POWER USER

Out with the old, in with the new changes federal PC landscape

John McCormick

Power users do the most with what they have, and they don't necessarily have the hottest computers or latest software.

I maintain and use an ancient notebook PC as well as some fast Pentium machines. I know some GCN readers still run MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows 3.1. And some still work on 386s. I know because they write me about their problems.

Staying with old functional equipment is reasonable. But now that 2000 is less than three months away, many offices are frantically dumping old equipment.

What gives?

My question is, are readers still interested in Windows 3.1 and Win95? How about old PCs? Or have so many of you switched to the latest Pentiums running Win98 or Windows NT that I should discuss only these newer systems?

The 2000 rollover is the strongest incentive I have seen in half a decade to upgrade office computers and software. A year ago I would have told anyone contemplating an upgrade to think long and hard about the cost-effectiveness, in view of training costs and lost productivity. But now many of us need new PCs because of the calendar.

If you're still running Windows 3.1 and have a PC more than a year old, the easiest way to prepare for Jan. 1 is to buy a PC loaded with 2000-ready software.

As if the big triple zero weren't enough incentive, competition among PC makers is also pushing prices downward. In August, Dell Computer Corp. cut to about $1,100 the price of a 450-MHz Dimension XPS T450 Pentium III with a 13.6G hard drive, 64M of RAM, an Ethernet card, sound, graphics and a 15-inch monitor. Five months earlier, a similar setup went for about $1,500.

And Intel Corp. has slashed the prices of Pentium II and III processors as much as 40 percent. Chip cost is such a large part of PC pricing that Gateway Inc. and other makers are cutting prices on their 450- and 500-MHz systems.

So drop me an e-mail so I can get a reality check on exactly what types of desktop systems are most pervasive in government offices today.

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at poweruser@mail.usa.com.

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