With the closing of CompUSA, it seems that we may have entered a new chapter for the do-it-yourself PC enthusiast. Not too long ago, there was a computer store on virtually every corner with many of them offering knowledgable support. Today the local computer shop looks more like a Best Buy or a Circuit City, so this is no longer a niche market and the PC has emerged as a commodity device.
Certainly there are a number of excellent online vendors, including NewEgg, MWave and TigerDirect; however, these are all virtual stores that can’t offer the hands-on approach you use to find at CompUSA and Computer City. While you can match hardware based on specifications, there is no substitute for being able to inspect something and determine if the overall quality will match your application.
Why did this happen?
Some of these businesses were poorly run, but if there was enough market demand they should have been able to survive despite themselves. For better or for worse, the computer has emerged as a commodity device very much like a dishwasher or a refridgerator and most consumers have no interest in tinkering with the components inside any of these devices.
“For better or for worse, the computer has emerged as a commodity device”There are computer stores that now cater to the commodity hardware crowd. If you visit your local Apple Store for example, you will get exactly the kind of service you expect for this kind of shopping. There are a handful of computer models to choose from, and very much like you might go about selecting a TV you pick out the computer you want and purchase that item. In fact, the Apple PC enclosure is specifically designed to thwart any possibility of disassembly. Have you ever tried to take apart an iMac?
Don’t get me wrong, the Apple Store experience is wonderful and on nearly every visit it inspires me to open my wallet and buy one. Let just hope places like this don’t disappear and that the only thing we are left with is an assortment of onine sites attempting to compensate for the fact that we can’t actually look at the component we are interested in replacing.