I have been watching the computer business for more years than I care to mention. I have seen the prices for technology drop time and time again. You'd think that I would be used to this by now, but I am still amazed.
This morning I was asked to look at a PC that runs very slowly. It is an eight-year-old system and is rather typical of PCs built at that time: it runs Windows XP, has 256 megabytes of RAM memory, a rather slow Celeron CPU, and an 80-gigabyte hard drive. When I looked at it, the system booted slowly, and the anti-virus program popped up a message during the boot, stating that it was out of date. The owner reported that the computer "runs slow" and "locks up frequently."
I started mentally calculating what it would cost to get this system updated and operating properly. Two hundred fifty-six megabytes of memory is marginal for the photo editor the owner uses, so he certainly needs more memory. He also needs to upgrade his antivirus program. Once those improvements are made, I could probably investigate to see what software problems he might have. (I am very suspicious of a virus or two.)
Estimating the cost of the hardware plus the labor time for a technician to perform these tasks, it was obvious that he was looking at a charge of $100 or more for labor plus another $75 to $150 for hardware and software. The total could be considerably higher if the software problems turned out to be significant.
I went to a local computer store and purchased a new Compaq computer for him: it has twelve times the memory of his old computer, four times the disk space, a dual processor CPU that is perhaps four times the speed of his old processor (I don't have exact specs), a much better video board than his old computer, and a free trial of an anti-virus program that will expire in a few months. He didn't need to purchase a new monitor as his new system will work well with the monitor he already has.
Of course, the new system includes a one-year warranty for all hardware and included software.
The price of this new system? $299!
The new system also includes Windows Vista (which might not be considered an improvement over XP) and a certificate for a free upgrade to Windows 7 when it is released in a few weeks.
I have seen similar scenarios before, but I am still amazed: the technology has improved so much and the manufacturing costs have dropped so low that it is now often more cost-effective to purchase a new computer than it is to repair an old one.
The computer I purchased is on sale at a local Office Depot store but you can see the same sale online at http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/494028/Compaq-Presario-CQ5110F-Desktop-Computer-with/. Office Depot isn't the only retailer selling $300 computers; you typically can find similar prices on similar computers at most any computer discount store. I don't know how long the Office Depot sale will last.
This system obviously is not top-of-the-line these days nor did this gentleman need a top-of-the-line system. In fact, I'd guess his new $299 system is much more powerful than his requirements dictate.
I wonder what prices will be like five years from now?