To get an idea of how much you can pay for two typical system configurations for business desktop computers, we went to the online stores of some major vendors. We thought we’d give you an idea of what vendor product lines are good choices, and what you can expect to pay, since the conventional wisdom is that you’ll pay pretty much the same from any vendor.
Ha ha. Were we fooled.
Each vendor has many product lines. Many confusing, overlapping, inadequately described product lines — which we think may be intended to confuse us.
They are selling commodity products, folks! Many of the very components inside the boxes are bought from the same sources! So you differentiate with two main strategies:
- Service and support
Since no consumer wants to pay extra for quality service and support, that element is emphasized only to business buyers. Who, if they have smart IT people, will fix things themselves, or buy replacements.
Which leaves confusion.
If you’re selling commodity products, there is no benefit to you to use a transparent, crisply defined, easily compared system. That’s just offering rivals a clear target! So here’s what the customer does: You shop at one or more vendor e-commerce sites, attempting to compare configurations across product lines and vendors. You get more and more confused–configurations vary wildly and according to no obvious pattern, configuration descriptions are inconsistent and sometimes information-free, choices are offered with inadequate advice about what the choices mean, it is impossible to buy a functional computer at the “starting at!” price, and each upgrade pumps up the price astonishingly.
Eventually you become exhausted, and just click the “Buy Now!” button on the configuration page you happen to be on at the time you run out of energy, patience, and a sound grasp on reality. You might pay a few dollars more, and get a few extra features — but you don’t care anymore!
This, by the way, is a good argument for letting your IT people do the actual buying for you. Let them suffer.
We’ll give you some examples of what we mean in this report. In January 2006 we shopped at a number of outlets. We started with product lines that seem aimed at business buyers, selecting basic models offered at bargain “starting at” prices. We then upgraded to the AllBusiness.com Recommended Standard Business Desktop Configuration, and also upgraded to the AllBusiness.com Recommended Power-User Business Desktop Configuration. And after we recovered, we digested the results, which we present here for your edification. (You might want to read with a stiff drink by your side.)