Tag Archives: HP

Lessons from the HP Touchpad Firesale

Okay, I admit it, I was one of the people trying to get a 70% discounted HP Touchpad. I wasn’t alone, a work colleague queued up at the former Dixons Store (can’t remember what DSG are calling it this week) to get one last night.

Neither of us were successful. Like many people wanting a bargain both here and in the USA, we were disappointed. There are a couple more retailers who have yet to discount, but word is that their stock is pretty well non-existent too.

So what can we learn from this whole debacle? Firstly, £89/£115 is a really popular price point for a tablet. Sadly it’s not a realistic price point for a tablet, so unless someone uses a model like the console manufacturers and sells their hardware at a loss, it’s not happening again.

What is perhaps more interesting is the flaws it shows up in many of the biggest names in retailing.

The Dixons group started the rush, and whilst their site didn’t totally crash there were a number of annoyed potential customers who found products disappearing from their shopping carts before they could purchase.

Best Buy UK again kept their site running, but again customers had products disappear from their shopping cart – it happened twice to me.

Carphone Warehouse had their site drop off the Internet several times during the evening, but more annoyingly for customers they revealed that they suffered the same issue as Barnes and Noble in the USA, fantasy stock levels. With both companies this left them having to write e-mails to customers who thought they had confirmed orders telling them that they didn’t.

Comet never actually cut their online price, but were matching the Dixons Group price, their site didn’t crash, but ran exceedingly slowly, and again produced annoyed customers who had stock availability when they started, but discovered stock had run out when they reached the end of the buying process.

At the end of the evening speculation over an Argos price cut kicked off so there was a run on product reservations at Argos stores. This again showed a flaw in the Argos stock levels whereby the site would say stock was available at a particular store, but once the reservation was made you’d receive an automated e-mail saying that it wasn’t.

So what are all these problems with stock?

Let’s take a look at offline shopping. When you go into a supermarket to buy a packet of cornflakes, you physically pick up the box and put it in your trolley – effectively one item of the stock is allocated to you.

That isn’t what happens online. Instead the site checks the overall stock level when you pick an item. That stock level is not updated until later in the process, sometimes when you pay, other sites even later. If for example a retailer had ten Touchpad’s in stock, but one hundred people simultaneously accessed the site, all one hundred get told there is stock.

If like BestBuy UK your stock updates are instantaneous customers find products vanishing from their shopping carts during the process as the ten quickest get their details entered into the site. For the Barnes and Nobles you get one hundred customers who think they’ve bought a Touchpad, but you have to e-mail ninety of them cancelling the order.

So why do online retailers do it like this? The simple answer is it’s cheaper, and on a normal day it will rarely happen that there is a rush on a particular product – it’s just that when someone discounts a product by 70% and everyone wants one, the flaw gets shown up in spectacular fashion.

A Challenge

I got an e-mail from a friend yesterday with a bit of a challenge. They currently have an original 15 inch MacBook Pro and are looking to upgrade. The laptop primarily gets used under Windows, so they are trying to find an equivalent PC rather than have to pay out for a copy of Windows on top of the copy of OS X that will come with the machine. The challenge is set out below:

Men (and woman) of geeky tendencies, I require your assistance.

If I wanted a portable machine with a ~15â€? screen, at least 1440×900 res, with a graphics card comparable to a NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT, what should I get?

It’ll need to support 3Gb of RAM (maybe 4Gb if I go 64bit), and be capable enough to run many virtual machines, as well as all the latest games with prettiness turned up (UT3, I’m looking at you.). Would be nice it were no heavier than 2.5Kg.

The 2007 edition of the MacBook Pro ticks a lot of boxes, but I’m not sure about paying the OSX tax to get what will in effect be just another XP laptop.

What are Sony, Toshiba, HP, Dell, Alienware etc doing in the lightweight gaming laptop space? Have I missed out a manufacturer who is doing great things? What would you recommend?

All opinions welcome!

My thoughts are that there aren’t many options at the moment since many of the laptops in that form factor come with on board graphics which are not really suitable for gaming.

I also think that you’ll struggle to find a design quite as sleek as the MacBook Pro since Apple are building machines using a custom chassis whereas the majority of the rest build their machines with off-the-shelf parts. Having said that, I’m probably totally biased in that I have an Apple machine as my main box and probably wouldn’t run a MacBook Pro in anything other than OS X!

So, anyone got any suggestions?

MacExpo 2005

Whose Show Is It Again?

So after spending last Saturday wearing my developer hat, this week we spent our Saturday being Mac fans, at MacExpo 2005.

If you’d forgotten where you were going, you certainly were reminded about it when you arrived at Olympia station – the place was covered with matching Apple iPod adverts, including banners on every streetlamp, all with the familiar black figure, with white iPod, this time on a red and orange background. As Howard said on the way out, whatever you think about Apple and their products, you can’t fault their advertising for simple brand awareness.

Once inside it was straight into the action. Adobe was directly by the door, but behind that was the biggest stand at the show, the Apple stand itself. Alongside those were a number of other big names including BMW with their iPod equipped 1-Series, HP, Sony, Bose, and even a large stand from Microsoft showcasing Office 2004 and Virtual PC.

One interesting little game was to see if you could spot any PC’s. On the way in, all the registration and ticket sales were being carried out using iMacs, with many other stands using a Mac for sales as well as demonstrations. Even Microsoft had only Macs on show. In fact the only stand I could spot that was blatantly showing PC’s was Sony, who alongside demonstrating using their cameras with the Mac, had several of their own VIAO PC’s attracting little interest.

The big products Apple were showing off this year hardware wise were the iPod Nano, video playing fifth generation iPod and the new revision C iMac G5. In terms of software, the big new package was Aperture, best described as a professional equivalent of iPhoto.

Demo Time

Needless to say there was a non-stop programme of demonstrations on the stand. Beth and Howard both got to play with the new iPods, and we saw the demonstrations of the new iMac, where much was made of the simplicity of the new Front Row software and it’s six button remote. I was really impressed with Aperture, particularly the speed with which it throws around batches of large RAW format images. Although it has good Photoshop integration, for most of the basic image edit work, you don’t even need to leave the application.

It wasn’t only graphics people that were provided for. Over in another part of the hall, there was Rod Gammons demonstrating how he put together a Liberty-X hit with Logic Pro, with the whole record, including vocals stored away in his Mac.

Games Experience

We finished off with a visit to the corner of the exhibition attempting to disprove the myth that you can’t play games on a Mac. Here they had a mixture of Macs playing everything from Sims 2 to Doom 3. However what Beth really liked was Lego: Star Wars. If you haven’t seen this, this review over at the BBC explains more. Essentially this is a Star Wars game aimed squarely at kids, with a number of sequences from the films recreated, but using graphics that look Lego bricks. There are a number of comedy Lego moments as everything breaks into constituent bricks when destroyed, and there are some comedy close ups of the expressions on the Lego character faces at key moments. Great fun, but we didn’t think we could justify a copy just for us big kids!

Anyway, we had a great afternoon seeing what is going on in the world of Apple, and we’re now looking forward to doing it all again next year!