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  • A Guru's World #10 - Discount Stores
    September 8th, 2000
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    Click Here for previous A Guru's World columns.

    The PC industry, for the most part, has always had three major contenders when it comes to making CPUs.

    Intel, AMD and Cyrix.

    Now of course, Intel is the grand daddy. Inventors of the microprocessor back in 1971 and clearly the largest microprocessor manufacturer and the "innovator" in the industry. Not so much an innovator of new technology, but an innovator because they have the largest market share in the industry, so essentially what they say goes.

    AMD has been around a very long time, and always on Intel's heels. AMD started cloning x86 processors and began to make a serious impact in the industry long ago. Their CPUs were pretty much always the closest thing to 100% compatibility you could get, and with the backwards compatible, yet extremely innovative, Athlon processor, AMD actually considered dropping their other product lines as to make only CPUs so they could concentrate on the x86 processor market and attempt to catch up with Intel!

    Cyrix is the hot potato of the group. Always finding a market niche as the "economical" choice, but never staying in business with one partnership or another long enough to establish itself as a serious option. Cyrix was strong at first, partnered with IBM, lost IBM's interest, got bought by National Semi-Conductor and is now owned by VIA.

    Now, the following is not intended to imply that the business practices, history or successes of any of the above companies parallels that of your local discount store. I don't know nearly enough about business to even begin to imply anything there. But as I push my cart through a plethora of discount stores looking for that ideal foot massager for my wife, I think of the customers I help and how each brand processor has it's own "following" and that the members of this following have a very defined niche.

    It seems that discount stores have their own "followings" as well.

    If the following offends: get a life. You know as well as I do that you make the same kind of observations in life so don't give me any crap just because I choose to type them up into text.

    Now, I must shop. My stops are Target, K-Mart and Wal-Mart.

    My first stop on my shopping agenda is Target. Ah, Target. Everything is shiny and clean. Everything is neat and organized. As I push my shiny red cart through all of the brand names that aren't really brand names but we recognize them anyway (Cherokee, Furio, Utility, Car and Driver) I look around and can't help but to think of Intel.

    The prices are higher, but you have the sense that somehow, the quality of product is actually better. Everyone walks around with a very "comfortable" aura because deep inside they have the sense that they really are doing the right thing, buying the best quality and still have enough money left over for tonight's picture show.

    As I look at these customers, I think of the people I deal with every day that insist on only Intel product. Never would they consider another processor or, in some instances, motherboard at even half the price. They'd much rather buy a 933 MHz CPU at $700 then a 1 GHz for $500, just because the $500 CPU is not an Intel.

    Strangely enough, despite this "Intelesque" atmosphere, the workers at the Target do not seem any more "capable" than the workers at the other discount stores.

    K-Mart is interesting because before there was Wal-Mart, K-Mart was the "el cheapo grande" and kids would get ridiculed for daring to come to school sporting a K-Mart article of clothing. Just as AMD has had there rough beginnings, they were no longer the "bottom of the line" once Cyrix came to town. K-Mart was eventually able to shake it's "blue light special" persona.

    But yet, the voice of Dustin Hoffman still echoes through my mind… "K-Mart sucks."

    The isles are somewhat clean. Selection is OK, but quality is not the best. The customers seem to be stumbling around confused and grumbling under their breath unable to find what they are looking for. You'd swear that they just saw a BSOD or something.

    Despite this, the K-Mart shopper is very much like the AMD user. They keep moving on despite their obstacles and will keep coming back because they know that in the end, they really are getting good product for less money.

    All and all, for me K-Mart got the job done. I found an ideal foot massager for less than one I saw at Target, but I can't buy it yet. I have to see what Wal-Mart has to offer.

    I walk into the Wal-Mart and it seems to me that I have walked into a war zone WITHIN the Twilight Zone.

    There's crap on the floor. There's crap piled up in shopping carts that aren't attached to anybody. And very much like a war zone, there are people running around screaming in pain. I haven't quite been able to figure that one out, yet.

    Everyone is walking around in torn up jeans, Hanes tank tops and fuzzy slippers. They all seem to be talking to themselves, but I can't seem to make out what they are saying. Later I found that they were speaking English, but the combination of the Wal-Mart pharmaceuticals and the Sam's Choice Peanut Butter filled Pretzels in their mouths, made their speech a bit unintelligible.

    The people that shop here are so committed, they not only come here weekly, but DAILY and they even do their grocery shopping here. I saw some customers with Wal-Mart shirts on (the kind with the big Smiley Face on it) that I mistook as Wal-Mart workers. In fact, they were individuals merely making a fashion statement. They certainly could not have been workers as they did not have the trademark Wal-Mart smock and name tag, but they might as well have been since they seemed to know their way around better than the employees.

    I could not help but to think of Cyrix users as I watch the zombie like shoppers roaming about the Wal-Mart. Poor souls. They are so dedicated to their product despite it's obvious inferiority.

    I found the foot massagers and picked one off the shelf that had the features I wanted. As soon as the box left the shelf, the box fell apart, the massager hit the floor and it busted into a million pieces.

    Time to hide. Here come some zombies.

    Oh well. The trip to Wal-Mart wasn't a complete waste. I bought a toaster oven for ten dollars.

    I'm happy.

    It lasted three weeks.

    I only counted on two weeks.

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    Author: JonnyGURU
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