Need To Buy A Dude A Dell?

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. . . or HP (they’re now “giving away” LCD monitors, too, so they’re price-competitive with Dell) or whatever, because a Joe Sixpack in your life wants a new machine shortly, and you don’t want to be bothered with building one and becoming that person’s tech serf?

Well, do you like (or at least fear) him or her?

If the answer is “No,” and there is resentment and/or vengeance in your heart, particularly the passive/aggressive kind, stop reading this now.

Still here?

You know the other big shoe when it comes to x86-64 is getting ready to drop. Intel will introduce its first desktop EM64Ts next week, and some “regular” Prescotts and the dual-core Smithfields will follow in about three months, joining the current AMD-based machines.

Why should you care? Your Joe Sixpack may think x86-64 is an upcoming X-Men sequel at the moment, but two-three years from now, he may need it, and get mad that you didn’t get it for him way back when.

I think at this point, even for a Joe Sixpack system, maybe even especially for a Joe Sixpack system it would be wise to make x86-64 a requirement. No, I’m not insane. Joe doesn’t need x86-64 anytime soon, but if x86-64 becomes the standard in a few years (which is more likely than not), having it will likely extend the useful life of Joe’s machine a couple years.

(Much the same can be said for PCI Express cards. The issue is not what Joe needs today, but what the market will look like three or five years from now. AGP cards will be harder to find (and likely more expensive) than cheap PCI-E cards by then

In general, one ought to grab the latest technological standards at the point where it costs you little or nothing.

No Windows, you say? True, but that should be rolling along within the next 90 days. More interestingly, Microsoft said a while back that it would have some sort of technology swap where you could trade in a 32-bit Windows XP Professional (not Home) license for a 64-bit license. See here for the most specific description of this out of the mouth of someone from Microsoft.

Unfortunately, six months have gone by, and no further details have emerged. I’d try to hold Joe off on a machine until at least the OEMs offers a free swap down the road for anybody buying a 64-bit machine.

A Different Perspective

The average person who is look for a replacement computer these days is probably hurting pretty badly by today’s standard; most of the time, it probably was bought a milennium ago. Waiting really isn’t an option.

For the average person using a computer, what is available today is fast enough, and typical desktops aren’t going to get much faster for Joe’s purposes for years to come. Dual core is hardly a necessity, and it’s hard to see anything else that will really benefit Joe in the next three years, given his light computer use.

Maybe Cell will take over the world, but even if it does, it will hardly do so until perhaps the end of this decade, again, from the perspective of the light user.

So any machine bought in 2005 for this kind of person has a better-than-even chance of being that person’s machine in 2010 (with a little care shown today).

I realize that for many reading this, that sounds as bad as keeping the same underwear on until 2010, but repeat after me “Joe doesn’t think like me, and that doesn’t make him stupid.” Joe doesn’t have your needs or wants, so what’s good for you isn’t necessarily good for him. Grandma doesn’t need SLI. Really. :)

Unfortunately, Joe isn’t too good at meeting his needs and wants by himself.

A Case Study

Someone I know has recently decided on a new desktop because the old one wasn’t working well. Scandisk kept running, and she couldn’t run a polar bear screensaver for some completely obscure reason. She told me that some really nice computer store guys said they would take care of her problem for just $650.

To make a very long story short (it took almost two weeks for me to find out the model number), she ended up having two problems.

  • A failing hard drive (no points for figuring that out)
  • The computer had integrated video incapable of DirectX 8 and no AGP slot (finding that out took two weeks).

    The computer’s less than three years old, and some cyberpolar bears are going to do it in. Oh well, it’s also a Tualatin Celeron machine, which never exactly had a long life expectancy, anyway.

    Guess who’s going to wait a bit for a machine with a PCI Express slot, among other things? :)

    What’s important about the story isn’t that it’s rare, or this person is particularly ditsy. What’s important is that it’s very common, and most average Joes are that ditsy, one way or the another.

    Maybe I just have horrible luck, but I have personally never come across a friend or relative who bought anything resembling a good machine by him- or herself. Usually, they buy the type of machine that I was busy denouncing on these pages, just because it cost a little less. Willamettes with SDRAM? For sure. :(

    The average person has not a clue on what they’re buying today, much less how well it will age over the next few years, and unfortunately, their technical help either isn’t (or doesn’t want to be) much better at it.

    A little planning can go a long way. If you can extend the life of a machine for this type person a couple years with just a little thought and a few extra dollars upfront, that’s like saving a few hundred dollars.

    When all else fails, try that as an argument. It’s the only one that might work.

    Even more importantly, a little planning means that person won’t bother again you for a couple extra years, and that’s priceless. :)

    Ed

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