handheld mobile phone of today.

        Yeah, yesterday I saw a guy holding one of those up to his head while he was driving. I noticed the caps locks key was on...
  • Hmmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bonzor (856075) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:44AM (#12801576)
    I don't know about you, but computers are fairly simple to use out of the box nowadays. Plug it in, turn it on, point and click. Unless companies are still shipping DOS boxes to the massess.... I see more and more adults, kids and teenagers using computers than I ever have. So, it appears that computers are easy to use as long as the user has some sort of intelligence.
    • No matter how simple the setup and usage of computers get, you'll still have some people who have little to no interest in figuring out how to make the system work. They'll continue to look at the system as a tool and want very specific steps to follow rather than trying to understand prompts/wizards.

      I'll agree with you though that out of the box systems are becoming more simple to setup and use for those who have at least a casual interest in computers.

      computers are easy to use as long as the user h
  • by dbleoslow (650429) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:45AM (#12801585)
    'Ten or so years ago, when PCs cost five or even 10 times what they do now,

    I got a fully loaded (ie Windows and such) for ~$300 about eight years ago. It was (and still is..runs like a champ) an Emachines which I would call a major brand. These prices have been around for a while.
  • by PrideOfPomona (654189) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:46AM (#12801587)
    I could be wrong, but hasn't Walmart been selling PCs for $199 for a year or so now? Isn't this guy a little late to the party?
  • by lostwanderer147 (829316) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:47AM (#12801598) Journal
    How can they call it a "fully-loaded" computer? It doesn't even come with speakers! Everyone knows that a fully loaded computer needs to have speakers. It's just not really functional without them.

    *Ducks*

  • hardly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by udderly (890305) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:48AM (#12801603)
    Prices for fully loaded, name-brand PCs have slipped below $300 in the last few weeks, a major milestone.

    The PCs that are below $300 may be 'brand name' but they are hardly what I'd call 'fully loaded.' Usually 128MB memory and a Celeron or Sempron. Definitely not the Rolls-Royce of computing.
    • Re:hardly (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MtViewGuy (197597)
      The big issue here is that they should put in more RAM into the computer.

      You really want at least 512 MB for Windows XP Home or a full install of current commercial Linux distributions for things to work decently fast. When you reach 1 GB of RAM installed (most current motherboards can handle this), the only time you need a faster CPU is to run the latest games or run high-end multimedia-editing programs. The big advantage of installing more RAM is that you drastically reduce hard disk memory virtualizatio
    • Re:hardly (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:29AM (#12802429) Homepage Journal
      Definitely not the Rolls-Royce of computing.

      I don't think anyone implied that. I would call the $300 PC the "authentic replica Rolex" of computing.
  • by wpiman (739077) * on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:49AM (#12801605)
    This must be some new definition of "fully loaded" that was previously unaware of.
  • Cost of Windows (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 91degrees (207121)
    How much does an OEM copy of Windows cost these days? This must affect the final price quite considerably.
    • Re:Cost of Windows (Score:3, Informative)

      by BHearsum (325814)
      I worked for a small OEM and we charged $130 CAD for Home and $150 CAD for Pro. I believe Media Center was a bit more than that. Obviously the big OEMs will get volume discounts though.
  • by east coast (590680) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:50AM (#12801617)
    I was just at a yard sale and got a PC called a "Commodore 64" for 10 dollars with like 50 games. I expected the graphics to be a bit better but this "Radar Rat Race" just roxorz!
    • Pretty sure I played "Radar Rat Race" as a cartridge plugged into the back of our Vic-20. The music had the most maddeningly flat note at the end of the (endlessly repeated) first line...

      So, your garage sale purchase included backward compatibility! Totally forward thinking. This "Commodore" company really understands the course it's charting. Invest now.

      (Though personally, I think consoles will always make more sense for gaming. You'd want an Intellivision for the games.)

