Electronics chain Best Buy this week announced the launch of its Software Installer, a connected desktop application that's supposed to help consumers customize their new or upgrade their existing PCs and netbooks with only the software and services they want.
"Software Installer is really a connectivity tool, developed for those of us who want to seamlessly transform our computers or netbooks into hard-working personal productivity machines or entertainment powerhouses," said Jason Bonfig, vice president of computers at Best Buy. "It short-cuts the path to selecting reliable programs and services, and helps manage and record your transactions so you don’t have to."
What's interesting about this is that it's sort of like Steam for trialware. Best Buy says it has been working with PC manufacturers to reduce unnecessary third-party trials and software through the Software Installer, and we're certainly not opposed to reducing performance resource robbing programs from startup. And if it works the way Best Buy is promoting it, this could actually end up being a good thing. But if this ends up being installed on new PCs in addition to the usual assortment of bloat, well, color us unimpressed.
Check out the Software Installer product page here and then hit the jump and tell us what you think about it.
Just a few months ago, the Nook was one of the hottest holiday items, so much so that Barnes and Noble had trouble keeping up with demand. But starting this Sunday, April 18, you'll be able to drop by any Best Buy store and pick up B&N's $260 ebook reader.
The deal makes Best Buy the first chain (other than Barnes and Noble) to carry the Nook, giving the ebook reader more than double the exposure it's been getting from B&N's website and 723 bookstores. In addition, Best Buy said it plans to include Barnes and Noble's BN eReader software on some of the PCs and smartphones it sells.
This is a great move for Barnes and Noble, who not only is up against Amazon's Kindle, but more recently has been put in a position to go up against Apple's iPad. Apple last week said it has sold about 450,000 iPads in its first few days, while B&N hasn't released any sales figures for its Nook.
On a side note, Best Buy also sells Sony's ebook reader. Amazon's Kindle is only available on its website.
Best Buy found itself the target of heavy criticism and an Internet backlash when it came to light that the company's Geek Squad division was offering a $150 service to, among other things, "sync your 3D glasses for an amazing experience." Confused?
So was everyone else, and it looked as though Best Buy was trying to scam a fast buck by preying on unsuspecting customers who might be led to believe to that 3D glasses need syncing. Looking for an answer, the dudes over at HD Guru, where news of this service first broke, got in touch with Best Buy to hear their side of the story.
"I wanted to address any lingering confusion about the characterization of services support in the Best Buy Samsung 3DTV offer that was advertised in [the March 21] insert," Best Buy told HD Guru. "We by no means intended to confuse our customers or offer fraudulent services. The offer is new to our stores, and our own employees were trained on it just this past week."
Best Buy goes on to clarify what exactly is included in the $150 package, which includes making sure the 3D glasses work, since some of the TV sets the company sells need settings adjusted before the 3D glasses are enabled.
"We have some customers who aren’t quite sure how the 3D glasses work, or that the glasses automatically sync with their new 3D TVs," Best Buy explained. "So we wanted to convey that they can depend on Geek Squad to answer their questions during installation and set-up. There is no additional charge for this – and the Geek Squad 3D installation and networking services are included in the total price of this offer."
So what's the verdict? Are you satisfied with the response, or do see this as just another snake oil sales pitch? Hit the jump and sound off!
It now appears that most of the civilized world may have underestimated the intricacy of modern shutter glass technology. Shutter glass technology is such a technological labyrinth that only a handful of men know the correct way to use 3D glasses. Thankfully enough, though, they are willing to let others partake from their well of esoteric wisdom for around $150.
Apparently it doesn’t matter whether you love the idea of 3D TV, or hate it. The industry is going full speed ahead with the 3D roll out. See, today was a momentous day for 3D TV, when the very first consumer 3D TV supporting the new standards was sold (sort of). Best Buy in Manhattan sold Brad and Ashley, a couple from the upper west side, a $2900 bundle consisting of a 50-inch Panasonic TV, a Panasonic 3D capable Blu-Ray player, and one pair of 3D glasses.
The event was clearly a PR move; the first Samsung 3D TVs have been popping up in Best Buy showrooms and Amazon pages for weeks. After completing the purchase, the lucky owners were deluged with questions by reporters that apparently had nothing better to do. You’ll soon be able to swing by your local Best Buy to get the same bundle, but don’t expect the same sort of treatment.
Anyone purchasing 3D TVs and Blu-Ray players will be waiting a while for content. DirecTV has promised 3D channels will be available by June, but movies will be slow to arrive. The most recent Ice Age film will be out “soon” and Avatar should arrive later this year. But there’s still the problem of the 3D glasses, which currently cost $150 each. Will consumers shell out for extras, or will there be a lot of BYO3DG (bring your own 3D glasses) Superbowl parties? We don’t even know if Brad and Ashley got a second pair. Maybe Ashley will just have to squint really hard.
Panasonic’s campaign will start in 300 Best Buy stores in major U.S. cities (with 1,000 stores by the end of the year), where special 3D video sections will be constructed to show off Panasonic’s wares. Panasonic will also sweeten its deal with consumers by undercutting Japanese MSRP by 30% or so. A 50-inch 3D TV is expected to go for about $2,500. Unfortunately, these Panasonic models will lack the web access functions commonplace on their Japanese versions.
Panasonic reports a goal of selling one million 3D TVs globally during this fiscal year, with half of those being sold in the United States. Panasonic figures this will give it a 50% share of the global market for this new product niche.
Samsung on Thursday said it plans to launch a new line of multimedia "powerhouse" R80 series notebooks at Best Buy, both online and offline, on March 7th. The sub-$1,-00 notebook line will come with Blu-ray capabilities and Nvidia GeForce graphics.
