EDITORIAL: Easy come, easy go

EDITORIAL: Easy come, easy go

Gee that was quick!'s attempt to conquer the Australian retail scene lasted just a shade over six months.

Strangely enough, we ran a story back in May quoting GM Michael Glezerson which, with the benefit of hindsight, was bang on the money.

"We have seen lots of American companies come and go," Glezerson said. "Entering the Australian market is not going to be easy - there are some very strong players who have been around for years. I don't think they will do in Australia what they've done in America."

And Gerry Harvey spoke the truth when we interviewed him in May: "The fact that they've opened here is a massive mistake. In Australia they will just go out of business. You virtually can be guaranteed 90 per cent of these dot-coms will go out of business."

Of course everyone in the channel will have slightly varying theories as to why the company decided to pull the plug. With the writing on the wall, maybe it was easier to call it a day and go home to the US. Certainly the differences between Australian and US retail environments are marked, especially where catalogue cultures are concerned.

But when was reportedly well down the way to achieving healthy sales and a decent customer base, there had to be something else.

Softbank and News Corp-backed e-partners must have had a dim view of the Australian market, no doubt influenced by those fickle, dot-com bashing US investors that only last year were still proclaiming the biggest success story of the modern business era.

For me, it all comes back to the debate over sound business models.eStore believes it's now the only pure-play e-tail operation, characterised by inventory, warehouse and minimal handling costs.

So wherever an e-tailer has any element of physical product storage or logistics operation, it's apparently not the real thing. And eStore claims touched each order up to seven times before the customer took the delivery, so no wonder it struggled.

One thing's for sure - while the channel may laugh and point the finger in the wake of its demise, the fact remains that investor confidence in dot-coms can't get much worse.

2P4 or not 2 P4?

They're here, they're fast, they're expensive, but guess what, they're just a chip. Excuse my cynicism, but the microprocessor market is facing a real crisis of confidence in my opinion.

Sure, CPUs are the backbone of the PC market and, where new chips are concerned, there is some money to be made from early adopters who just can't wait to get a P4 system.

From a competitive viewpoint, it's been gratifying to see AMD capitalise on Intel's supply shortages of late. AMD also has the price performance equation battle all stitched up. Only real enthusiasts will notice the split-second difference in the speed of the latest P4 versus the top AMD Athlon. Meanwhile, most corporate, small business and home users will find a cheaper alternative because it makes sense.

But I can't help but point out each time we report on a new CPU that the real issue for the channel has to be the dubious future of building and supplying PC components.

I hold the view that PCs will eventually become a single device supplied in much the same way you might plug in a thin-client terminal or turn on an intelligent PDA - fully built, ready to run and all your applications and data running remotely on a corporate or Internet service provider's server.

With the channel gearing up to pull the vast majority of revenues from services, the writing is still on the wall for businesses in the box-moving game.

Am I wrong? I invite your opinions.

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