Friday, June 19, 2009

Now Back at $149.95 -- Won't last at this price. might have 4 only. is offering the Alpha-400 for $149.95 again through Amazon at the above address, but there might be only 4 in stock (according to the above).

For more, please click here.

As we hoped for, clones of these mini-laptops are offered in more than 20 brands. A multiplicity of brands is key to success for an ultracheap platform. They are very popular in Europe in Asia and should be in the USA, esp., with the state of the economy (California at 11.5-percent unemployment, for instance).

Still needed:

Offbeat Outlets:
Drugstores, hardware stores, department stores, toy stores, discount stores, etc. This is the best exposure ultracheapies can get, trust me.

Lower Prices: The Alpha 400s are quite cheap compared to "netbooks"; but apparently, to compete with Microsoft, they need to be cheaper still.

And they will be. Eventually some will be made to sell for a few bucks on a bubblecard (see illustration).


  1. While you've drawn a distinction between primary (new) and secondary (used) markets in the past, I think there's a third market in between those, namely the overstock/liquidation market served by, and others (throw in refurbs as well to further complicate the picture.) I think that for the next decade or so, the only way to get a $16 blisterpack PC like the one in the mockup will be to buy about 10,000 pieces of someone's liquidated inventory, sold at a loss to recoup part of their investment. Even 5" portable DVD players haven't gotten that cheap, except used. does a lot of overstock business and I strongly suspect that they're doing that with these little laptops, though I haven't the faintest idea what Belco's original distribution channels would have been. Products sold this way might not be used (except for refurbs), but they're not really "new", either. Someone has given up on selling them for full price and is now just trying to lose as little as possible.

    That said, I think there'll be some seriously cheap PCs available through that channel in a few years. I paid $500 for my first 1-megapixel digital camera in 1999, and now you can get 3-megapixel digital cameras with preview screens in blisterpacks for about $20 when last year's models go on clearance. It looks like the $149 ARM netbook will be fairly common this xmas, and if it follows digital cameras and DVD players, next year everyone will have them as $99 doorbusters. A few more iterations of that, and you might start seeing the previous year's stuff on the Wal-mart clearance racks in May or June for around $50, which by that time will be pretty close to their material cost. But by the time we see a blister pack PC for $16, I think the functionality of a PC will either be irrelevant or incorporated into some other device that doesn't cost much more than that (as low-end cameras were absorbed into phones.)

    There's one other possibility that could result in PCs with prices in the low two-digit range. I was at one of the big box stores recently, can't remember which one, and in their clearance section they had something that looked like a mini-laptop for $39 whose entire purpose was to check your email, and nothing else. No idea what it was running under the hood, but it was useless without a $10/month subscription to the manufacturer's email service, which had been shut down. I think we haven't seen the last of the "PeoplePC" style business models (a variation has already turned up with phone carriers distributing netbooks cheaply or for free with 2-year data contracts, but structured as a discount or rebate rather than actual cheap hardware), and it may be that the first sub-$50 laptop is the result of someone subsidizing the hardware that way and then going belly-up. But unless there were a strong support community with easy ways for non-technical users to get rid of the software tying the laptops to services that had gone out of business, that wouldn't be good for either consumers or the cheap-PC movement. So I'm betting on the "last year's model on clearance" phenomenon.

  2. I have answered this very good comment in the post above. So please refer to that as well.