Appalling lineup at the local OfficeMax

Posted Monday, November 26, 2012 in Online, Mobile & IT by Scott Jordan

The race to the bottom in the PC laptop market was on full display at the local OfficeMax when I sauntered in there over the weekend.

What is it about the shiny dark plastic that laptop makers--even Lenovo!--are carving their crap out of nowadays?  If there is an uglier, cheaper-looking, less durable material, well I'm sure some PC manufacturer is mounting an R&D effort to find it.  It's especially regrettable in the poorly-constructed models at this store, where every warped and wavy surface shone with ripples under the store's lighting.  Some were so shiny that the bezels around their display would serve as a personal fun-house mirror as you use it.  Oh, there were a few that attempted to ape the brushed-aluminum Apple look, but they're not fooling anybody.  Just pick one up by a corner and listen to it groan like a dyspeptic dachshund.

The prices were certainly attractive, at least to the solitary and very senior citizen I watched going from unit to unit, since many were in the three digits.  (Come to think of it, so was he, or so it seemed.)  Some were mid-level or better business machines (this is a store catering to small business, after all) but the real action is in this "Ultrabook" category where apparently it's all about cheap.  Even so, regardless of price, every unit looked cheesy and flimsy and would not hold up in real laptop usage for more than a year.  I lifted a few: they creaked and moaned, and it was impossible to handle them without leaving nasty fingerprints all over them.  

And all the while, Windows 8 barked and flashed like some lurid cross between a Pachinko machine and the Las Vegas Strip. Why must it be so garish?  Is there an alternative theme or setting that tones things down?  (No?  And I thought the Mac was supposed to be the inflexible, conformist platform...)

The real disappointment was Lenovo.  I don't recall them dirtying their brand by rolling in the low-end mud as they are evidently doing.  They had perhaps four or five models on display, each more depressing than the last.  The highest-end model on display at this allegedly business-oriented retailer really was of no higher construction quality than the flimsiest generic Ultrabook at the other end of the aisle, dressed in high-gloss plastic of the very lowest grade.  A premium brand has fallen.

I then understood why Microsoft is getting into the hardware business.  But, too late.  These ghastly contraptions are going to salt the field for what's left of the PC market.

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