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Hardware Build

Wal-Mart to Offer Components for DIY Computers 434

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-thats-kinda-neat dept.
FearTheFrail writes "Reuters reports that Wal-Mart is preparing to put "build your own computer counters" in 1200 of its 3200 stores, with plans to do so in at least 1400 by the end of the year. Maybe this will bring on an influx of new hardware enthusiasts, along with plenty of horror stories about attempted computer assembly. Do you think this will have an effect on the OEM parts market? And what about the operating systems to be offered? Will Wal-Mart shoppers migrate to Linux in order to save a hundred bucks or more, or will they even have the chance?"
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Wal-Mart to Offer Components for DIY Computers

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  • by RLiegh (247921) * on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:19PM (#15257936) Homepage Journal
    Wal-mart already offers computers without windows (with linspire, last I checked), so that's not an issue. What is an issue is that everything that wal-mart sells is on the, shall we say, low-end. I strongly doubt that Wal-mart will offer any hardware that people who are DIYers will find compelling, and if by some chance they do, the DIY crowd will probably look at other, cheaper outlets where they can get quality hardware for less than what walmart offers it (assuming, as I've said, they offer it at all).
  • Re:Oh no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by July 21, 2006 (968634) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:19PM (#15257941) Journal
    The Walmart employee making minimum wage with no health care or retirement plan would have actually said, "Sounds like you followed the directions precisely. Must be defective. Take it up with the manufacturer."
  • I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Loligo (12021) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:19PM (#15257943) Homepage

    Why wouldn't Wal-Mart customers "have a chance" to install Linux? Do they connect to a different internet than everyone else? Are they banned from entering computer and book stores?

    Or are you asking if Wal-Mart will be carrying boxed RedHat distros?

    It's never been about consumers having a CHANCE to install Linux, it's been about them having the CHOICE to, and like it or not, most consumers CHOOSE not to.

      -l
  • by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:21PM (#15257958) Journal
    From the article, this just sounds like the "customize it" button on Dell's web site, not the PC Club style, "here's your parts, go fo it." Moreover, this could be really good for small computer shops. I don't see anything about Wal-Mart supporting those PC's. So, a few months after purchase, and two kids who know computers later, the owner will still have to go get the adware removed by someone.
  • by Oriumpor (446718) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:27PM (#15258000) Homepage Journal
    Wal-mart will buy in such large bulk that they can afford to retail their hardware at a very low profit margin. If the DIY idea doesn't fly, they'll use them as a loss leader till they run out of stock. The gear will no doubt be bottom of the line, but I doubt anyone who can't buy 1m+ units will be able to compete on pure cost.
  • by i am kman (972584) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:29PM (#15258010)
    as long as they sell major brands (like HP/Compaq or Gateway).

    In fact, I MUCH prefer this model where you can semi-customize your own PC from a range of well-defined options. Beats the hell out of CompUSA or Best Buy where you have to take whatever configuration they have have on the shelf.

    I'd bet they get exclusive distribution rights to some major brand like Gateway and then sell them at 30% below everyone else's computer.

    Don't underestimate the power of WalMart to sell anything to the masses.
  • by Glowing Fish (155236) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:30PM (#15258015) Homepage
    "good for Wal-Mart".
    I know that lots of people are going to give theories about what nefarious motivations Wal-Mart might have for doing this. (and then a lot of people are going to fire back saying 'this is how the market works, pinko!)
    But I see this as just trying to create a new market for something that people might want. It is weird that we don't have more computer parts stores: after all, it is easy to find mass-marketed auto parts stores, and working on a computer is a lot easier than working on a car. This is just giving people a chance to be able to practice some new technical skills themselves.
    Its weird that this hasn't caught on before. When I was in Taiwan, two years ago, I visited the computer market in Tainan, and in most of the stores, including some major ones, they had about as much DIY stuff (that was labelled DIY), as they had pre-made stuff. I feel Americans should be at the front of the world in gear-headism.
  • Re:How odd... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrShaggy (683273) <chris.anderson@NoSPAm.hush.com> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:34PM (#15258043) Journal
    You might want to watch 'the high cost, of the low price of Walmart'. It is a very insightful and educating look at walmarts practices.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:34PM (#15258044)
    Could Wal-Mart as a hardware vendor significantly reduce hardware prices, or is that unlikely?

    It will reduce quality, but keep up the prices. A win-win situation for everyone*.

    * Except for the poor sods known as customers.
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Loligo (12021) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:36PM (#15258053) Homepage

    I still don't get it: This article is about people buying DIY parts at Wal-Mart, not about you buying a laptop at Best Buy.

    Then again, as someone already pointed out earlier in this same article's discussion tree, WalMart already sells systems with Linspire.