    • by GutBomb (541585)
      wasn't the Commodore VIC-20 available for $300 when brand new? You could buy it off the shelf at May D&F. I still have mine. Hooked it up a few months ago, dialed into a shell account with victerm using my 300 baud vicmodem with manual dial and looked at slashdot on lynx :)
  • by cahiha (873942) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:51AM (#12801624)
    You have to remember that, although low, we have also had some inflation over the last 20-30 years. So, that $300 PC is more like a $150 machine of a couple of decades ago. Compare that with the VIC-20, which cost about $400 in 1981 (with 64k of memory).
  • As prices have fallen, I've quickly reached a point where getting a new machine every 6-12 months is pretty normal (though I still tend to stay on the lower end of the spectrum). However, people still keep wanting advice on keeping their 700Mhz machine running when it's clearly not working so well anymorre. I just picked up a 1.1Ghz/256MB/40GB machine last week for $100. I still tend to put lower end machines to use (firewalls, fileservers, webservers, etc.), but for general consumers, PC's have reached dis
  • Pity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rinisari (521266) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:51AM (#12801629) Homepage Journal
    It is a pity that the average consumer still believes that a computer is like any other home appliance - it should last, unattended and with little regular maintenance, for years upon years. Computers are not like refrigerators or microwaves or dishwashers - they are a category of their own. They /do/ require regular upkeep via software and regular cleaning of the hardware. Unless you've got a case that has an Ionic Breeze [sharperimage.com] built into it (I challenge thee, O gladiators of Slashdot), your computer gets dusty.

    It won't be until computers are in the $100 price range that the average consumer thinks of them the way a lot of enthusiasts do: a tool with perqs.

    Until that time, people like us can make money as Mr. Fix-its and computational handymen.

    Then there is the other commonly heard phrase: "Well, you fixed it a week ago and it's broke again." To which I normally respond (at least to the people I call friends): "Have you used it since I fixed it?"

    Computers don't break themselves. Users break computers.
    • They should be more like appliances. Internally they should be self healing. And externally they should be more like my TiVO that has just sit there and run 24/7 for years. No Ionic Breeze necessary.

      For 90+% of the population computers should be more like appliances, that just sit there and work. Not enough effort has been made by the hardware or software manufactures towards this end.
    • Re:Pity (Score:2, Insightful)

      by stephencrane (771345)
      I have to disagree. There's nothing piteous about people expecting the same functionality out of their computer that they get out of the TV and DVD player. If that's what they want, that's what they'll buy. It just won't be the computer you'd choose to buy. Selling a computer most /.'ers wouldn't buy is hardly a bad decision from the start, since those who expect a toaster's functionality out of a PC tend to outnumber those who don't. That said, anything requiring constant upkeep should be built/desi
    • yuck (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cahiha (873942) on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:06AM (#12801758)
      You don't clean your refrigerator and your microwave? That's disgusting.

      Computers don't break themselves. Users break computers.

      Well, that's quickly changing: these days, computers can break themselves, be it via automatic upgrades, spyware, or worms that come in through vendor-supplied security holes.
    • Re:Pity (Score:3, Informative)

      by npsimons (32752)


      Unless you've got a case that has an Ionic Breeze built into it

      Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze is less than worthless [consumerreports.org]. Please don't plug it as anything other than an ozone generating device.

  • by bgarcia (33222) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:53AM (#12801641) Homepage Journal
    Remember back in the 1980's when Commodore, Tandy, Atari, and Texas Instruments lead the pack in home computers? These machines were priced right around the magical $300 mark back then. So how did we go from such great, cheap machines to the expensive PC-compatibles just a few years later?
    • They wern't that great. The great thing about them is that they came with Basic. Never going back to that 40 column display, junky sound, and summersaults to get more than 16 colors on the screen at a time (at least with the Atari and VBI switching).
  • Example (Score:3, Informative)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:53AM (#12801647)
    For those looking for an example: http://microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtm l?product_id=184679 [microcenter.com] Yeah, not a great computer, but does what most folks are looking for.
  • Let's face it, most people have a hard enough time dealing with the remote control. You have the universal remotes that control TV, VCR/DVD, and other devices. Computers have many more features than these consumer electronic devices offer, so of course they won't be as easy to use.

