HP's Threadlogs: How to Mess with a Buyer's Head 101

Summary:Among the many things that Intel spokesperson Barbara Grimes must do on a semi-annual basis, one of them is to spank yours truly for saying anything remotely derogatory about that company's Centrino brand.  As I did last week, I routinely drag my opinion of the Centrino brand out of the closet when I think it's relevant to current events (as I felt it was to AMD's lawsuit against Intel).

Among the many things that Intel spokesperson Barbara Grimes must do on a semi-annual basis, one of them is to spank yours truly for saying anything remotely derogatory about that company's Centrino brand.  As I did last week, I routinely drag my opinion of the Centrino brand out of the closet when I think it's relevant to current events (as I felt it was to AMD's lawsuit against Intel).  I'm still working on a blog entry that was sparked by this week's exchange with Grimes.  But in doing some research for that entry, I went to HP's Web site to explore the differences between its Centrino-branded systems and its non-Centrino systems. 

For certain notebooks, you can pay $59 extra to replace HP's stock Wi-Fi 802.11b/g radio with an equally capable Intel 802.11 b/g radio.  Once HP's relevant Pentium M-based systems have that radio, they qualify as Centrino systems.  Technically speaking, to qualify as a Centrino system, a notebook must have one of Intel's Pentium M processors, an Intel 855 or 915M chipset, and one of several Intel PRO/Wireless Wi-Fi adapters (basically, the Wi-Fi radios).   In my discussions with Grimes, I learned that Intel has gone to great lengths to make sure the value that Intel believes the Centrino brand to stand for doesn't get miscommunicated.  While on HP's site, I was offered the opportunity to IM with a sales representative to get any questions answered.  I posed as a buyer and took the bait.   So comical and full of misinformation was the chat, that I could not resist sharing it with ZDNet's readers.  Whether you're looking for good laugh, shock, or horror, this is a must read.  Among the many things I learned from the chat:

  • Centrino is a new processor technology offered by Intel. (Truth: it's not  a processor technology nor is it new.)
  • Centrino means that the wireless capability  is built into the processor. (Truth: it's not.)
  • There are Centrino processors.  And there are Intel processors. (Truth: again, Centrino is not a processor, but it is an Intel brand.) 
  • HP's sales specialists, to whom HP's online experts refer you should your question cause smoke to billow out of their ears, are actually dumber than the so-called experts.  And when the line of questioning becomes too difficult, you are mysteriously disconnected from the chat.

Here is the fully adulterated (with my comments) threadlog.  (For two of my other threadlogs go here and here.):

