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Office Depot Deceptive Advertising

For being a netbook-fan I admit I am in the market for a super-slim lightweight laptop.  The market has evolved, the current slimbooks are only slightly more expensive than netbooks, and I find the 13.3” screen size an ideal compromise between portability and straining my eyes with the tiny screens.  So I was quite happy to see what I consider a good deal: a HP DM3 for $449 @ Office Depot.

office depot dm3

I found it on DealNews a few days ago, but it became impossible to purchase almost immediately. I tried it for a few days, most recently just minutes ago, but am always getting the same response: no inventory.

insuff stock

The other SKU is available though, for $150 more. It appears the be the same configuration, without the discount.  I tried to tweet up @OfficeDepot, but I guess they are busy handing out cookies.  Finally I had an online chat with Customer Service, which basically conformed my suspicion: the SKU that’s available is the same physical unit, just without the discount.  So here’s the beef (not cookie):

  • Office Depot is advertising a computer at $449
  • The price is listed as effective through Jan 30th, without mentioning any restriction on how many they are selling at this price
  • They do have available inventory
  • They refuse to sell it at the listed price

If this is not false advertising, I don’t know what is.

Finally, see the script of my Customer Service chat:

Office Depot Online Help

Chat Dialog

CSR Gary has entered the session.
Zoli: looking at item# 328626 – says no inventory. The same config available for $150 more under different SKU. But this one says price valid till Jan 30 – so how can I buy it?
CSR Gary: Thank you for contacting Office Depot , Please give me a moment, while I check that for you.
Zoli: thanks
CSR Gary: You are welcome
CSR Gary: Thank you for being on hold
CSR Gary: I am sorry item “328626” is no longer available for purchase
Zoli: Isn’t 808119 the same?
CSR Gary: yes it is the same
CSR Gary: may i have your zip code
Zoli: 94566
CSR Gary: item 808119 is available for purchase
CSR Gary: please do call our customer care
department @ 1-800-463-3768 and they will help you in
placing this order
Zoli: I see the availability online. but it is the identical product for $150 more then the other price, which claims to be valid till 1/30
CSR Gary: Yes
CSR Gary: We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused.
CSR Gary: Is there anything else I may assist you with?
Zoli: It’s not a matter of inconvenience. If your website claims it is avail for $449, and you do have inventory, then you should be sellign it for that price, not $599
Zoli: Otherwise this feels like deceptive advertising
CSR Gary: I am sorry the item is available until stocks last
CSR Gary: I will escalate this issue to the concerned department to remove the out of stock item from the website
Zoli: OK. Thanks.
Zoli: I’m blogging this as a case of deceptive advertising

Update – I guess I should not be surprised:  Office Depot Associates Routinely Lie about Notebook Stock – reported Laptop Magazine almost a year ago.

Update #2:  Did Office Depot really need this:

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Netbooks Resurfaces from Hibernation as WorkingPoint: SaaS for SMB with Nicer UI but Much Less Functionality

I’ve previously covered Netbooks, provider of an Integrated SaaS Business Suite for Very Small Businesses.

The company had an affordable On-Demand integrated business management solution for the   VSB – very small businesses, the “S” in SMB / SME: typically companies with less then 25 employees, sometimes only 3-5, and, most importantly, without professional IT support, in which case Software as a Service is a life-saver.

NetBooks tried to cover a complete business cycle, from opportunity through sales, manufacturing, inventory / warehouse management, shipping, billing, accounting – some with more success then others.   The process logic, the flow between various functional areas was excellent, but it was rendered almost unusable by a horrible UI. And it didn’t scale… so the company disappeared for a long year, completely re-building their code base.

Read on

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CrunchPad – It’s Real. Beautiful. I Want One.

I admit I was skeptical when Mike Arrington first announced he wanted to build a  lightweight  Web Tablet.  But a few month later we saw the first prototype, which was not particularly attractive – but real.  Mea Culpa, I was wrong.

The second prototype was already quite likable, albeit not as sexy as as the original sketch.  Today Mike @ Techcrunch announced that the final prototype is just weeks away- and although all he now has are conceptual drawings, if the real thing is anywhere close .. OMG.. OMG.. it’s absolutely sexysmile_tongue

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Good Luck Reading a Book on a NetBook

I’m a big fan of netbooks, but they are not the magic device for all one’s needs, and they should not be. PC World has jumped the shark with a bombastic title: Bye-bye Kindle, E-reader Screens Coming for Netbooks.  It’s all about start-up Pixel Qi’s new screen which can operate as traditional backlit color LCD or as a black-end-white e-paper that hardly consumes energy and most importantly reduces eye-strain.  PC World jumps to the conclusion:

E-reader makers have reason to fear such innovation because people will be able to buy devices with more functions for about the same price. 

I beg to disagree. But rather than speculate, I’m challenging  authors Dan Nystedt and Martyn Williams to do a test: hold a 3-pound netbook for several hours, in different positions, not at their desk, while trying to enjoy an e-Book.