"Best Buy continues to be an important retail partner for Samsung, and we’re excited to offer a range of notebook and netbook options to our customers that deliver exceptional craftsmanship and performance," said Todd Bouman, director of product marketing at Samsung Electronics Information Technology Division. "True to Samsung’s unique, customer-focused design aesthetic, these mobile PCs are flexible enough to be used as mobile devices or desktop replacements for all-day use."
There will be three models in all -- R480 ($730), R580 ($830), and R780 ($930) -- all of which come built around Intel's Core i3/i5 platform. The flagship 17-inch R780 unit will include 4GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics, a 500GB hard drive, DVD burner, 1.3MP webcam, Wi-Fi, and Windows Home Premium 64-bit. Interestingly, there's no Blu-ray drive on the higher end model, which is offered only on the 14-inch R480 and 15-inch R580.
Samsung has also started selling its N210 netbook in Best Buy stores, which comes with an Intel Atom N450 processor, 1GB of DDR2 memory, Intel GMA 3150 graphics, a 250GB hard drive, and Windows 7 Starter Edition. This one sells for $380.
If you're looking for an excuse to upgrade to a newer netbook running Intel's next-gen N450 Atom processor, there are plenty of surefire ways to void your warranty and convince your significant other you're out of options. Submerge it in a tub of water, for example. Or set it on fire. Take a hammer to the chassis, or intentionally drop the unit off a 20-story building. Better yet, install Linux.
Wait a tick, what was that? Believe it or not, installing Linux, while not at all fatal, is enough to void your netbook's warranty under Best Buy's Geek Squad Black Tie Protection Plan, one user claims.
"My four month-old netbook's touchpad and power adapter all stopped working," the out-of-luck user wrote on the Consumerist blog. "I took the machine into Best Buy for service under the Geek Squad's Black Tie Protection Plan on Saturday, and demonstrated its problems. The manager of the Geek Squad informed that installing Ubuntu Linux on my machine voided my warranty, and that I could only have it serviced if the original Windows installation was restored. Furthermore, he insisted that the touchpad and power adapter had been broken because I installed Linux."
Now here's the thing. Driver conflicts and other quirky behavior really can creep up when switching from Windows to Linux (or vice versa), so Best Buy has a valid point. Fair enough, just restore Windows and all is well again, right? Wrong.
After doing just that, the user alleges the store's Geek Squad manager informed him that Linux had "permanently voided" his warranty.
In the age of the Internet, we have a hunch Best Buy will have a change of heart and end up fixing or replacing the netbook in question.
It’s shameful, really. And it’s a glaringly obvious reason why computer retail is dying. (R.I.P Future Shop, CompUSA, and Circuit City.) And it’s a sure sign that some of the remaining retailers could give a rat’s patootie about their customers. It’s really not a big surprise that Best Buy’s “optimization” isn’t worth the $39.99 they charge for it. Rather it’s Best Buy’s attitude about you, the computer buying public--you’re nothing but a flock of sheep to be fleeced, so let the shearing begin.
Meg Marco at The Consumerist walks us through the whole scam. Best Buy sells optimization for its computers. Optimization, it turns out, is little more than Best Buy opening the box, removing some desktop shortcuts, tweaking bits of the browser interface, and downloading/installing OS updates (which the OS is normally takes care of by itself). All-in-all, nothing your average user can’t do on their own. And, after testing unoptimized and optimized systems--surprise, surprise--optimization doesn’t do a thing to speed the computer up. (In one instance, on a Asus laptop, optimization actually slowed the system down 32 percent.)
Great, fine, it’s like extended warranties--so much money thrown down the drain--just skip it. But, in many cases you can’t. It seems that Best Buy ties attractive sales prices to pre-optimized machines. And, magically, no unoptimized machines are available. You want the sale price, then pony up the optimization fee. (Getting it waived, from buyer experiences related by Marco, is next to impossible.) Not only do you have to pay more than the advertised price if you want the advertised price, some unknown “geek” at Best Buy has opened your box and fiddled around with your computer. (Experience here suggest checking the box’s contents before leaving the store.)
This is not just hard sell. With hard sell you have a choice. But Best Buy has stacked the deck against you. And do they feel bad about promising the moon with optimization (some sales reps claiming up to 200% speed improvements), without delivering anything of tangible value? Nope, instead Best Buy blames you, the consumer. “This is about the choice," a Best Buy spokesman said. "If you don't want it, you don't have to get it." See, it’s you that’s to blame, not Best Buy and its deceptive pushing of a worthless service.
Savvy computer users/buyers don’t fall for this, of course. (Savvy computer users/buyers also don’t shop at Best Buy.) Which means Best Buy is preying upon the novice, the uninitiated. Scare tactics or trumped up, empty promises work best with this crowd. Which makes the practice all the more loathsome. Even worse, it makes no sense for Best Buy to engage in this. Best Buy purportedly wants to make more money off its service business. To make this work you have to not only treat customers right at point-of-sale, but give them a reason to come back again and again. Once people realize they were scammed, you’ve lost them (and then some). Hard to see how you build a repeat-business with this approach.
Best Buy today announced the launch of its “holiday computing selection” spanning nine different brands. Although the lineup is said to include over 30 notebooks, six netbooks, 17 desktops and four all-in-ones from some of the top brands, the retailer seems to have reserved the spotlight for a $249 Acer laptop. After all, it is Best Buy’s “lowest-advertised-price laptop” ever.
The retailer is hoping that the $249 will appeal to “value-conscious consumers.” But don’t expect the laptop to set any new performance benchmarks, for it features an insipid cocktail containing an Intel Celeron 900 CPU, 2GB memory, and a 160GB hard drive. The $249 Acer notebook will go on sale tomorrow, along with the rest of Best Buy’s holiday computing lineup.