Puget Systems: Independent PC Building is Very Much Alive

Puget Systems: Independent PC Building is Very Much Alive

Summary: My post from Monday about the imminent collapse of the system builder ecosystem and the death of homebrew rattled more than a few feathers, including the folks over at Puget Systems, who's $16,000 PC became the object of my ire when one of their PR people shot it across my bow as an item of interest for the blog.This blog and ZDNet as a whole has had a tradition of allowing vendors the right to an editorial response to anything that is published.

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TOPICS: Hardware, CXO
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My post from Monday about the imminent collapse of the system builder ecosystem and the death of homebrew rattled more than a few feathers, including the folks over at Puget Systems, who's $16,000 PC became the object of my ire when one of their PR people shot it across my bow as an item of interest for the blog.

This blog and ZDNet as a whole has had a tradition of allowing vendors the right to an editorial response to anything that is published. So without further ado, I give you Jon Bach, President of Puget Systems.

Jon Bach's Response

On Monday, Jason Perlow at Tech Broiler wrote about a $16,000 PC we had built, which has recently been making its way around blog headlines.  He commented that “Extreme PCs” are no longer relevant, and asked his readers whether these types of PCs, along with build-your-own homebrew PCs were going extinct.  It's been interesting to read through the reader comments, and I wanted to add some perspective of my own.

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

The main premise here is that most people do not NEED to be on the bleeding edge of computer hardware, especially now that technology has reached the point at which even a cheap computer will meet most needs.  With these thoughts, I entirely agree.  As a system builder, we've known this for years, and if you ask any of our customers, they'll tell you that we recommend ways to cut back and save money far more freely than we suggest upgrades.  But most people want more than they need, and people are used to getting what they want.  I personally feel that this economy is a healthy reset to these past trends of excess.  Many people don't need a high end video card, just like many people don't need that 5 bedroom house.  Add to this the fact that for the first time in a long while, Microsoft appears to be releasing a LESS bloated OS than the previous version, and we see the collapse of a computer hardware bubble.

Of course, I can only speak with certainty about what we're seeing at Puget Systems, but this is indeed what we're seeing.  People who used to buy $3000 computers are now buying $1200 computers.  People who used to buy $1200 are now going to Costco.  But what about people/organizations who buy $5,000+ computers?  For us, they're still going strong.  Why is that?

The difference is that those customers are not buying to meet their desires.  They're buying to meet their needs...real needs.  One of the biggest false assumptions being made about our $16,000 PC is that this is something we are trying to market to the masses.  We'd be crazy to do that.  This $16,000 PC was purchased for a specific application, for a specific reason – to make money.  We see this all the time.  If a video editor needs to be able to render his program in a short window of time, then faster hardware buys him that ability.  If a university can improve its fluid dynamics simulations by a factor of 100x with an expensive computer, that could be a positive investment.  These are not gamers, or people sitting at home with money to burn.   These are people with real needs that need to be met.  These types of “Extreme PCs” are not going away.  In fact, we're personally seeing demand increase.  Why?  Because while many of the other system builders out there are following the crowd trying to compete with $500 Costco machines, we're going the other way.  And we're emerging as one of the few system builders competent to handle the job.

But what about lower cost computers?  I am not saying that system builders are fighting a losing battle against Costco machines.  While it is certainly a shrinking market, it will reach a new equilibrium.  Building a quality PC does not mean building an obscenely expensive PC.  Jason says he now buys his computers from Costco, but if you read about his experience, it was riddled with frustration.  There are many that have no tolerance for those frustrations.  For the same reason one would buy a BMW car, people will continue to buy quality machines – a quality you will not find at Costco.  This kind of quality will only be found by tailoring the PC to the individual, which will be done through build-your-own homebrews, or through smaller system builders.  Jason is absolutely correct that there is no place for ridiculous products where we're headed.  The hype in the computer industry is collapsing under its own weight, and its about time.  The future is about performance for the dollar, reliability, low power, low noise...and I can't wait.  We've been singing that song for years.

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Topics: Hardware, CXO

About

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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7 comments
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  • That pretty much nails it

    "The difference is that those customers are not buying to meet their desires. They?re buying to meet their needs?real needs."

    That pretty much sums up how I feel - okay, maybe some small number of people are now buying from Costco. But I personally think that for most people it's more a shift in type of custom systems rather than amount of custom systems. This article pretty much nails it: Most of the builders are going towards systems that fill needs rather than desires. The market is still there - it's just a different one. People will always need computers, it's just a matter of having a system that just works vs having a dream system.
    CobraA1
  • What he says makes sense.

    It's about the same reason I wear $170 shoes from SAS. It's not because they're expensive, it's because they're a great value. I spend a lot of time on my feet, and SAS makes the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. They're not quite "house slippers" comfortable, but the next-closest thing, and my last pair lasted me for 4 years. People who need high quality are willing to pay for it.
    masonwheeler
  • RE: Puget Systems: Independent PC Building is Very Much Alive

    I'm 14 and build my own computers. My first cost about $350, using an old monitor I already had.

    I have since upgraded the system with about $300-400 of parts, but that doesn't mean I'll continue to.

    I also built my grandparents and sister computers to suit their needs--at hundreds less than similar systems from Dell or HP.

    I was glad to see this article, because saying that the recession will stop homebrew computer building is rediculous.
    exrownsyou
  • Marketing how-to

    I just realized that thanks to the many (largely negative) comments about the $16000 computer on this and other blogs, and Jon Bach's willingness to address them in a level-headed manner, I and many others are now at least aware that Puget systems exists. In spite of (or because of) the flak, Jon has turned it into some brilliant free marketing!

    I also wanted to say thanks to Jon for bringing some real-world common sense input into the discussions. I'm always inspired when I hear about small businesses that are thriving, especially in this economy, and in our industry.
    pointzerotwo@...
  • Key word - Enthusiast

    John's reply to Jason is superb. But aside from the very excellent business case he makes, ZDnet needs to consider one word -

    ENTHUSIAST

    As in the type of people who like to read about cars they will never be able to afford, or about planes they will never be able to own, let alone fly, or places to visit far beyond our means, or PCs we'll never be able to waste our lives away in front of.

    So Jason, you curmudgeon you, believe it or not, it is actually FUN and ENJOYABLE to read about things one could never own or do.
    Takalok
  • I just built my first computer

    and it was suprisingly very easy, no dysfunctional parts, thank god. I bought prebuilt computers for years until i learned i could do it better. The thing that stopped me was cost and not knowing how easy it was. I thought that it would be too difficult to build my own. I am glad i was so wrong. do it yourself computer building is the wave of the future. It isn't dying.
    katrillionaire@...
  • RE: Puget Systems: Independent PC Building is Very Much Alive

    I love Puget. Just bought a system there myself. Check out <a href="http://buildyourown.wordpress.com/system-pics/">my pictures.</a>

    dinglee