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Intel & Microsoft Leans on the Netbook Market

The proliferation of affordable netbooks is good for everyone – consumers, that is.  Computer manufacturers loath it (high volume, low margin business) and so does Microsoft: they can’t exactly sell $100+ worth of software on a $200 machine.  So they come up with all sorts of evil plans. smile_devil

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CrunchPad: a Keyboard-less Netbook

I admit I was skeptical when Mike Arrington first announced he wanted to build a  lightweight  Web Tablet.  Skeptical partly because I had just witnessed Ismael Ghalimi of the Office 2.0 fame feverishly work on the Redux Model 1.  I had been doubtful about his effort, too, but his energy level was just radiating, he actually convinced me, I started to believe…  But in the end, all the effort (and quite some money Ismael spent along the way) came down to nothing, he nuked the device, and the Office 2.0 Conference gadget became an HP 2133 Mini-Note PC.

Fast-forward half a year, and TecCrunch is showing off a prototype.  Granted, it’s not as cool-looking as the initial sketch above, but this one is working.

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Your Digital Data My Not Be Accessible Soon

So you’re doing the right thing, backing up everything on CDs or DVDs.  Too bad they may not be readable in a few years… and even if they are, you still have to worry about data formats.

Data sitting on your hard disk may not be much better: in fact files you created with the very apps you’ve just upgraded to the most recent version my no longer be readable by the current version anymore.

Read the details here…

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Netbooks or Notebooks? It’s Not Only About Size.

Hardly a day goes by without another new Netbook announcement, at lower and lower prices.  The first baby eee PC by ASUS was toy-like ( I returned it after a day), but the current crop are quite usable mobile computing devices. 

These new Netbooks are flying off the shelf, so much so that sometimes you wonder if manufacturers rush to re-label their notebooks to netbooks, just to ride the wave.  Whereas the first model had a puny 7” screen, the current standard is a minimum of 8.9, but 10” is becoming widely available, and when Dell recently announced their Inspiron Mini 12, ZDNet’s Larry Dignan rightfully noted that the netbook-notebook-laptop lines have just become blurry.

Dell’s divider line may very well be at the 12” screen size, considering anything beyond that a notebook.  ASUS CEO Jerry Shen clearly draws the line at 10” – a definition that fits his own eee PC line.  I think all these size-based definitions are meaningless. Size truly matters, but for another reason: when you pick a travel n*tbook,  you clearly need something small and lightweight, yet with a decent keyboard and screen.  But that’s not what differentiates Netbooks from any other computer.

The real divider is how you use it.  A Netbook is a light mobile computing device that allows you to process information, access the Internet, and that does not store a bundle of bloated programs or data

When computers first became personal, most of us only got one at the workplace, then years later the family PC appeared– one expensive computer shared by the entire family.  Now we often have individual PC’s for just about anyone at home, including the kids, and are moving to a new pattern, where individuals will have a number of purpose-oriented computing devices, be it a desktop, workhorse laptop, netbook or smartphone.  The fundamental change is that we’re not really working on the computer itself, but on the Net: the computer (keyboard, screen) is just our way to access the net. As Coding Horror’s Jeff Atwood says in The Web Browser is the New Laptop :

After spending some time with a netbook, I realized that calling them "small laptops" is a mistake. Netbooks are an entirely different breed of animal. They are cheap, portable web browsers.

We’re getting to the point where for most productivity task the computer’s performance or even the operating system won’t matter anymore: all we need is a decent screen and keyboard to get online. 

But computer manufacturers while jumping on this hot new trend, seem to be confused.  Minor flavors aside they typically offer two major configurations:

  • The uber-geek netbook:
    • Linux
    • Solid-state drive (SSD)
  • For the rest of the world:
    • Windows XP
    • Traditional hard drive

That’s not a very smart combination, if you ask me.  Statistics show the return rate of Linux vs. Windows based netbooks is 4 to 1. Buyers of the cute little netbooks are happy first, then they become frustrated that they can’t instantly do things they are used to – and a learning curve with a $400  $200 device is unacceptable.  Let’s face it, Linux is not friendly enough for most non-geeks – including yours truly.  But why can I not have a netbook with XP and SSD?

Typical netbook SSD’s are still in the 8-16GB range, while harddisks are up to 160GB.  That’s a trap that vendor themselves fall into: my sexy little netbook (an Acer Aspire One) came loaded with crapware, including trial versions of MS Office, MS Works, Intervideo WinDVD (on a DVD-less computer!) and who knows what else.  Once the pattern is established, and you have large storage, you will start installing your own programs and data, too, the temptation is just too hard to resist.  You no longer have a netbook, it just became a noteboook.

The New York Times ran an article this week: In Age of Impatience, Cutting Computer Start Time, discussing the problem of slow boot times.  Anyone who ever had a Windows computer knows this tends to get worse over time.  My own Vista desktop had a sub-minute startup time a year ago when new, not it takes 3-4 minute to boot it.  The two older XP-based laptops take 6-7 minutes to reboot.  This well-known Windows disease can only be cured by refreshing your system from time to time. It’s an ugly process, requires wiping out your harddisk’s content, re-installing Windows, then your programs and data.  PC manufacturers don’t exactly help by providing “restore disks” instead of proper OS CD’s: why would you start with a pre- SP1 copy of WinXP and reinstall a bunch of years-old obsolete crapware   when the objective was to cleanup your system in the first place?

