Can PCs really be regarded as a consumable item?

  Danoh 10:24 02 Oct 2004

Both in these forums and in business life, I have often come across views that PCs should be caompared to and procurred as commodity items, just like TVs, VCRs, DVD players and even vacuum cleaners.

The later items are made reliable and foolproof by integrating as much as possible onto single components - no separate s/w installation, all flashed into firmware on chips instead, no upgradeable components which inevitably means old or even obsolete components with the very first product to be sold to consumers. And the processing power required is several generations old as that is all that is required to do the job specified, with no requirement for future upgradability. And of course, there is little electronic logic that is required to be embedded in the operation of the most sophisticated vacuum cleaner (apart from robotic vacuum cleaners of course).

PCs are inherently intended to be future-proofed in the ease of individual component upgrade; hardware, firmware and software. It is a fully fledged COMPUTER system, albeit aimed at the personal use market.

In between these, there are more consumer durable products such as dedicated word processor computers, etc., still being sold. There are also increasing products which are being marketed as multi-media consumable items, which are essentially a multi-media PC but with all aspects fully soak-tested for reliability and robust usage. But of course, such items come with a far higher price tag than the equivalent multi-media PC to reflect the extra time and effort that has gone into the design, soak-testing, production line set-up, etc for this much more limited market.

What gets my goat are those consumers and business views which insists on getting the reliability and robustness of consumer durables but at the price, product range and availability of PC products. Then moan like heck when they do not perform like consumer durables which they are not prepared to pay the price for nor be limited to whatever product-functionality is on offer, nor accept the inevitability that the technologies are older than that currently offered in PCs.

Is this a continued dumbing down across society ~ don't care how the lift works or works better but just behave like a bad-tempered, spoilt teenager in the insistent belief that someone, somewhere will make it all better?

Which is fine, if they have the money and are prepared to pay the much higher price for the service (with gritted teeth) and products.

But absolutely not if they are only prepared to pay the lowest flea-market prices possible but expect service and products fit for kings and queens.

  spuds 12:38 02 Oct 2004

Reference to the header title 'Consumable Item'. This can be debatable in respect of tax and future taxation laws. Each commodity seems to be classified as one thing or another, in fact there is a strong debate going through the EU at present, as to whether LCD monitors should be taxed as per tv monitors.Some countries within the EU already class the LCD as a tv appliance, when other countries at present do not.Further complications are evident as to the screen size, and some people say that anything over 19" should be reclassified.Whatever the outcome,it will no doublt result in an overall price hike within the EU on the whole.

  Dorsai 14:08 02 Oct 2004

I thought a 'consumable item' was somthing that got gradually used up, as the product it in in is used.

such as ink in a printer.

The printer consumes ink as it is used. eventually all the ink is consumed, and needs to be replaced.

So a consumable PC? One that eventuallly runs out of Mhz and needs replacing.... <:-0

  It's Me 15:48 02 Oct 2004

I totally agree. A consumable item is a revenue item (ie. an expense, quickly used up) whereas a commodity is a capital item (ie.tends to have a life of over 12 months)(I'm trying to be careful in my definitions which I am aware are part of a minefield). This seems like a semantics problem, the title being one thing and the script being about another, complicated by the EU. In fact, all goods get used up in time, it's just the length of time that produces the complication.

None of the above has anything to do with what Danoh is saying and I do agree. But then we have been dumbing down our standards for many years in many aspects of our lives, and wanting everything for nowt, so it is to be expected. Many of us know/suspect that of education, policing, street hygiene, behavior and so on.

Specifically about 'commodities'. Two examples that I have recently come across. It is not so long ago that I understood that there was a requirement for all white (commodity) goods to be repairable for 10 years with parts being available; only last week I was told that that had now gone and that 5 years was the norm. However this falls about as well, during take overs, when a competitor takes control and prefers his own equipment and immediately, without warning, stops providing any kind of help. I am not talking about software here, I am thinking of major household items such as oil CH. boilers, where recently after only just over 12 months, the boiler was irreparably due to a total lack of spares.

  Mr Mistoffelees 17:52 02 Oct 2004

As I upgrade my pc from time to time, sometimes just one part, sometimes a more extensive upgrade, I think it would be appropriate to describe my pc as an evolutionary item rather than a consumable item. For me this gives a pc a huge advantage over household goods. The ability to be made faster and more versatile over time as technology advances, without ever having to spend the money to buy a whole new one every couple of years.

  Danoh 18:41 02 Oct 2004

Ooops!!! I got the title wrong! Wonder if the F.E. would be able to change it...

  Dorsai 18:57 02 Oct 2004

So i guess you ment

Can PCs really be regarded as a consumer item?

just like cars, tv's etc..

But they that already? An item that is bought and used.

then it is replaced, frequently before it has stopped working.

Most people buy a new car before the last one dies. ditto PC's.

I suspect ditto for most houshold electronics. I got a new kettle, but there was nothing wrong with the old one it just did not match the re-decorated kitchen. It goes agains the grain. I normally use an item till it dies, and only then throw it, and buy a new one.

Have i got the gist of this thread now?

  Danoh 20:44 02 Oct 2004


But unlike a car, do you not upgrade the equivalent of 2-wheel to 4-wheel drive (swap CD to a DVD burner), change engine size (upgrade processor chip), add turbo drive (double RAM memory), add fog lights and change to xeon bulbs (upgrade graphics card), put in sun roofs (change monitor)?

That is slightly more difficult to do with a car, TV, etc., but is what a PC is inherently architectured to do.

Question is; how many of us in this forum would buy a PC without ever intending to change or upgrade any components?

I have always done so thereby only having to completely give up on 1 PC so far and still have one providing excellent service working on an old Cyrix 166+ chip, bus architecture, etc., with only the PC box and floppy disk drive being the only components which are not the original.

So I am prepared to accept some slight malfunction (e.g. a connecting cable coming loose in transit which needs simple reconnection after a call to the vendors customer service, rather than having it hard-soldered on) which is inherent in a product which is intended to be dismantled and upgraded.

Personally I know of many consumers who don't want that at all. Buy and replace only. But then they need to realise that they are tapping into a product range which is inteneded for upgraders. So I get a bit tired of their expectations for a non-upgradeable commodity item which is available elsewhere. Just a rant, seeing as this is speakers corner!! :-)

  Danoh 01:37 07 Oct 2004

I've got the Subject Heading all wrong and apologise to others for misleading a discussion.

The F.E. has also kindly taken time to inform me that the Subject Heading can not be edited without losing all your postings.

Feeling much better having got it off my chest, would any of you kind folks mind if I ask the F.E. to delete this entire thread together with our postings?

That should avoid other unaware members tripping down this way as well.

At the moment, there are only 4 I should apologise to (spuds, Dorsai, It's Me, Mr Mistoffelees), and when all 4 have confirmed, I shall email Mr F.E. to delete this thread.


  Sapins 08:49 07 Oct 2004

Just before you get this deleted, I think of my computer as a "Consuming" item/commodity etc; as it has already consumed too much of my time :-)

  Danoh 11:05 07 Oct 2004

Me 3!! I presume you're ok for this thread to be deleted?

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

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