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Jon Bach (President)

Are Extreme PCs Going Away?

Written on March 12, 2009 by Jon Bach

On Monday, Jason Perlow at Tech Broiler wrote about a $16,000 PC we had built, which has recently been making its way around blog headlines. He commented that “Extreme PCs” are no longer relevant, and asked his readers whether these types of PCs, along with build-your-own homebrew PCs were going extinct. It's been interesting to read through the reader comments, and I wanted to add some perspective of my own.

Jason graciously posted my response on his blog, but I wanted to post it here as well, because I think it is something you would find interesting! The main premise here is that most people do not NEED to be on the bleeding edge of computer hardware, especially now that technology has reached the point at which even a cheap computer will meet most needs. With these thoughts, I entirely agree. As a system builder, we've known this for years, and if you ask any of our customers, they'll tell you that we recommend ways to cut back and save money far more freely than we suggest upgrades. But most people want more than they need, and people are used to getting what they want. I personally feel that this economy is a healthy reset to these past trends of excess. Many people don't need a high end video card, just like many people don't need that 5 bedroom house. Add to this the fact that for the first time in a long while, Microsoft appears to be releasing a LESS bloated OS than the previous version, and we see the collapse of a computer hardware bubble.

Of course, I can only speak with certainty about what we're seeing at Puget Systems, but this is indeed what we're seeing. People who used to buy $3000 computers are now buying $1200 computers. People who used to buy $1200 are now going to Costco. But what about people/organizations who buy $5,000+ computers? For us, they're still going strong. Why is that?

The difference is that those customers are not buying to meet their desires. They're buying to meet their needs...real needs. One of the biggest false assumptions being made about our $16,000 PC is that this is something we are trying to market to the masses. We'd be crazy to do that. This $16,000 PC was purchased for a specific application, for a specific reason – to make money. We see this all the time. If a video editor needs to be able to render his program in a short window of time, then faster hardware buys him that ability. If a university can improve its fluid dynamics simulations by a factor of 100x with an expensive computer, that could be a positive investment. These are not gamers, or people sitting at home with money to burn. These are people with real needs that need to be met. These types of “Extreme PCs” are not going away. In fact, we're personally seeing demand increase. Why? Because while many of the other system builders out there are following the crowd trying to compete with $500 Costco machines, we're going the other way. And we're emerging as one of the few system builders competent to handle the job.

But what about lower cost computers? I am not saying that system builders are fighting a losing battle against Costco machines. While it is certainly a shrinking market, it will reach a new equilibrium. Building a quality PC does not mean building an obscenely expensive PC. Jason says he now buys his computers from Costco, but if you read about his experience, it was riddled with frustration. There are many that have no tolerance for those frustrations. For the same reason one would buy a BMW car, people will continue to buy quality machines – a quality you will not find at Costco. This kind of quality will only be found by tailoring the PC to the individual, which will be done through build-your-own homebrews, or through smaller system builders. Jason is absolutely correct that there is no place for ridiculous products where we're headed. The hype in the computer industry is collapsing under its own weight, and its about time. The future is about performance for the dollar, reliability, low power, low noise...and I can't wait. We've been singing that song for years.


Thanks for that Jon. Have you guys started internal testing for Windows 7? What do you think of it? Do you have an idea when you can start shipping systems with it pre-installed?

Posted on 2009-03-12 23:17:44

Yep, a few of us have been running the Beta, but haven't seen RC1 yet. I'm personally very excited about it. We won't be able to ship systems with it until it launches, of course...I don't have much better information than you anyone else about it, but I hear we may see it before the holiday season!

Posted on 2009-03-12 23:20:32


Thanks for the "truth" about computers. Before I knew about Puget, I bought a Dell XPS workstation P4 with all the options they offered.
It is very noisey , unreliable and slower than my Puget. But a big thing you fogot to mention is the "lifetime" labor warranty. Try asking Costco for that.

Posted on 2009-03-13 04:22:52
Jenna Jonteaux-McClay

Just wanted to say, Puget built MY extreme PC--cost was over 15K.

I love this machine, and when the time comes--I come back to Puget for my next monster.

Puget is the best!

Posted on 2009-03-13 14:24:54

jon... who decides what *we* need?


so i find it offensive that a write, a systems builder, or anyone for that matter dictates to me what I want wether I need i or not. if i can afford it with having to finance
it or what ever then it has no direct effect on anyone but myself.

it galls me that someone can dictate to me what i need... the democratic way i guess.

add to this the fact when I do decide what I want wether i "need" it or not I have to wade through a bunch of BS by any number of sytem builders listing what they did when in fact they never did it.

My industry is littered with the exact same list of 121 point checks or what ever number they choose to list. Exactly like the boutique computer builders many who start out with great intentions but realize as margins get smaller they cannot stay a float using their original business model. And I am speaking of the smaller companies when i say this.

Maybe I took the article in a different light then the writer meant?

Posted on 2009-03-15 15:41:28

Excellent point! It is presumptuous for anyone to tell you what you need, isn't it? However, what I'm talking about is more of an observation -- since average computer sale amounts are decreasing in this economy, people are deciding they need less than what they thought a year ago.

Buying more than is needed is certainly a right of any individual -- one that I have no problem with as long as it is done with open eyes. What I am saying is that as a society...as a collective, reducing our excess consumption is a good thing. And I believe it is in your best interest that I or your system builder maintains this philosophy. You don't want your system builder to be upselling you -- you want unbiased advice, that if anything leans to the conservative. I want you to DECIDE you want to upgrade to something faster, not feel like you have to because someone is telling you that you need it.

Posted on 2009-03-15 18:17:31

jon taken in the context of your reply i agree.

the way i took the original writing (both articles) left me with a different impression.

Posted on 2009-03-17 13:44:12