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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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  • I hope prices drop! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:15PM (#15257893)
    Could Wal-Mart as a hardware vendor significantly reduce hardware prices, or is that unlikely?
  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <{shadow.wrought} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:22PM (#15257971) Homepage Journal
    What Wintel never did? Eliminate compeltely incompatible hardware? Could the market prowess finally force hardware manufacturers to a single and consistent standard?

    The good news is that Walmart porbably can. The bad news is that the standard will likely suck.

  • by stevew (4845) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:24PM (#15257979) Journal
    I live in Fremont, CA where we have a brand spanking new Walmart accross the street from a Frys store. I can't imagine they can compete with a major chain store like Frys at component level sales?

    This would be interesting.
  • Proper Spin: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alaren (682568) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:24PM (#15257982)

    So, not satisfied with "virtually" free foreign labor, Wal-Mart now seeks to cut costs by having domestic labor assemble their own computers for free?

    I'm only half-kidding, really... but I do wonder. How much more time does it take to properly assemble a barebones computer with everything on-board, than to properly package a "do-it-yourself" computer kit? I'll continue to buy my stuff from NewEgg, while most end-users are already so intimidated by computers that I don't see this taking off.

    But I am not a marketing visionary, so what do I know? Maybe it will be a cool new hobby...

  • Availability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VGR (467274) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:53PM (#15258169)
    I hate buying from Wal-Mart, but sometimes they carry things that no one else in the area sells.

    I live in a pretty rural area. The nearest actual town has no CompUSA, no Best Buy, and in fact no stores that sell significant computer hardware. There have been many times when I wished there were at least one such store.

    Even in the sticks, there's a number of computer guys out here who wouldn't mind having a hands-on place from which to buy hardware. Why not buy online? Because often I want to look at the box and read the specs and such. Not to mention, it's much easier to return something to a physical store than it is to return something bought online.

    So Wal-Mart has a chance to snag a pretty untapped market in my opinion.
  • Re:reminds me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:57PM (#15258199) Homepage
    I used to love that kind of idiot. When I was working retail, there was a 30$ assembly charge for any PC, big or small. A lot of the white-trash movie-copying crowd were so cheap they'd take their 199$ PC in parts and build it themselves. A lot of them came back the next day with an improperly mounted and very dead board. I had one guy who left the CPU fan unplugged "because it was too noisy", then accused me of selling him an overclocked CPU "because only overclocked chips overheat". I took his invoice, wrote "CPU improperly installed by user" in big red letters, kindly dialed Intel's customer service and handed him the phone.

    I think Walmart should stay the hell away from computers. They've already destroyed countless suppliers in other markets, that were much stronger business than any asian budget-brand PC supplier. Hell, most of those companies can't even afford basic quality control practices.
  • XP OEM pricing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sPaKr (116314) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:02PM (#15258661)
    Does anyone else think this is just a 'life-hack' so WalMart can sell software at OEM prices? Buy that usb cable, sure now you can get XP for $45.
  • by crossmr (957846) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:44PM (#15258904) Journal
    I don't buy this. I've price compared generic crap at wal-mart to quality stuff at various local PC stores, and the PC stores always have them beat, usually by a ridiculous amount too.

    I'm not sure what Wal-marts probelm is in that department, but at least around here their hardware prices are not good.
  • by RubberDogBone (851604) * on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @09:18PM (#15259071)
    This is good news on two major fronts:

    1) Computer parts source that's open 24/7. There have been many times when I needed a part urgently in the middle of the night or even on weekends when the local computer stores, Frys, Compusa, etc, just are not open. Walmart never closes.

    2) Price competition. I support my local computer shop when I can but he wants $80 for the same PSU Newegg sells for $40. Frys will sell me one for $60, if they actually have it in stock. Walmart is likely to bring parts to market at the lower end of that price scale and there won't be shipping costs.

    Now before people jump up and down and say that doesn't support the local guy, yeah, I agree. But he's already priced himself out of the market when I can order the same thing from Newegg and pay for next-day shipping and still get it it for less money -and get it delivered early in the AM before the local store even opens.

    The main question is, WHAT brands is Walmart going to sell. If they go low-end, then it will only be useful for basic parts. I'm not going to buy much less use a no-name $15 PSU. Fans and parts, OK, but I want decent brands for drives, cases, motherboards, videocards, etc.
  • by nolife (233813) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @09:20PM (#15259089) Homepage Journal
    My kids are a lot older now but I still remember arguing with my mother-in-law about why I should buy "baby" apple juice. It was like $1.50 for a 8 oz glass bottle of Kerber Apple juice for babies. The ingredients were Apple juice from concentrate and filtered water. I could buy a damn gallon of regular premium 100% pure apple juice for $2.50 and add my own filtered water to reach the same concentration level of the baby version. My estimate was the baby version was 75% Apple juice and 25% water based on my unscientific color and taste tests. I probably could have busted out my deluxe pool water test kit and ran a series of pH, alkalinity and total dissolved solids tests on my mixtures and got more accurate results but I gave up trying to convince her.
  • by Infoport (935541) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @09:21PM (#15259094)
    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.

