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Linux Business

Linux PCs Discontinued at Wal-Mart Stores 278

Posted by Zonk
from the we-barely-knew-ye dept.
eldavojohn writes "The $200 Linux PCs discussed earlier last year have been discontinued for sale at Wal-Mart's physical locations, though they will remain for sale at walmart.com. All this despite the systems repeatedly selling out. From the article, 'Paul Kim, brand manager for Everex, said selling the gPC online was "significantly more effective" than selling it in stores.'"
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Linux PCs Discontinued at Wal-Mart Stores

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  • by jt2377 (933506) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:06AM (#22712632)
    why bribe? when your average user take that shiny Linux PC home and can't find Microsoft Word or paly any games on it or do anything that he/she did on Windows. Don't see the point of MS bribing anyone. Linux still have a long way to go before replacing Windows.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:06AM (#22712636)

    It's cheaper than buying a dedicated Linux machine.
    Uhh, no it's not. Similar computers at Dell have a difference of $50-$90 in price between the Vista and Ubuntu versions.

    More importantly though, part of the money you're paying to replace Vista with Ubuntu goes to Microsoft, which allows them to further their monopoly. Do you really feel good about doing that?
  • by dhavleak (912889) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:24AM (#22712728)

    You're right about that being the cheapest way to get a linux machine. I think the objection to that would be on principle more than anything else -- people won't want to pay the Vista license fee if they're not gonna actually use Vista. In fact, if you're trying to get value for money its a little annoying to know that your PC could have been cheaper if you didn't have to pay for s/w you're not going to use.

    It's important to note though, that users do have a choice in the matter (buying the gPC in the store/online - and now just online). If Walmart decided to discontinue it because of the lack of demand, that's fair game. If Walmart decides they would rather install Vista on everything rather than the hassle of having seperate SKUs (with Vista/without Vista) - that's fair game as well.

  • A thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothic_Walrus (692125) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:31AM (#22712754) Journal

    Paul Kim, brand manager for Everex, said selling the gPC online was "significantly more effective" than selling it in stores.
    From my experiences online, it seems like there's a higher percentage of geeks with significant problems with Wal-Mart than there is in the rest of the population. Is it possible that that had an effect?

    In any case, I think part of the problem is that most people I know wouldn't envision Wal-Mart as a PC retailer. Be it my computer-illiterate neighbor whose spyware I'm constantly removing or my grandparents who only use their computer for occasional e-mail, I'd bet the majority would go to an electronics store like Best Buy or Circuit City over a general retailer like Wal-Mart for a purchase that big. Wal-Mart may not be a bad place for cheap groceries or clothing, but the employees there won't know jack about the computers they're selling...and even if that's also true at the local electronics chain store, the perception that they know at least something about computers can make all the difference.
  • Re:Normal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:54AM (#22712860) Homepage Journal
    Umm, dude, you're still not getting it. They sold out both online and in stores. The most likely reason that Wal-Mart is pulling these from the store is that they are getting too much interest and tying up staff. Customer service is suffering as a result. If Wal-Mart hires more staff that will increase the cost of the product and may decrease the demand, resulting in an elastic effect on sales.. so it is easier to pull the product from stores and require customers to buy it online where they won't be tying up customer service agents.
  • Re:Normal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zippthorne (748122) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:58AM (#22712870) Journal
    A computer takes up a lot more shelf space than, say, an mp3 player or mobile phone. Indeed, it's price density is lower than most of the items in the store, save maybe housewares. Pillows and comforters do take up a large volume.

    More importantly, at $200 for a PC, it's profit margin had to be quite a bit lower than any of those things. I'd bet that even selling like hotcakes it would be one of the least efficient items in the store, in terms of profit per square foot.
  • Re:Once again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gadget_Guy (627405) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:05AM (#22712884)

    No. That would be the Walmart management that prevailed. Walmart don't care if those Linux systems sell out all the time, because selling these systems in preference to a Windows PC ends up costing them money.

    While the Linux users are off using apt-get to download all their packages, Windows users have to return to the store to buy their Anti-virus software, Office packages, games etc. Windows users will continue to generate income long after they have got their neighbor's kid to setup the PC for them.

    Sure, there are some Windows users who know about all the free software available for that platform. These people won't generate any extra income for the retailer, but they would not have anyway, so they are out of the equation.

    Finally, I have always wondered how many returns they get from people who thought that the computer was faulty because it would not run all their software they already owned. It is possible that Walmart wants to avoid losing good will of their less technically inclined customers who think that they are selling broken PCs

  • by captnitro (160231) * on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:08AM (#22712894)
    The summary makes it sound kinda squishy, though Wal-Mart was pretty clear:

    Computers that run the Linux operating system instead of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows didn't attract enough attention from Wal-Mart customers, and the chain has stopped selling them in stores, a spokeswoman said Monday.
    "This really wasn't what our customers were looking for," said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien.

