Chris Long's Column: Supermarket high-tech

You are going to recognise these words, and you are going to have one of two reactions. It depends on whether to you the drink is half empty or half full.

You are going to recognise these words, and you are going to have one of two reactions. It depends on whether to you the drink is half empty or half full. You are either going to say "oh no" or "oh well". There is a third reaction of "we must do something about this because Chris is very important to us and this state of affairs is just not good enough" but frankly, as nice as it sounds, I think that there is more chance of getting a mug of hot cocoa and a bedtime story off the Queen. Anyway:


There, said it. The story goes thus: Just last weekend I was stocking up on Budweiser and multigrain bread in my nearby Sainsbury's when I saw what looked remarkably like a PC for sale. With a smile of confident recognition I went over to have a look at it. I was all prepared to grin smugly at the obviously inferior piece of kit (well what else would be on sale in Sainsbury's) when I saw the price -- £850. Hah! I thought, I spent just about double that on my heavy duty PIII machine. A machine that I got BEFORE (almost) EVERYONE ELSE. A machine that enabled me to wander up the pub and say to my friends, "I have a PIII doncha know."

Not all of them knew what I meant but polite nods of recognition from my one or two more polite friends made up for that.

Thus it was looking down at the £850 Fujitsu sitting quietly on a Sainsbury's shelf that I received the shock.

It too was a PIII.

How can this happen? How can the market that I have been part of for so long hurt me this way? Earlier this year I paid something like £500 for the processor alone on my new system. By my calculations Intel must have PAID Fujitsu to take the processor on this new machine -- true, the processor in the £850 computer was a 450MHz and mine is a 500MHz, but to be perfectly honest I can't see Intel charging something like £500 for a 500MHz PIII and £2.50 for a 450MHz PIII.

Either that or the prices are coming down -- a bizarre thought, but it is possible. And that is what's not fair! Sure, I wanted the processor so I could do just a little lording about -- not a lot, not as much as, say, a lottery winner or someone who has Sandra Bullock's phone number. No, just some minor lording about, telling everyone I had a more powerful Pentium than them.

And then a matter of minutes later Intel is giving the sodding things away! At this rate there is a serious likelihood that sometime in the next three months a chap will approach you in the High Street and press a PIII into your hand and say, "No, take it, we want you to have it." A week after that and the same thing will happen, only this time he will press a fiver in your hand too, paying you to take these PIII's off his hands.

I wonder if this happens in other markets. Perhaps I could pop round to the nearest Ferrari garage and point out that the new Ferrari has been out for more than three months and shouldn't they lop 50 percent of the price off? You never know, it might work (although I suspect we are in the same ballpark as the previous Queen, cocoa and bedtime-stories scenario).

I know some of you will be muttering darkly about the £3000 you spent on your first floppy-disk-only PC or the £5000 you spent on your first 386 machine, but that was different. That was you. I'm an industry commentator, I'm supposed to be above these things. Now I want this sorted out: In future when I buy leading-edge technology, I don't want any of this silly mamby-pamby price-cutting stuff.

When I buy a top-of-the-range PC I want it to stay a top-of-the-range PC for a just little longer than it takes to sneeze -- and I certainly don't want the price to fall, if it has to, let it fall BEFORE I buy it.

Some people call it progress; I call it the last time I go near a PC in a supermarket.


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