    AMEN! And boxed parts are likely to appear in stores if this works. If computer parts companies who aim for enthusiast are smart, they WILL hold out against the WalMart-cheapening of their products. There would quickly be advice on the 'Net pointing out which sound cards, or video cards or speakers used low quality parts under the brand's high quality name, so enthusiasts could avoid them. The use of low quality base parts (like no-name MB/RAM/power supplies/etc) in barebones computers is pretty common, so maybe they are safe there, but thhat seems like it would lead to more boxed parts next to the computers eventually.

    There was this Slashdot article http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/03/28/223524 6 [slashdot.org] about a man taking his products OUT of WalMart to avoid the cheapening of his high quality lawn equipment (the cheapening of the brand, and the price gap/struggle in WalMart lawn centers without knowledgeable staff to enable the high-quality products to shine)

    WalMart is also known to leverage additional censorship upon movies and music sold there, leading to those works being issued in WalMart-censored and everybody-else versions. (ex.the comic-book-animated movie Spawn.http://imdb.com/title/tt0118475/alternatever sions [imdb.com] There was also a live action version with John Leguizamo)

    There are very few computer parts that I wouldn't worry about getting a YET CHEAPER part than whatever the manufacturer manages to create for their margin vs. my brand expectation. As it is, those who care have to read a lot of benchmarks and tests to put something together a la carte that will be stable under pressue.

    Maybe case screws? Floppy drives? Air in a can?

    I would worry about the advice employees give too, except that the big computer chains usually give out their share of ignorant advice via their staff. http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/04/ 25/1352257 [slashdot.org] John and Suzie Q Public who go in for advice before purchase will probably be screwed. But hey, choice is always better. ;-)
  • by Laserwulf (951642) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @10:39PM (#15259488)
    Anyone know which stores were the test-markets? I never went to Wal-Mart until the Army stationed me in Hawaii, and all the ones around here have stuff like (basic) video & sound cards, networking equipment, keyboards & mice, and random stuff like screwdriver sets & CAT5. When I visit home, I never bother with Wal-Mart, so if the HI stores would carry more stuff than now, I for one welcome our corporate overlords. What difference does it make if you buy a [insert well-known hardware company] from Wal-Mart or from CompUSA/Frye's/online, if the prices are similar? I've seen the same Linksys networking gear at Wal-Mart & CompUSA. I think Wal-Mart is trying to cater to people like my mom; she's -starting- to use her computer for more than just word-processing, but places like Frye's are still intimidating. Wonder if she'd like The Sims... lol
  • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:42PM (#15259728) Journal
    Wait until you start seeing things like this on system requirements for games:

    Requires an ORANGE computer or warmer, with at least two yellow RAM thingies. =)

    Something like this could work, if it was kept really simple. I'm surprised no one has yet posted, "I'm color blind, you insensitive clod!!"
  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:52PM (#15259776) Homepage
    "Not that I like or shop at Walmart. I pretty much despise them."

    You know, if you don't shop at walmart, you are getting ripped off twice. Your taxes are paying for their employee's benefits. Other companies pay for benefits for their employees, and you pay for that by higher prices.

    Since you pay for walmart employee benefits anyway, don't let them screw you more: shop there.
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vtcodger (957785) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @03:51AM (#15260550)
    ***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?***

    Reason 1 -- WalMart may not want most customers using Linux because Linux hardware support and detection still is somewhere between Windows 95 and Windows 98 in terms of maturity. That's not all that good. Poor Plug and Play means returns and that costs money. Maybe, if they make it clear that they do not support equipment not purchased from WalMart, they can offer a Linux distribution that is tested with the hardware they sell.

    My last experience with Installing Linux -- Slackware 10.2

    • The display, mouse, and keyboard actually installed and worked right without tweaking(The second time this has happened. Progress IS being made).
    • BUT
      • NIC (an NE2000 clone) wasn't detected and had to be insmodded
      • HP 3670 Scanner not supported
      • INTEL QX3 microscope detected, but the option to control the lights doesn't work. And when I finally got around to installing Web camera software to use the imaging, that doesn't work either.
      • Sound Card -- detected and makes noises, but they aren't remotely the right noises.
      • CUPS -- The network aspects work, but would surely be impossible for a non-geek to configure. Of more importance to me, it generates a garbled PCL header that causes my HP-IIP to demand A4 paper. However, the printout is truncated to A4 size (unusable), not scaled to A4 size (which would be not quite as bad).. And, BTW, this whole idea of using HTTP to configure things really needs more work before it is turned loose on unsupecting users. e.g. turn page caching of the configuration pages OFF dammit.
      • SAMBA -- I got it running without a lot of trouble, but I think a non-geek would probably be in real trouble.
      • I somehow ended up with a 4mb swap file. This produced a truly spectacular swapping storm when I installed KDE and started up a few tasks. This particular problem may have been self inflicted in some fashion that a non-geek wouldn't blunder into.
      • I was able to detect, mount, and use USB flash memory pen drives, but the process wasn't even remotely a Windows plug and play experience.

