Tech Tuesday

Timing for Tech Purchases Makes Sense

Soft economy is creating a sense of deals for tech buying, so now may be a good time to buy.

A soft market opens suppliers to lowering prices to boost demand. It's true in almost every sector and while cash for clunkers may be helping the auto industry - tech companies are on their own. And I've noticed that they're stepping up. Major computer makers are offering price breaks on new machines - in anticipation of back-to-school time; which means you could be getting a good deal there if you need new equipment.

As discussed in this column in the past - a desktop computer is great for the office and offers a ton of power for less cash than ever before. You can buy the hottest chip with the most memory, combine it with a giant hard drive and you'll have all you'll need for a few years. And while I'm seeing price breaks on desktop machines, the big news is in laptops.

Equipment makers - Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and others, are offering back-to-school specials for laptops. You'll find good basic machines in the $499 price range that may be just what you need for capturing data in the field. Team it with a cellular modem card and you could be "shipping" information back to your office from the combine cab this fall.

That's the nature of the beast. Computers have become the ultimate consumer good with people considering a laptop a necessity. That means you need to consider your purchase timing around key times of the year - August for back-to-school; November for Christmas shoppers, February for winter closeouts of last year's model after the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Those are the key sales times for these machines and can save you money, or get you more machine for the same money.

Netbooks a good buy. The Netbook class of computer - which includes very compact machines with 10- or 12-inch screens - offer you a lot of computing power for the price. Add built-in cellular communications, and they're a better e-mail appliance than your smart phone if you want to keep up on markets and other information important to your business.

These machines - often priced below $300 - offer Windows-based software, are Web ready and provide all that power in a smaller design. While the keyboard is smaller, it's still easier to type on than a phone - for sure. The major laptop makers do offer netbooks - except Apple, which has so far been reluctant to bring out a machine (but with the iPhone as a near-netbook who can blame them).

Dell and HP offer netbooks and are battling for market share. Even some cellular companies are offering netbooks as part of a service package - Verizon is one such company.

Computer needs are increasing. Staying connected remains an important issue too. Consider your high-tech inventory as fall field work ramps up (I know it's already busy down South) consider your needs for next year. Now is a good time to buy.

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