Monday, August 27, 2007

Tech Support In Chinese

My ten-year-old Gateway computer still runs, boots up every time and purrs happily in its dotage. The software is outdated, of course, and there's no point in keeping the thing except it runs this one particular game and I can access the Internet if my new Gateway goes down. Which it did. In spectacular fashion.

Somewhere along the road to competitive leadership, Gateway stumbled and quality control suffered. It happens often, when a firm is trying to cut costs. The knowledgeable gentleman at the Gateway Country shop who helped us put together our custom computer lost his job when the shops were shuttered, and we lost a nearby location to take the CPU when things went awry.

As it turned out, the brand new Gateway computer's hard drives (both of them) crashed and burned. It took the tech support people a few days to figure it out, as if the last thing tech support wanted was to have to send a technician out. And there we were, stumbling along on a ten-year-old item that worked fine, but could not be updated with the latest Windows operating system. If only we could keep this old dinosaur, we thought, but technology only advances, it never retreats, and there weren't enough guts in the thing to allow an upgrade to Windows XP.

After a fight that would have done George Patton proud, we ended up with a replacement for the lemon we were stuck with for months, followed by another battle to get the additional components that we had paid for on the custom model. When we bought a laptop this year, we went with Dell.

Were we the only clients to have such problems? Probably not, because Gateway stock has steadily sunk and that would not indicate happy clients. But Gateway still has name recognition, still has the distribution channels and manufacturing facilities, and they are a ripe takeover target.

The charming cow-print boxes and South Dakota charm are over. Acer of Taiwan is going to snap up Gateway for $710 million (that's $1.90 per share) and the Chinese company will find itself the third largest PC manufacturer in the world. What that means for Gateway employees remains to be seen. Labor costs in Taiwan are cheaper, after all.

Even business is Darwinian -- survival of the fittest, and those who cannot adapt will become extinct.

No comments: