Gateway: Direct Sales No More

By  |  Friday, July 25, 2008 at 11:30 pm

This is kinda sad: On Friday, Taiwanese PC giant Acer announced that its Gateway subsidiary will stop selling PCs direct to buyers over the Web and will focus on indirect sales–that is, through retailers such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Costco. Along with Dell, Gateway created the direct-sales PC market starting in the mid-1980s; for a long time, it was the only way to buy a Gateway, and the company’s whole reason for being centered around the idea that the best way to buy PCs was directly from the manufacturer.

There was a time when it looked like most PCs might end up being sold direct. And at its best, it was and is a wonderful way to buy a computer. Now only Dell remains as a major manufacturer focused on the direct market, and it’s dabbling in retail itself and generally no longer a shining example of the virtues of buying direct.

Today’s news is no shocker, since Acer not only doesn’t sell direct but has thrived in recent years by actively spurning direct sales in order not to compete with the retail outfits that sell its PCs. Only a really schizophrenic company could have done business both the new Acer way and the old Gateway way.

A lot of us whose memories of PCs go back to the 1980s probably retain some residiual fondness for Gateway–the plucky, quirky upstart founded as Gateway 2000 by Ted Waitt in in Sioux City, Iowa in 1985, with the wacky, cow-centric marketing. That company disappeared a long time before Acer bought it–it was certainly gone by the time it launched an ill-fated attempt to reinvent itself as a consumer-elecronics company and then ended up acquiring eMachines, and eMachines’ business strategy. in 2004. But the warm fuzzies for the Gateway name have helped sustain it, even though the company in its current form has almost nothing in common with its original incarnation except the word “Gateway” in its name.

Okay, the cow spots remain, too…

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