If you want to avoid the pain, keep your netbook free of applications and data: use it as a NETbook, and it will stay nimble and fast (sort of).

Talk about fast, there’s a neat solution to reduce boot-up time: Splashtop, a quick-load platform by startup company DeviceVM can put you online within seconds, without loading the main operating system. Chances are you’d be using it 80% of the time, relegating full Windows to an as-needed basis.  DeviceVM charges manufacturers about $1 per system, so why is it that it’s often found in high-end notebooks, but not in the netbooks by the same manufacturer?   Splashtop should be a must on any netbook.

 Finally, a word on connectivity and prices:  Wifi gets you online almost, but not all the time, so obviously a 3G connection is a useful addition to your netbook.  But you will pay for 3G data usage, so why don’t carriers subsidize your netbook purchase, like they do with cell phones?   The day will come, as the WSJ reports, HP may be one of the first to introduce such a model:  H-P Mulls Service Bundles for Netbooks. When that happens, your notebook will not be too different from a smartphone, just with a larger keyboard and display.

 

(Cross-posted from CloudAve.)

 

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Ready for Vista Final? (Code-named Windows 7)

For two days in a row TechMeme was overflowing with Microsoft news coming out of PDC: Azure, Windows 7, Web Office (whatever the MS name will be).   But on the very day that supposedly all belonged to Microsoft there was a stream of seemingly unrelated items on TechMeme all pointing in the same direction, none too good for Microsoft.

Joe Wilcox @ Microsoft Watch declared that Windows Vista No Longer Matters :

Contrary to ridiculous assertions recently made by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Windows Vista is a flop. If businesses aren’t buying Vista, after waiting six (now seven) years, it’s no success. Yet, during the last day of the Gartner 2008 expo 10 days ago, Steve asserted that Vista “has been extremely successful.”

Success in terms of revenue does not mean actual product acceptance.  The fact is, most of the Vista revenue comes from consumers, not the corporate Market.  Consumers don’t intentionally buy Vista, they buy computers: good luck trying to buy a system without Vista on it – unless it’s a Mac or the refreshingly new category of Netbooks.  And if you cough up the extra $50-$99 most OEM’s charge you to “downgrade” to XP, it is still booked as a Vista sale!  Like I’ve said before, don’t be blinded by Vista sales numbers.  No wonder MS omitted the Vista licence count during last week’s earnings announcement.

PDC has shown that Microsoft is now eager to forget about Vista, a bad dream, fully focusing on Windows 7.   They must have realized that no multi-million-dollar marketing campaign can fix Vista’s badly tarnished reputation.

Where public opinion is more divided is whether this was just a perception issue, or actual product problems.  Count me in the latter camp – no Mojave Experiment can convince me otherwise.  The problem with Vista has never been appearance, or features as originally designed: it’s the zillions of inconsistencies, little things that fail every day turning us Vista-users into Vista-sufferers.

The stream of messages coming out of PDC appear to confirm this: it’s clear that Windows 7 does not mean major architectural, infrastructural changes – that’s what Vista did.  Win7 is all about the user experience – in other words, putting the finishing touches on Vista.  I said over a year ago: we don’t need another desktop OS.  But I guess I am OK with Windows 7, provided Microsoft:

  • Releases it as  Vista Final (meaning it works)
  • Provides it as a free update to Vista
  • Attaches  a letter of apology to all Vista victims (yeah, fat chances…)

Whether it’s Vista or Windows 7, almost doesn’t matter – it will likely be the last major desktop OS MS releases, and as such it represents the end of an era.  Obviously Microsoft themselves recognizes it (finally!), this years PDC is all about moving to the Cloud, be it the Azure initiative, or the announcement of moving Office to the Web.  (To be precise it’s the announcement of a future product announcement).

This trend will only be accelerated by the shift in what devices we use for our (cloud-based) computing needs.  Time to Leave the Laptop Behind – says The Wall Street Journal, joined by Coding Horror’s Jeff Atwood who declares: The Web Browser is the New LaptopEvery day another Netbook is announced, at lower and lower prices, and they change how we access information forever.  I’ll be devoting the next post to this subject, in the meantime leaving you with another post from Henry Blodget:  Microsoft Windows: The Beginning of the End.

(Originally posted @ CloudAve)

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$279 Fully Configured Acer Aspire One Notebook – Real or Scam?

I know netbook prices are dropping, but not this fast!  Just a day after hearing about a $309 deal here’s an ad for a higher-end Acer Aspire One, for $279, shipping included!

The lowest price for this configuration so far has been on Amazon, @ $399.

I am speechless… this looks too good to be true.  I can’t find any info on the vendor (BeneficialTech.info), there is a contact email but no phone number – – but they have Google Checkout.

So I leave it to my dear readers to decide: do you think this is real or a scam? smile_eyeroll