    IMO **ANY** of the above except maybe the Intel QX3 which is a discontinued product that a non-geek probably wouldn't expect to work would be enough to think twice about selling non-geeks Linux over the counter.

    Reason 2 -- Boxed software products like TaxCut, games, mapping programs often won't run on Linux even if it has WINE. Explaining to customers why not would be painful and many wouldn't understand. Why ask for pain?

    I'm not against selling Linux to non-geeks, but I think that the right place to start is single purpose machines -- e.g. A real cheap web browsing PC with a bundled printer.

  • by q.kontinuum (676242) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @04:18AM (#15260610)
    You know, if you don't shop at walmart, you are getting ripped off twice. Your taxes are paying for their employee's benefits. Other companies pay for benefits for their employees, and you pay for that by higher prices.



    To me (I'm from Germany) this sounds funny. I did some shopping in Walmart before, but comparing the prices there are much more affordable offers from other competitors. Walmart prices just can't compete in most cases with Aldi, Kaufland, Real or Lidel. No wonder it's losing market share here. Now I just wonder if Walmart is more expensive here than it is in USA or if there are not so many competing discounters in USA?



    Oh, by the way: I was mainly comparing products of their brand SmartPrice to similar products. For other brands they give a price guarantee: If You find another seller offering the same product for a lower price they will go down to the same offer. Unfortunately this does not mean that Walmart takes care to always have the best offer by default, as many customers assume. It's still up to the customer to run around and collect the price lists of the competitors.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 04, 2006 @05:43AM (#15260806)
    this is great news and means that i'll be able to do my upgrades at a reasonable price, and in many cases, cheaper than purchasing via the 'net and instead paying state tax on purchases...

    sounds like a win-win situation all around!

    i always shop at Wal-Mart... in the past year i have saved a lot of money by buying clothes and other items there... while other brick-and-mortar stores offer overpriced junk, i can get quality goods at Wal-Mart and pay lower prices...
  • by VanessaE (970834) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @06:00AM (#15260844) Homepage
    The same is true for most of the "generic" items you're going to find at these stores. If you can get over the fact that you're not buying the branded item, you can save a boatload of money while not sacrificing quality one iota.

    This isn't always the case! One example of this not working to the customer's advantage is the 1/2 pound bar of Jaques Belgian chocolate Wal*mart used to sell. Months ago (probably over a year by now, I've lost track), they suddenly stopped carrying it, replacing it with a generic "Sam's Choice" thing.

    Since chocolate is one of those things you just do not skimp on, I decided immediately not to bother trying it, at least for a while. The thing is, it wasn't until I got a (very quick) reponse to my email to the Jaques chocolate company, that I learned that that generic chocolate was in fact Jaques brand. The representative said that they had signed a contract with Wal*Mart so they could continue selling it for cheap, or some such.

    It was at that point that I started buying the generic. It was introduced at the same price ($2/pound) as the branded version, but now, ironically, the generic-labelled version is about 76 cents a pound more expensive, at least in this area. So much for prices going down when you go generic!

  • Good, because. . . (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @09:34AM (#15261687)
    1. WalMart appears to NOT be actually selling internal computer components, (Mother boards, hard drives, cases, etc). They're only selling monitors and keyboards and mice which you 'Assemble yourself.' Chumpy but whatever.

    2. This is probably a good thing.

    3. Because. . .

    4. When WalMart gets into a market, they start dictating how and where things get manufactured, thus turning whole industries into lopsided affairs regulated by WalMart's decision-makers.

    5. This is bad, because. . .

    6. WalMart, the morally upright entity that it is, (*cough*) will have the ability to flood the market with a bunch of DRM hardware and force manufacturers to follow suit.

    Do you want that? DRM hard drives and memory sticks and flat screens that won't display anything unless the RIAA hardware filters let it through?

    Didn't think so.


    -FL

  • by Nikker (749551) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:52AM (#15262393)
    I noticed headding was "build your own computer counter". Could it be there will be people there to assemble the system as you pick out the parts. It really wouldn't be that difficult, all the Motherboards could be pre-mounted on a platter which could be easily attached to the outer casing or an internal frame of course. You point out what you want, almost like ordering a cheeseburger. Most semi-knowlegeable know that each part actually installs very quickly and easily if the parts are known. Laptops are tricky of course, but Walmart's pull could possibly make a universal body or frame that all manufacturers could base a design.

    Maybe Wallmart could do for hardware what OSS is doing for software?

Numeric stability is probably not all that important when you're guessing.

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