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:38PM (#15258065)
    Perhaps in future, Wal-Mart will offer sew-it-yourself clothing as well?

    Many years ago, when I was growing up, lots of Wal-Mart-like department stores had extensive fabric departments...

  • by Senzei (791599) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:42PM (#15258085)
    Someone higher up at wal-mart must really hate the people behind the returns counter. I've heard of returns from people that failed to correctly operate a toaster.

    I think we should all bow our heads in silent prayer for the poor fools working at the wal-mart returns and electronics desks. Then next time you start to think about how much you hate your job remember that there are people who would probably kill someone to be as free from stupidity as you are.

  • by SoCalChris (573049) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:42PM (#15258091) Journal
    And on that same note...

    Just because someone shops at WalMart, doesn't mean they're poor.

    For some disposable items, such as baby formula & diapers, the WalMart brand is every bit as good as name brand items, costing nearly twice as much.
  • by utlemming (654269) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:56PM (#15258190) Homepage
    Maybe not for the computer nerd. But for the nerd that is fixing someone else's computer this may be a dream come true. In smaller towns where there isn't a computer shop, or where the computer shop charges such outrageous fees, it could provide a cost effective, fast way to fix a computer. I can think of countless times that I have been fixing a friend's computer and the computer places are closed. Half the time I fix someone's computer I throw in a component that I wouldn't use in my own computer -- i.e. a low end video card, etc. With Wal-mart providing the low end components that your looking for, at a cheap price, why not?

    But I would seriously expect the products at Wal-mart and the small business guy not to compare well. Big-box stores like Wal-mart, Home Depot, etc, are known for playing games with margins. For example if your looking at items like garden products, there is a product for Wal-mart and one for everyone else -- don't believe me, go into your local nursery and look at the Scott's lawn fertilizer, and then go to Wal-mart. The products will compare differently on ingredients, volume, percentages and prices. But they packaging will look nearly exactly the same, except for the declarations which will be different. For real kicks, ask the nurseryman what the difference is between what Wal-mart has and the nursery. So if Wal-mart can take something that is really expensive out or reduce it, then Wal-mart can lower the price and kill competition on margin. When I was working at as a Garden Center manager I wouldn't even compete with Wal-mart on anything they sold. The products would look exactly the same, but when you looks at the specs, they are very different. But Joe Sixpack doesn't know the difference and half the time care. So why would I carry something that will be twice as expensive as Wal-mart if the customer doesn't care enough to find out why I was more expensive? Wal-mart pushed me to carry high to elite-end (i.e. golf course grade) grade products and it allowed me to make the company a lot of money.

    What I found was that Wal-mart carrying the low end products brought me more business. People would stop there, and then come and see me. I attended a workshop that says that Wal-mart and other big box stores will actually increase business in the long run if the small business can survive the first three years. After the first three years, business will bounce back. But the key is that the small businesses need to provide an expert that people can talk to.

    I could see the same thing happening in computer parts. Some joe who wants to do computers, stops at Wal-mart and figures out the guy behind the counter couldn't care less. Since they already have the thought about doing computers, they go to the shop that knows what they are doing. If the shop doesn't have the elitist attitude and is willing to help the guy learn a small business could make a lot of money of Wal-mart's idea.
  • These things are always worth getting cheap (IMHO, ones about as good as another):
        -ethernet card
        -sound card (unless you're keen on recording, like me)
        -memory readers
        -bluetooth cards

    These things are easily commodity (cheaper but not lower quality if shipped/manufactured in bulk):
        -memory
        -CPU fans
        -power supplies
        -cases

    And CPUs are generally each their own little niche market, so people will get them at Walmart at the same quality as anywhere else. But it could be *slightly* cheaper because Walmart's shipping model is about the best there is.

    I'm sure that there are others that people can think of, but these are the reasons I'd go to Wal-mart for my parts. I think they'd have stuff that I'd like in those categories because they fit into those categories. I should also mention that fans and power supplies wear out on their own. It'd be nice to be able to pick up new ones there.
  • ....this will be helpful. It may end up being crap, but it will be crap that will get your machine running on a late sunday afternoon when nobody else is open.
  • by pla (258480) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @07:06PM (#15258255) Journal
    It is weird that we don't have more computer parts stores

    Not at all... The sort of people who have the skills neeeded to build their own computers (when I say "skills", while we might consider throwing together a PC from known-compatible parts as nearly trivial, keep in mind that most people conflate memory with HDDs and while their video cards might come with 512MB, they don't understand that they can't upgrade their monitor to 1GB) also have the skills to get the best price for the best parts online.

    Why don't you see more parts stores? Because they can't compete. Sure, you have the occasional semi-literate person who will buy a cable or two, but actually building a system? No.