    It also depends on what you plan to do with your computer. If you use Quickbooks for example, that program alone has more complexity than most home theaters. The more complex tasks are that you do on a computer, the more comp
  • They are not down to $300 yet but the price of laptops have been falling pretty dramatically too. I bought a laptop for $1900 a year ago (not gonna tell you which brand, so there, but it's easily fast enough to play most high end games). That gave my wife laptop envy and so I finally bought her a new laptop just 2 months ago for her birthday (10 months after I bought mine). Her machine is the same brand, with a faster processor, better graphics card, bigger hard drive and it was down to $1400. Not I hav
  • by NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) <john@oyler.comcast@net> on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:56AM (#12801667) Journal
    Rocketships are cheaper than a horse and buggy was for your great-great-great-grandfather, but still not as easy to use!
  • by rben (542324) on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:00AM (#12801711) Homepage
    ...is a laptop below $100.

    While lower prices for desktop machines is great, we need to find a way to get laptops down to a price point where they can be used to replace textbooks for highschool students.

    This textbook replacement laptop doesn't necessarily have to have every possible feature, but I think it does need networking, USB, a harddrive, and a display that is fast enough for word processing and simple animations. The ability to play music might insure that the kids don't lose it. The kids can play FPS games at home on their $300 PCs; this machine is meant for study.

    Obviously, Linux will be part of that solution, since Windows simply costs too much money.

    The educational software for such machines should all be Open Source. This will make it easier for governments and school systems to adapt the software to their particular needs. Each school district can employ a couple of Open Source programmers. Think of what the combined capabilities of so many programmers will be when it comes to developing educational software.

    It's sad that we don't hear about wonderful educational software. The people who work on such software aren't held in the same regard as those who work on business enterprise applications or on games, yet educational software could potentially have much farther reaching impacts.
    • by patio11 (857072) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:44AM (#12802546)
      Whats the advantage to a laptop for study? Are you intending them to use it in class? Because mobility is the only reason you'd ever recommend a laptop to anyone. It doesn't work very well with the current curriculum in most schools, requires expensive teacher retraining, exacerbates the "ADD" problem (teachers will complain kids spend more time off-task, and they'll be right as far as that goes, for much the same reason as graphing calculators cause it), and would go unused in most classes. Computers are spectacularly poor devices for learning how to factor polynomials on, and OS drill software wouldn't change that one lick. They'll take notes for history, granted, but so will a 35 cent paper/pencil combo. They get in the way of language classes except when you're using them as a video/tape player (which is much better suited to a dedicated language lab, or for that matter a portable CD player, than a laptop).

      My mother and favorite aunt are both teachers, I was a teacher before I was an engineer, and I have unending respect for the majority of the profession... but the level of technological expertise approaches zero. Forget firefox, the "power user" at my Aunt's school uses IE and laughs at the people stuck with AOL's browswer or a six year old Netscape-for-macs client. These are the folks who need to be on the ball if Bobby's Electronic Notebook eats his test fourty-five minutes into the period... do you see that happening?

  • Household staple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:00AM (#12801715) Homepage
    Ten or so years ago, when PCs cost five or even 10 times what they do now, it was common for analysts to say that they would never become a staple in homes until they were priced the way consumer electronics were, usually defined as costing less than $300. In the days when PCs were $2,000 and even more, that target seemed to be something of a fantasy.

    I dunno about this, it seems to me that PCs have been a household staple for a while now. Even when they still cost $1000, they were common enough that it would be a surprise for a household not to have a PC in it. If you also consider the number of homes which have an obsolete PC (older than 5 years old or so) which are pretty much given away at rummage sales and such, the PC is just about ubiquitous.
  • Ease of use (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MECC (8478) * on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:01AM (#12801719)
    I don't know if I'd want a computer that worked like a cell phone.

    As for how easy computers are to use, I put my roommate, just an average consumer-grade computer user, down in front of my thinkpad running Debian (testing), and she was browsing the web, reading email, and doing research without a lick of help from me. Her response to "its running linux" was "what's that?"