Chat Information: You are now chatting with Ryan.
David: Hi ryan.
David: are you there?
Ryan: Hello.
Ryan: I'm here.
Ryan: How can I help you today?
David: I'm confused about what Centrino means. What does it mean?
Ryan: Centrino mobile is a new processor technology offered by Intel. [Editor's Note: Centrino was introduced in 2003] (continued)
David: cool
David: some of your notebooks are Centrino notebooks and other ones are not. Why should I pick one over the other?
Ryan: The selection depends on the usage of this notebook such as the kind of applications you wish to run. [Editor's Note: OK, let's go there.  This oughta be interesting]
David: OK, that doesn't help me much. I need you to tell me when a Centrino notebook is more appropriate than a non-Centrino notebook.
David: in other words, what applications is the Centrino better suited to, than non-Centrino systems.
Ryan: Centrino is more ideal when you are very mobile, ie, when you are always on the move and need to use your laptop then.  [Editor's Note: I guess that rules all other notebooks out for mobile use.]
Ryan: It also helps you have a longer battery life on the system.
David: longer than what?
Ryan: There are no applications as such [Editor's Note: I thought he just said it was for certain applications]. However, general system performance will be affected. Like battery life and processing performance.
Ryan: Sorry, I meant longer than pentium 4 processors.
Ryan: The P4 processors however are more powerful than the Centrino chips.
Ryan: However, the battery lasts much lesser than in the centrino models. [Editor's Note: "Much lesser"?]
Ryan: That is the basic differences between the 2 processors.
David: ok. But I noticed that I can configure a non-centrino notebook with the same processor and chipset as a centrino notebook (the Pentium M with / 855) and the only difference is that the Centrino notebook has an Intel radio and the non-Centrino notebook doesn't. So, why should I order a Centrino notebook over the nearly identically configured non-Centrino notebook and pay the $59 extra?
David: I can do these configurations on HP's site.
David: So, the basically, the site is telling me that by replacing the stock radio with the Intel one for $59, I can turn the system into a Centrino system.
Ryan: I understand your concern. However, due to their low power consumption characteristics, they are generally priced higher than the pentium 4 models. [Editor's Note:  What's on second.  I don't know.  Who's on third.]
David: But I don't understand why, if as you say, the processor is what's important, I'd pay the extra $59.
David: I'm not talking about Pentium 4 models.
David: On HP's web site, I can configure two notebooks exactly the same way except for the WiFi radio that's installed. If I use the standard 802.11b/g radio, I save $59. If I use Intel's Pro 802.11b/g radio, I pay extra and the system gets the Centrino sticker on it. Why should I pay $59 more to get the Intel radio and the Centrino sticker?
Ryan: Okay. Can I know which HP notebook are you referring to?
David: nc6000
Ryan: Thank you for the information.
Ryan: Are you looking to purchase this nc6000 notebook for your needs? [Editor's Note: No, I regularly purchase things that I have no need for]
David: yes.
David: it offers me the capability to put the Intel radio in it for an extra $59.
Ryan: Okay. We have a team of specialists for those products. If you can hold for just a moment, I will transfer you directly to them. Thank you.
Chat Information: Your Chat is currently being transferred. Please give our specialist a moment to review your transcript.
Chat Information: You are now chatting with Tiffaney.
David: hi tiffaney
Tiffaney: Good afternoon.
Tiffaney: Due to inactivity this chat will end in 60 seconds. [Editor's Note: I guess the onus is on me to get the conversation going.  Sort of an awkward moment]
David: have you reviewed my transcript?
David: can you answer my question?
David: It says "Your Chat is currently being transferred. Please give our specialist a moment to review your transcript."
Tiffaney: Yes, I see that you are comparing the intel based notebooks to the sentrino based models [Editor's Note: notice the misspelling of Centrino and the comparison to Intel-based notebooks, as though a Centrino notebook isn't an Intel one.]
David: yes.
David: well, not really.
David: I want to know why I should pay $59 more to get the Centrino version of the same notebook.
David: It has the same processor.
David: And the same chipset.
David: only the radio is different.
Tiffaney: Also see that you are referring to our nc6000 model notebook which has recently been discontinued at the end of June. [Editor's Note: Then why is it still for sale on HP's Web site?]
David: ok, well the same option exists for other notebooks.
David: so, why should I pay extra for the Intel 802.11 b/g radio if the notebook already comes with a built-in 802.11 b/g radio (a non-Intel one).
David: (adding the Intel radio turns it into a Centrino notebook).
David: but I don't understand why that matters.
Tiffaney: Honestly, It is really customer choice and many people feel they need to have the model that has the centrino sticker as you stated above. [Editor's Note: "Choice" is eerily reminiscent of my discussion with HP's acting director of commercial notebooks Steve Shultis who gave me the same answer when I asked him why they'd want to put an AMD processor in one of HP's notebooks if the company wasn't prepared to talk about how it performs in comparison to HP's other Intel-based notebooks].
David: but I am asking you to tell me what it means.
David: can't you tell me?
Tiffaney: Centrino -means that the wireless capabilities are built into the processor [Editor's Note: This is the specialist? Perhaps the hard drive is in there too].
David: OK.
David: And what does that get me?
David: why should I be interested in that for an extra $59 versus one that's not built into the processor?
Tiffaney: With the centrino model processors they are designed with longer battery life, and release less heat then that of a Intel model
David: so, the Centrino model is not an Intel model?
Chat Information: Your chat session has lost connectivity with us. [Editor's Note: Must have scared her off].

I coudn't make this stuff up if I tried.  I really coudn't.

Topics: Laptops


David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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