This month, I plan to build a new computer for my home office. This will be my first new build in seven years. I am doing so for two reasons. First, the computer I am currently working on is seven years old and it will not run the new software I recently purchased to edit my videos. The second reason is because Windows XP has reached its EOL and I need some measure of security.
I am not purchasing a computer from Dell, HP, Toshiba or some other PC manufacturer. I am building it myself, and I am doing so for two reasons. First, because I can.
Once upon a time, building computers was part of my business. The computers that I built were considerably better than those purchased from Dell, HP or another major OEM. They were carefully assembled, burned-in and tested by hand, they were tweaked and optimized for performance, and they were not pre-loaded with bloatware to slow them down on first boot. My computers had a very low rate of warranty repairs and a zero rate on returns. A few of them are still in operation today, although they are now eight to ten years old.
When I first got into building computers, it was rather profitable, but sometime between 2004 and 2006, everything changed. Dell had forced a lot of small system builders like myself out of the business by selling cheap computers at ridiculously low prices. Yes, they were junk, but a lot of our customers bought them because they were so cheap. Of course, after their first or second call to Dell's horrible and frustrating overseas tech support line, many of those customers learned the hard way that you really do get what you pay for, but by then it was too late. Thanks to Dell and their over-aggressive pricing strategy, the margins on computers became razor-thin, and eventually hit rock bottom industry-wide.
For some of us, it was the last straw. It just wasn't worth the cost of building a system that we would also have to warranty and support for a year just to keep a customer buying in-house. I had had enough of system building.
After I closed up shop in Florida and moved out of the business, I built one last computer. It wasn't for a customer, it was for me. I told myself it would be the last PC I would build for anyone, simply because I felt they were no longer cost effective to build. If we needed a computer at home, I would simply go to the nearest Sam's Club and purchase one. At least I would get a warranty that I wouldn't have to support.
At first, it worked out rather well. When my wife's old computer finally bit the dust, I went out and purchased one of the last netbooks with Windows XP. Vista was out on the market, but thanks to Microsoft and their prudent decision to keep XP around and offer a downgrade, we had options.
When my daughter needed a new PC for her school and graphic art projects, it was not a problem. I purchased a white box system (the case was black) from CompUSA during a trip to Florida and installed Windows XP, which was still available. No muss, no fuss, and she is still using it as I write.
Then, we had trouble. When my son's computer became too old and slow to run programs he needed for school work, I searched around for a new laptop. It turned out to be more than I bargained for, because by this time Microsoft had rolled out the now infamous Windows 8.
I chronicled this purchase in another rant, so I won't recount the details of the experience here. However, after finally locating a laptop with Windows 7, I came to the disheartening realization that purchasing another PC in the near future without Windows 8 was going to be a problem, if not an impossibility.
Now I need a new desktop computer. This time I am going to build instead of buy one. As I stated earlier, I am doing it because I can, but it isn't because I really want to. I am not going to buy it from a major OEM because I can't. Microsoft made the selfishly stupid decision to push Windows 8 and not allow downgrades to Windows 7.
I do not want to be forced to purchase a PC with Windows 8. I want a choice, and if I can't have the desktop I had before, I want something relatively close to it. I want to choose an operating system that belongs on a desktop, running personal and business programs, an OS that doesn't make my PC look and feel like an oversized tablet or smartphone.
Why are PC sales falling? Because they come with Windows 8 installed, and people like me don't want to purchase computers with Windows 8. If we can't buy one from a major OEM like Dell, HP or Toshiba without Windows 8, then we'll either find a local shop that will build a system with Windows 7 or, as I am doing, build our own.
Microsoft is chasing potential customers away from the major OEMs with Windows 8. I should know. I am testimonial proof.