    As for Walmart's "great" prices... True story. A few months back I desperately needed a new HDD ASAP for a project at work. Even overnighting it wouldn't suffice, so I went to WallyWorld, figuring they'd have something that would work.

    Well, at the risk of a mixed-metaphorical-double-entendre, size didn't matter, but I didn't expect to raped so hard regardless.

    I ended up paying $90 for a 60GB Seagate (ATA133, mind you, not some high-end SCSI deal). Seriously. At the time, I could have bought the same thing online for half the price, or gotten a 200GB for the same price.


    So... Geeks will keep shopping for parts online (for the majority of us not lucky enough to have a Fry's in-state), and sheep will keep buying preconfigured Dells. This new "trend" merely gives a new option to the sheep who have learned not to fear the sun rising every morning. But as they say... "Even if you win the Special Olympics, you're still a retard".
  • Walmart sux (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Mesinjah (927427) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @07:09PM (#15258279)
    Wal-Mart has destroyed a lot of people's livelihoods on this planet. They are a money hungry company with no morals or ethics anywhere in sight. You may save a few bucks by shopping there but you are ruining your future by supporting them. Go mom and pop or get off my planet! As for OEM sales... sure go ahead and buy at Wal-Mart, take their advise too, I'm sure you'll be fine... Not! Few companies like Microsoft have the ability to stand up to Wal-Mart's strong arm tactics and I wouldn't be surprised to see some foreign supplier cave in to good ol' Wally-Mart and sell cheaper to Wal-Mart than all the mid sized distributors. Some good documentaries on the subject are : Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0473107/ [imdb.com] Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318087/ [imdb.com]
  • Re:How odd... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Chanc_Gorkon (94133) <`gorkon' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @07:24PM (#15258397)
    And it's very negative too. Walmart is just A STORE! It happens to be the biggest store, but its no worse then when Kmart was much bigger then it is now. Hey...by the way....MOST stuff here in the states,,,,sold in Walmart or Target or wherever was probably made in China. Walmart did not pioneer that process. :P
  • Re:Bad Math (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bigdavex (155746) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @07:39PM (#15258496)

      in 1200 of its 3200 stores, with plans to do so in at least 1400 by the end of the year.


    I hope the guy programming the cash registers at Wal-Mart isn't the same guy as the one who did the math above. If he is, profits at Wal-Mart should be way up and I'm heading out to buy their stock.

    What the hell are you talking about?
  • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @07:41PM (#15258508) Journal
    Somehow, I don't think that the people who can't tell the difference between a hard disk and RAM are the ones that are going to be buying their own parts. If they do, they're most likely going to learn the hard way. At that point, there's basically two roads. One, they'll NEVER try to put together their own computer ( and probably discourage all future generations from doing so, since they couldn't) OR two, they'll figure out what they did wrong and try again. If they take the second path enough times, they'll become a geek.

    Instead of being dismissive of this Walmart thing, I'm interested in how they're going to do it. (Not that I like or shop at Walmart. I pretty much despise them.)

    Anyone from the Bay Area remember Domino Computers? I forget exactly what their model was, but it was a build-your-own-computer. They provided the parts, the tools, the facilities and the advice. I think they offered classes/seminars, but I don't remember if those were free, or if you paid a fee.

    Home Depot and Lowes sell diy materials, tools, and instruction books. They also offer free seminars on a variety of diy topics. Don't see why Walmart couldn't follow this example.

    Another thing Walmart could do is use color coded packaging. This Red CPUs and Red RAM work with Red MBs. Green CPUs and Green RAM work with the Green MB. Oh, look the packaging on this PSU is Red and Blue. It works with the Red MB and the Blue MB, but not the Green. And look, this HD is in a purple package. It only works with the Purple MB and other Purple parts. So, the uneducated user need never know that his computer's HD is SATA; he only knows it's part of the Purple group. He doesn't need to know that his MB has an AGP slot, only that Yellow video cards work with Yello MBs.

    I could also see Walmart being able to tailor you linux install based on what parts you buy. They scan all your parts, and their Distro distro system picks the right ISO for you and spits out a CD.
  • Re:How odd... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrShaggy (683273) <chris.anderson@NoSPAm.hush.com> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @07:58PM (#15258640) Journal
    I am assuming that you have seen it? It isnt just how they treat their foreign workers, but how they treat thier North-American ones as well. They spend all this time and money on market research. They know where and how close together to make the store sell. Every store makes well over a million dollars in sales a year. The only store that they closed, was one in Quebec. They said that it was no longer profitable. The real reason is that people were able to start a union in that aparticualr store. Doesnt that seem odd?
  • by rhendershot (46429) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:15PM (#15258733) Journal
    I'm real happy with my Dell. I bought it about 2 years ago and opted for the a pretty stripped down model of the N series (sans operating system). I price checked online and realized I could get memory and hard drives cheaper, shipped, than by impulse at Dell.

