Builders predict tough Christmas

Whitebox builders aren't dreaming of a lucrative holiday season, with several painting the next couple of months as relatively bleak.

When asked how the Christmas market was shaping up, Plus Corporation managing director, Nigel Fernandes, was blunt.

"Christmas isn't shaping up to be anything at all. Even with free upgrade coupons, I think the Vista delay has slowed things for some people," he said.

"Also, I think PCs have become just another item that can be bought anytime of year."

Altech national sales manager, Kevin Hartin, estimated the local whitebox market to be down by as much as 20 per cent across the board compared to 12 months ago.

"We're normally pumping along in the last few months of the year, but we've had a real downturn this month," he said. "Compared to previous years it's just not as strong. November is traditionally our biggest month, too."

Hartin agreed PCs were no longer Christmas gift purchases.

"If you think back five years ago, not every household had a PC so it was treated as a new toy and maybe a Christmas treat for the kids," he said. "But everyone's got one now and this year it's probably more about PlayStations, the Xbox and Wii."

MSI marketing executive, Harlem Chiang, said some users might be keeping an eye out for alternative notebook configurations before stumping up for their next PC.

"I think people are waiting for a new platform in the mobile market. I think the new ones should come out next March," he said. "The current platform is essentially the same as the previous one - they just replaced the CPU - so people are waiting for it to change."

Hartin warned all whitebox vendors to keep their eyes peeled over the month and a half ahead.

"We have to watch the big boys during the next six weeks. Someone will go out and do something big in terms of price points, like a Harvey Norman working with Acer or HP," he said. "There's just got to be something to inject enthusiasm into the market or it'll be a shocker of a Christmas for all of us."