    The "repeatedly sold out" link is a little misleading, too. It isn't exactly a solid list of endorsements -- well, it seems a lot of people bought it and then promptly returned to the website to bitch it didn't come with Windows. In short: it flopped.

    I do have to wonder -- and this will certainly invite some livid replies -- solid engineering is great, but I always seem to get the sense that solid marketing and solid sales practices aren't valued in the same way by the F/OSS community, and if it doesn't fail to gain them any ground, it might actually hurt them, as well. I mean, that stuff doesn't have value because people like wasting money. Packaging and naming and charm and all of that has value. WTF is a gOS?
  • by kdemetter (965669) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:17AM (#22712922)
    I prefer to put my own pc together.
    That way , there's no license costs , i know what i'm buying , and it's a lot cheaper in total .
  • by jejones (115979) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:17AM (#22712926) Journal
    "Just go get the cheapest Windows PC you can find (they have a sticker that says "Vista Capable" or "Vista Ready") and install Linux."

    Are you willing to buy it back from me for the price I gave if one or more of its peripherals has no good Linux device driver, where by good I mean having speed and feature parity with the Windows driver? Are you willing to send me the cost of Windows, so I don't have to pay for something I don't want?

    Actually, never mind--even if you're willing to do that, some of my money would be going to MS, and I will not do anything that benefits MS.
  • Re:Normal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:18AM (#22712930) Homepage Journal
    you can't find a reference because it is FUD and you know it.

  • Re:Once again... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:29AM (#22712972) Homepage
    Exactly. This is business. Kudos to Walmart for even trying to sell Linux PCs. They realized it was not a viable business decision and moved on.
  • Re:Once again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:41AM (#22713486) Journal

    Exactly. This is business. Kudos to Walmart for even trying to sell Linux PCs. They realized it was not a viable business decision and moved on.

    They only stopped selling them in stores, which sounds to me they will still offer them online.

    It seems it was not that much of a non-viable business decision; it merely suffered from anomalies.
    Low-end Linux PCs are a rather non-standard item, and my best guess is that most people who'd bought them were geeks who'd wanted a cheap Linux toy. Or to give a computer-illiterate family member a low-end computer.
    And they bought them online.

    Thus there was a significant disproportion in the numbers of sales — most units were sold online, so of course the execs deemed the online market more profitable for this kind of article. That may prove to be a misguided long-term decision, but it makes perfect sense in short term.

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:48AM (#22713520) Homepage Journal
    It isn't about customer service. The most valuable asset in the physical store is shelf space. The profit margin on these cannot be that much, let alone to the profits to be made filling shelves with more game cartridges.

    Remember back to the stories about Wal-Mart's push into CFLs and how the person at Wal-Mart pushing these had to make a case to get shelf space. They had to present a case and prove themselves.

  • Re:Once again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by budgenator (254554) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @07:49AM (#22714046) Journal
    My experience is the very top management at Walmart is sharp, but the middle management is very YMMV and store management is internally promoted so there is usually one that's sharp, two that are average and the rest show signs of to much inbreeding. From that perspective it's easy to see that a $200.00 PC just isn't going to give them the profit/Ft^2 unless they turnover a lot of them which isn't sustainable. Also Everex isn't going to be in a position to offer incentives to Walmart to secure shelf-space like the others probably do, so the result is if you want one, order online and pick-up at your local store. The added advantage of this scheme is the machines isn't in the store, so Billy-Bob isn't going to buy one, fill the hard-disk with Kiddy-Porn picture of him and his wife, then return it because mozilla on Linux don't handle .wmf files out of the box; only to have the computer be illegally re-boxed and sold as new for someone daughter's use.

    lets see
    1 insult Walmart management
    2 add slightly insightfull comment on-topic
    3 imply consiracy against Linux on the desktop
    4 insult stereo-typical Walmart customers
    5 complain about M$ patented technology
    6 get +5 insightfull mod woohooo
  • Re:Once again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shmlco (594907) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @07:54AM (#22714072) Homepage
    Well, to be precise, it says, "Wal-Mart sold out the in-store gPC inventory but decided not to restock..." from which one can infer... nothing. They might have sold them below cost to rid the stores of the last few boxes. Or it may have taken 6 months to move 5 units. Or they could have simply keep them in the store because it might not have been cost effective to pack them up and ship them back.

