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Educate the user
One of the largest local component distributors, Microtronica (S) argued that the Pentium III processors are not that easy or cheap to remark as they are boxed as integrated devices.
"Serial numbers are embedded within the processor making it easier to spot the real thing," said managing director Albert Lau, adding that the threat of remarked chips will be further reduced as prices continue to plunge, narrowing the gap between original and fake chips.
But industry watchers are skeptical. They say Intel Celerons that use the Socket 370 slot and the Pentium III 420MHz and 500MHz, although packed in cartridges, can still be remarked.
Managing director KK Tang of local PC dealer Megasoft Computer Services agreed, adding that it is unlikely suppliers, second- and third-tier distributors will check as it takes time and incurs cost. "Perhaps Intel should have a Net service for people to check it out. The idea of consumers being able to check things out may deter some but not all unscrupulous dealers," he pointed out.
Both Tang and Microtronica's Lau also proposed a more aggressive pricing structure which should put the remarkers out of business for a long time.
There is a big gap in Intel's highest frequency CPUs and its predecessors until volume picks up. "Today a Pentium III 550MHz costs RM1,000 more than a Pentium III 500MHz, although the speed differential is only 10 percent," said another dealer. He added that the gap was too tempting for the remarkers to resist.
Last year, CNET US reported an imbalance between the price and supply of Intel microprocessors that led to a rise in the number of remarked chips with bogus speed ratings in Europe and North America.
Three weeks ago, CNET Asia reported that customs officials in Hong Kong had seized HK$6 million worth of remarked CPUs in separate raids on workshops in Kowloon Bay and Cheung Sha Wan. A total of 3,334 remarked CPUs were recovered in the raid which led to the arrest of 17 people.
Intel's Yohani reiterated that Intel's pricing structure was already aggressive enough and that the company was constantly reducing the price gap between different grade CPUs.
The final card, however, lies in the end-user's hand. The majority of computer vendors perceive that the average computer user today is still unable to tell the difference between RAM and CPU. What more CPU speed differentials? "The public must be educated on the issue and they must learn how to make educated choices," said Lau.
Users should familiarize themselves with the packaging, speed, processor, RAM, SIMMs and other aspects related to PC purchasing to avoid being cheated.
Vendors also urged better enforcement by the authorities. "Culprits these days just shrug off the temporary negative publicity and it's business as usual the next day. They should be treated like counterfeiters if they sell remarked chips," said Tang.
For dealers like Tang and Lau who go by the book and sell strictly original goods, it remains an uphill climb. "We have considered leaving the low-end PC market. We can't beat the unscrupulous dealers, but we certainly aren't going to join them. And we're too small to affect the market in any way. Besides, our crying wolf to customers sounds too much like sour grapes," confided Tang.
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