    Easy to use, and no virus/trojan/worm/zombie/whatever-the-latest-windo ws-exploit-catagory-is-today worries at all. I don't think browsing the web, reading email, and opening various documents is harder on windows, nor is fixing windows any easier than linux - in fact it may very well be easier to fix windows (that's nother discussion), but the shear frequency of the need to fix windows itself seems to represent one of the factors in determining people's perception of how easy it is to use. You can't talk to somebody about computers for five minutes without the topic of viruses comming up. Most 'hard-core' windows users/advocates seem to see viruses, worms and the like as an unavoidable part of computing. Maybe if MS would clean up its act, computers would be as easy to use as cell phones.
  • Microsoft must be planning a strategy. License fees will be significantly reduced and we'll see more deals with governments.

    Question: Is there a way we in the Free Open Source Movement can increase pressure on M$?

    Real solutions are needed.

  • by slapout (93640)
    Ten or so years ago, when PCs cost five or even 10 times what they do now

    In the early 90s, an Atari ST cost about $400.
  • linux on the box (Score:2, Insightful)

    by evil_marty (855218)
    I would love nothing more then to have every brand new computer running linux on them. The fact of the matter is that installing an application for linux and its removable is more complex for the basic user. Until theres a universal package and delivery system for linux that the average joe can point-and-click to install, linux is not going to take off the ground. And yes I know of apt-get and emerge and their GUI frontends, but really they arent simply enough. Remember we are working for more of a duh-duh
  • Pessimistic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BioCS.Nerd (847372) on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:09AM (#12801779) Homepage
    I question the wisdom behind making such cheap computers. It seems to me that such cheap goods will encourage a "disposable" mentality to the computers. When this happens we can expect to see people merely throwing their old computers out on a scale worse than today.

    Computers seem to be the new styrofoam cup: we use them for a while, but they're with us forever. In my most humble opinion, I think the industry as a whole halt their progression towards ever cheaper computers for a while and instead focus on making fully recyclable computers.
  • Stable price (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Underholdning (758194) on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:10AM (#12801785) Homepage Journal
    I recently bought a new PC. I paid the same as I did for my first Intel PC 15 years ago. Yes, cheap PC's has gotten cheaper, but the price for a top notch PC with all the bells and whistles has been more or less stable for quite some time.
  • Grow up! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by miffo.swe (547642) <daniel.hedblom@g ... .com minus punct> on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:13AM (#12801805) Homepage Journal
    I really thing the computing industry and especially the software industry needs to grow up, seriously. There need to be better standardisation. Note that Windows is not a standard as Windows isnt compatible with windows even between variuos upgrades.

    Using a computer today demands you know exactly what you are doing and why, For your casual surfer or media user that should not be tha case. All they need to know is where to go and what to watch. Its the OS that demands the users help, not the other way around. No sane user wants to maintain the computer. He do it because he have to.

    The fast solution is cramming out specialized computers but that hits the wall pretty quick because of the lack of real standards on the net.

    Until we have some sane (widely used by even Microsoft) standards for the web nothing will change and every appliance will fall flat on its face. The industry created this mess with their "not invented here" syndrome and they are the ones who should clean the mess up.
  • Idiocy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eminence (225397) <akbrandt&gmail,com> on Monday June 13, 2005 @09:14AM (#12801811) Homepage
    But while they are priced like consumer electronics, the machines still aren't even remotely as easy to use, and the trend lines there aren't particularly encouraging.

    Idiocy. Some things are complex and require more knowledge to use effectively than others not because they are poorly designed but because they are much more powerful and versatile. How many functions a typical representative of "consumer electronic" serves? Even a TV needs just on/off, channel up, channel down, volume up & down to operate (the rest is hardly used). Is anything more complex in the consumer electronic field?

    What we have to do to shove this plain old truth down the underdeveloped journalistic cerebrums?

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Monday June 13, 2005 @10:06AM (#12802240)
    The reason is: with PCs, I have a consistant interface. Even if I use different OSes, the idea is the same, just follow the menus.

    Maybe it's just me, but I still haven't mastered my stereo, or my TV/DVD/VCR/Remotes. My PC, by contrast, is a cinche.

