CompUSA used to be my favorite brick and mortar place to buy computers. But when they closed half of their stores in 2007, the company switched gears and moved to an Internet-sales model. The CompUSA stores in Northern New Jersey all were shut down, which pretty much reduced my computing purchases to the large discount club stores, Staples and the Internet. Good luck finding a 15 foot Cat-5 cable or some obscure peripheral or replacement part on a Saturday afternoon these days. Staples, Best Buy and COSTCO have a decent range of stuff, but there is just no comparison in terms of variety and choice of stock to the CompUSA retail stores when they were in their prime. And before you West Coast guys mention Fry's, we don't have anything like that here in the NY metro area. I wish we did.
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Still, moving to a mostly net-based model seems to be working out for CompUSA, or at least for its customers, who are now enjoying some of the best pricing deals on computer merchandise just about anywhere (EDIT: It seems that SystemMAX/TigerDirect owns the CompUSA brand and remaining stores now, but who cares, the prices are good). My interest was particularly piqued by this weekend's latest mailer, which list the Sylvania G Intel Atom-based netbook, that runs on a specially modified version of Ubuntu, for $379. I'm considering picking one up myself, although a cursory Googling of competing Internet pricing indicates you can get the unit as much as $20 cheaper elsewhere, although YMMV when it comes to shippping costs.
The Sylvania G Meso isn't exactly a top-tier netbook brand in terms of name recognition -- as many of CompUSA's fire-sale priced products are, which include nice deals on refurbished PCs -- however, it does appear to be a very good buy. With a 1.6Ghz Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, an 80GB hard disk, built-in wireless and built-in webcam, it's definitely at least as capable as the comparable netbook products from ASUS and Dell. That CompUSA is taking a stand and promoting the Ubuntu Netbook Remix version rather than the more expensive Windows XP model is also a position I respect.
With its rock-bottom prices, CompUSA could be positioned to be the king of cheap Linux-based PC sales, if they take this to the next level, which would be to preload the OS on its bargain PC refurbs and get some value-added SystemMAX OEM whiteboxes out there with Linux pre-installed. CompUSA.com-branded $400 or less Quad Core PCs sans-monitor with 4GB RAM and 500GB hard disks running on Ubuntu? I can see it.
Should SystemMAX/CompUSA become the online "Crazy Eddie" of Linux PC's? Talk Back and let me know.