    I think you have a great point about instant gratification though. Were I looking at options in a Wal-Mart, I'd be unable to compare option's online pricing, and the "tug" to just go ahead and get that 240G drive instead of the 120G would be pretty strong.

    Being in a small town, if my Dell dies after-hours, I'd be sorely tempted to give Wal-Mart a try. And one of the things holding me back from buying from them to upgrade my son's computer is that none of them come with enough memory and all the linux HCC checking I'd expect to have to do.

    All in all, I welcome choice. Given Wal-Mart's penetration and distribution expertise, I'd be hard pressed to find a downside here. While Gateway and Dell may *currently* profit more from their business and enterprise dealings, their online customization was a major factor in building both their reputation and their critical mass, IIRC. All those machines weren't customized by geeks only, so folks (not directly to parent) give the average American adult a little more credit, k?

    Another factor preventing my buying a pre-boxed offering at a Wal-Mart is that most if not all come with a printer and monitor. These devices are useless to me. I don't actually need even the keyboard nor mouse (I'm no threat to donkeys, but I doubt either of our two optical Logitechs will need replacement in the near future).

    One last big consideration. Pack Rat that I am, I really really really need to dump some old gear. It's time. . So, on-site recycling would go a huge distance towards influencing me to purchase at a Wal-Mart.

    Sam, you listenin' ??? You got the chops, ole dude, just haunt your son or something, k? ;)

    ps- the Logitechs? Both purchased at --you guessed it-- Wal-Mart. Go figure...
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @09:53PM (#15259280) Journal
    Somehow I doubt that Sam Walton's margin shaving will make a dent in what Michael Dell has already managed to cut in the electronics market.
  • by rapidweather (567364) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @10:01PM (#15259316) Homepage
    The Walmart near me has gone from having one boxed HP in a corner shelf (with no one there that knows anything about it) to having a fair selection of laptop computers (in bulletproof see-through displays). Undoubtedly all Windows preinstalls, no way they would have anything with Linux preinstalled in a retail outlet here.

    As far as the DIY counter goes, I would guess that they would station geeks there to do it for you, similar to what CompUSA does. Probably need a nice sign behind the counter to give the walk-in customer some idea of what to ask for. Sounds to me like each customer, if they buy, would take at least 30 minutes to process, and then the machine could be picked up "the next day" at a certain time. Might have a back room with less-presentable geeks, but with talents, putting the boxes together, and getting them working.

    Really does not sound anything like what Walmart does best, that is, put the stuff out there, and let the customer self-checkout, and exit the store, no sales clerks needed. Just stockers. And of course, lots of anti-shoplifting staff stationed in the ceiling.

    The other idea would be to handle this like the satellite storefronts at the front of the building, like the Banks, Baby Photographers, Pharmacists, etc. that work more like mall stores, rather than like the main Walmart store area. So, they just put the "computer store" under the same roof, but it really is not "walmart" any more than the Bank or Eye Doctor there is.

    Walmart would still offer boxed desktops and laptops in traditional walmart shelf areas, in the Electronics area.
    Sure, the "computer store" would do linux installs, but with the Windows OEM setup, those would not be any cheaper.
    Microsoft does discourage that, or so I hear. Since Vista is many months away, XP is what everyone will want/get, and dual booting an option, maybe.

    With a livecd linux, they would get "dual booting" instantly, and a super-secure linux system at that.
  • by jahudabudy (714731) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:06AM (#15261986)
    is that companies are ALREADY selling their products for the lowest amount possible.

    That is true in a few very highly competitive markets, but for the most part, companies sell their products for the HIGHEST amount possible. This means the price point where raising the price loses them money due to lost sales. Name brand recognition plays a huge factor in a lot of people's willingness to purchase. A lot of people will gladly pay $75 for a shirt with a cool logo on it, but will never purchase the identical shirt for $25 w/o the logo. Of course, clothing in an extreme example of this particular phenomenon, but it exists in a watered down version in a lot of different product markets.
  • Re:Oh no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @12:59PM (#15263552) Homepage Journal
    "The Walmart employee making minimum wage with no health care or retirement plan..."

    So...go out and get a REAL job. Jobs like this are for the HS and college kid crowd.

    If you've over 30 and still wear a 'name tag', you've made some SERIOUS vocational errors along the way...

  • Unions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by airship (242862) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @01:15PM (#15263708) Homepage
    The reason non-union automakers pay so well is because theirs is a traditionally unionized industry, and they know if they're not competitive, the workers will likely vote in a union. So it's thanks to the unions that they have decent jobs.

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