    With my entertainment system, it's always: " . . . no wait, if I'm going to tape the show, *first* I have to VCR power, *then* power-TV, then switch to the other remote, then push that little button on the top - no wait - that was with old remote - with *this* remote, I have to use the VCR remote to turn on the TV, I only use the TV remote to change to channel 3, and to adjust the volume. Damnit, that didn't work . . ."

    And every settup is completely different. I don't have that sort of problem with a PC, with a PC I just follow the menus.
  • by King_TJ (85913) on Monday June 13, 2005 @12:45PM (#12803668) Journal
    It seems nobody here stopped to mention this yet, but it occurs to me that the big reason we've reached this "milestone" is thanks to slave labor!

    The PC market has been depressed for a long time now. That new Dell PC with the latest generation of CPU and 512MB of RAM standard shouldn't really be selling for only $399.95. It only does because they can get Chinese workers to assemble the things for them for pennies per day.

    And this carries over to ALL aspects of that PC, including the plastic molding process that makes the case! (A while back, I looked into getting a case made for a prototype product we were thiking of marketing. While there a a number of businesses in the U.S. that will do the injection molding process - they practically *all* informed me that I'd be wise to have the mass production of the end-result done in China or Taiwan. They simply couldn't compete at all on price for quantities. It seems they do most of their business helping someone get the very first sample done, and then selling you the molds that it was made with.)

    I know many people say "So what? It's a global economy now!" and all that... But I'm not sure we can really preach and claim to be about such things as "freedom" or "individual rights" while letting our own economy slowly collapse. The U.S. doesn't seem like we export any technology anymore! (Heck, what do we export lately other than a lot of our jobs?!)

    Being very much a "free market" proponent, it's almost hard to admit this. But right now, we're just not working on the same "playing field". I think the large nations of the world are going to have to get together and agree to add some steep tarriffs to goods imported from 3rd. world countries (and anyone using what amounts to slave labor practices to build their products).

  • They may cost $300, which may be the price threshold for ubiquitous home consumer electronics, but they're still five to ten times more difficult to use. What's a firewall? Why do computers get viruses? What's a service pack? What's a folder/directory? Why are there so many folders on my computer? What is a file? What is a drivers and why do I need one? When you think of it in those terms, you'll see, the PC is far from being ready to be a ubiquitous piece of home electronics.

    No, the PC will never catch up with the mobile phone. [chiralsoftware.net]

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:26PM (#12804039)
    GQ-7000 (Fry's cheapy brand)
    Pentium 3.0.
    motherboard video
    Generic motherboard, case.
    Speakers, mouse, keyboard.
    DVD burner. 4.7 gig dual standard.
    256mb ram.

    --- I plugged in my home network cable and turned it on.

    It started up and immediately worked.
    I could see all other computers on my network.
    I put in DVD's and they played.
    I could burn DVD's.


    The neighbors 3 blocks over called to complain about the noise. :)

    --- Since then, I've made the following upgrades.
    1) replaced the ram with a stick of 512mb mushkin ($29).
    2) Installed two silent fans ($9 and $12). One replaced the noisy fan that was screwed to the heatsink- I kept the original heat sink.
    3) New video card (but the 9250 is NOT dx9 like it says on the box so it's going back).

    ---
    Out of the box, the GQ-7000 is a noisy good computer for playing, burning dvds, browsing the internet, and playing games that do not need heavy video performance. It is NOT suitable for modern games.
    ---

    With MINOR upgrades ($29+$21+~$169), you have a very quiet, 3.0ghz computer with a 1 generation old (geo6600 or similar ati) graphics. Furthermore, you don't have to install the OS and you have a restore CD to quickly reinstall the OS later.
    ---

    $300 computers are usually celeron/semprons in my experience and too far back. But at $400, you can get last year's state of the art performance without overclockiing.
  • by espo812 (261758) on Monday June 13, 2005 @06:01PM (#12807025)
    'Ten or so years ago, when PCs cost five or even 10 times what they do now
    Man, if only someone had predicted that computing power would double every 18 months [wikipedia.org]. They could have been rich.

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