Is poised to become the Crazy Eddie of Linux?

Is poised to become the Crazy Eddie of Linux?

Summary: 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.



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.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

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. $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. 

Topics: Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • MicroCenter is the better alternative

    Microcenter exists in NY and Northern NJ and is better than CompUSA.
    • Microcenter

      If they had enough stores I'd consider it, but I'm not schlepping to Paterson to buy computer stuff!
      • What in the world is "schlepping?"

        Whatever it is, it sounds like you'd need a napkin when you're done.
        Henrik Moller
        • Yiddish

          Henrik, it's Yiddish. Derived from Low German.

          And forget the napkin, you need a towel.

          • A great deal of Slavic influence in addition to German.

            See Harold Bloom's article about Max Weinreich's book in the New York Review of Books.
            Anton Philidor
          • Yiddish Policeman's Union


            Very cool SF novel.
      • Microcenter Locations

        I am fortunate enough to be able to shop at the Microcenter location in Kansas City (Overland Park). They just don't have enough locations. It happens to be my favorite brick and mortar store.

        CompUSA was everywhere. I could catch them in most any city I would visit, and they would have the things I need, particularly when visiting family in Oklahoma. Now the only thing available to me when I visit there is BestBuy and Circuit City. CompUSA before they tried to compete with BestBuy and Circuit City was an excellent store for computer hardware and software. It started its decline when they added all the non-computer items and drastically shrunk their computer hardware and software selections.
        • AMEN!!!

          I second that!
        • Too MANY stores

          And that's exactly why there is no CompUSA anymore - TOO MANY STORES. They over saturated their market. Here in Northern NJ there was a store within 5-10 miles of another one in any direction. In some cases two store in one town within 3 miles of each other (Paramus). Rent isn't cheap, the stores were empty, how many stores do you need?

          Think Best Buy and Circuit City are immune to this? Some day they will succumb to the same issue.

          It's good that there is only ONE Micro Center here in Northern NJ. The place is ALWAYS packed. They'll have no problem staying in business. It's the only computer store I go to, and I'm happy, no, I'm lucky, to have them here.
      • Something wrong with Paterson?

        It's worth the schlep, and 3.5% tax too!
  • CompUSA is dead

    Just thought some one should clarify that CompUSA as it was once now is no longer around. They went out of business and tigerdirect (systemax) bought the name and created the website and opened some stores in Florida under the name.
  • I never had a positive experience with CompUSA

    Back when they were in business, I always found the customer service poor and the prices too high, compared to what you can find on-line. That's probably why they went under. Now that the brand is owned by Systemax/TigerDirect, I'm sure it can only help their image.
  • WTF does this have to do with Linux?

    Mr. Perlow, I'm full of admiration
    for how you get paid to write about
    nothing. CompUSA has no plans go nuts
    marketing Linux, and somehow you
    turned that into a whole column, and
    lure readers like me in with a false
    promise and a fake premise. I guess
    that's an achievement of sorts.
    • chill pill is needed

      what an angry, angry person you are :)
      Vadim P.
    • It's a service

      ZDNet with its fanatical advocacy for Linux provides information which would not be available where a product with a 0.8% market share is not considered important.
      Anton Philidor
      • Yes, a necessary service...

        ...considering Microsoft's relentless, ruthless, pursuit of monopoly includes doing its best to make sure it's hard to buy Linux pre-installed.
        Henrik Moller
    • Its an observation

      That CompUSA (or Tiger/Systemax, whoever you want to call them these days) is advocating the sale of Linux-based computer systems by heavily promoting them in their advertising. To me, that is significant.
      • historical perspective

        Jason, I'm inclined to agree with you, as every other mass merchandiser that has dealt Linux systems has most emphatically not headlined them...and that's a pretty earth-shaking change in print marketing. Even .8% of the market is many, many thousands of machines, given the normal statistical effects of print marketing, and given this is TigerDirect (really) they stand to make a hefty chunk of change in expanding that niche market. Who knows, market share could double or triple almost overnight...and even though that's still a small niche in the market, it's millions of dollars...
      • I don't know if I call it promoting...

        ....or acceptance. But either way its a step forward when Ubuntu can be advertised in a sales paper. It says that the name (and Linux along with it) are reaching a point where the average person receiving this paper will know what it is.

        Not far behind you will see Linux support for most drivers and applications. At that point the job is done no matter what the market share is.
  • Which kind of Crazy Eddie?

    Are you using the term "Crazy Eddie" as in Eddie Antar's extremely aggressive sales techniques (circa 1971); or are you using it in the meaning that Jerry Pournelle used in "The Mote in God's Eye" (published in 1974) as an insane belief that there is always a solution to an unsolvable problem?