UPDATE: System Builders React To Wal-Mart's Latest PC Move

Wal-Mart began testing create-your-own PC system counters in about 20 store locations last year and aims to roll them out in 1,200 of its 3,200 U.S. discount stores.

Linda Blakley, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the Bentonville, Ark., retail giant is partnering with HP to offer mix-and-match choices of CPU units, displays, keyboards and mice. Offerings include three CPU boxes with different processors, memory and hard drives plus four monitors and several keyboards and mice.

Glen Coffield, president of Cheap Guys Computers, a system builder with six stores in the Orlando, Fla., area, said he doesn’t think the Wal-Mart/HP effort will affect system builders.

“This is not a true build-to-order. This doesn’t even compare to what you can do at Office Depot or OfficeMax, where you can order a system from a build-to-order kiosk. This is minor customization,” Coffield said.

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“So the $6 dollar an hour Wal-Mart guy is going to be telling me what kind of system I should buy?” he added. “Wal-Mart is synonymous with low end. I don’t think the Wal-Mart name adds value to HP.”

Other system builders also don’t expect the Wal-Mart initiative to impact their business because the retailer serves a different base of customers.

Samuel Sanchez, vice president of marketing at Coastline Micro, an Irvine, Calif.-based system maker, said Wal-Mart caters to cost-conscious consumers seeking rock-bottom prices rather than to small and midsize businesses looking for technology solutions.

Imad Boukai, president of Connect Computers, a system builder in Irvine, Calif., said retailers like Office Depot may feel an impact from Wal-Mart’s pick-and-choose PC system effort.

"I don't think this will affect me," Boukai said. "And I don't think this will be a big part of Wal-Mart's business."

PC products currently sold on Walmart.com include HP Pavilion Media Centers, eMachines desktop systems, Acer TravelMate notebooks and Sony Vaio laptops.