    They also could have gotten in 5 units and sold 5 units in a single day... not. Because if that were the case they'd keep selling them. Or they could have sold 5 and gotten 4 back once the user found it couldn't run Word and most games, which I could attribute to "This really wasn't what our customers were looking for..."

    But the lead says it best. "Computers that run the Linux operating system instead of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows didn't attract enough attention from Wal-Mart customers, and the chain has stopped selling them in stores..."
  • Re:Normal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Foolicious (895952) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:25AM (#22714306)

    Umm, dude, you're still not getting it.
    Why do people always type (write) the words "ummm" and/or "errr" to make a point when posting? In the spoken word, "umm" is generally a filler used to buy time as you formulate what to say. It's generally considered a bad habit if you use it too much, akin to saying "like" all the time. But you don't need to do that when you write because you can simply pause and stop typing. So why do people do that?
  • Re:A thought (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ratbert6 (515555) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:06AM (#22714762)
    My father bought one of these Walmart linux boxes. At first I was impressed, not at the machine but that HE spent the money on one. It was a dissapointment with the flavor of linux that it had installed, it seemed to be missing a lot of stuff I've come to expect like a compiler etc.

    Anyway, the machine wound up sitting around for awhile becuase he wasn't really that interested in using it.

    Then I did a truly evil thing, I borrowed it for my brothers use because his Emachine died (again), so we loaded Windows XP SP2 on the walmart box. This was also disappointing, it took a few tries and the limited resolution relative to the Emachine bothered my brother, he's non-tech and thinks I can fix ANYTHING. :) And then there were the near constant crashes that made it pretty much unusable under windows.

    Recently I reloaded it again with Ubuntu because I am completely sick of the windows "refresh" cycles and didn't think it would improve the situation on this box anyway.

    I did have problems getting the install to complete, the cd-drive is buggy and sometimes just stops responding, but eventually I prevailed and the machine runs much better with not a crash yet that I know of. It does have an annoying screen flicker from time to time, but again the hardware itself is questionable in a number of areas.

    In short the distribution they chose was lacking, and the hardware is barely passable, but under Ubuntu 7.10 it has become a usable machine.

    I would not however recommend this particular box to a newbie because of all the difficulties GETTING it to a stable state (note that applies to it running windows as well).

    my $.02
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @10:15AM (#22715626)
    Good. Did you tell this to Samsung?
  • by bdcrazy (817679) <bdc_tggr-forums@yahoo.com> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @10:23AM (#22715750) Homepage
    With linux, you don't have the following:

    McAffee/Symantec/etc paying $X to put the 30 day trial antivirus on there (hoping to snag a $X/$Y/$Z annual fee).
    Aol/PeoplePC/etc paying them $X to put their free trial on the computer (again, hoping to snag a $X/$Y/$Z monthly fee).
    Adobe paying them $X to have reader preinstalled with adverts to 'upgrade' to acrobat for $X.
    Real paying them $X to have their av software installed with adverts to 'upgrade' to the pro version for $X

    etc, etc, etc

    If all those companies paying them money bring in more money than a licensing cost for windows, the windows computer will be cheaper.

    If you can get companies to subsidize a 'linux' computer, you would have a cheaper computer that way too. But I don't see it happening.
  • by rohan972 (880586) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @10:39AM (#22716070)
    "In the end, Samsung got my money because they decided to support Linux."

    Did you let them know why? It is a good idea.
  • Re:Once again... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by debatem1 (1087307) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:10PM (#22719796)
    Because you clearly do not understand the PC business, the article, or the events in question, allow me to point out a few small facts you appear to have overlooked:
    1) PCs are a commodity business. You don't stick around selling 3 of them in a month.
    2) If you're making $1000 off of 3 PCs, I want whoever your marketing guy is.
    3) Wal-Mart doesn't order things in 50s. It orders them in thousands.
    4) TFA clearly states that Wal-Mart repeatedly sold out of the machines.

    Put it together. Wal-Mart has sold thousands of these machines out repeatedly- which means that it has a product whose supplier cannot meet demand. If you're a company that size and want to lose a lot of money, the way to do it is to have to deal with somebody else's god awful supply chain.
  • Walmart? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by claytonjr (1142215) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:01PM (#22720652) Homepage
    When a vendor chooses to sell his/her product in Walmart, they have to met very high expectations.

    For example, if WM is unable to sell 100% of the product, the vendor has to buy the difference back (via store credit). Or if WM sells the product too quickly, the vendor has to be able to meet the demand. If Everex has problems meeting the demand of the supply, WM may choose to pull that product from it's shelves.

    WM's press release may have very little to do with the real reason it was pulled.

    Interesting WM story: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html [fastcompany.com]

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