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Friday 15th September 2000

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Dollar down, prices up

As inevitable as gravity, the decline in the value of the New Zealand dollar means all those imported toys I like to play with have started to climb in price. That's how it works, and I feel charitably disposed toward Compaq for having the good grace to send out an email apologising for it. "The state of the weak New Zealand dollar against the US dollar, coupled with significant increases in the cost of some components, has meant we have had to increase our prices," said Sue Leikis, who runs Compaq's commercial PC department. "We have made every effort to minimise the impact of these cost prices on our customers and business partners. We have therefore moved prices on only some [unspecified] selected products ... any orders received by Compaq by close of business on Friday 8 September will be price protected" - meaning buy now while stocks last. That bit about "significant increases in the cost of some components" also suggests some stuff was ripe to go up in price regardless of our dollar's behaviour.

Wireless Trade Me

Presumably out of a sense of impatience with Wap, local online auction website Trade Me <www.trademe.co.nz> has initiated a mobile phone-based service that uses short messaging. Managing director Sam Morgan optimistically anticipates telephonic bidding battles between combatants simultaneously going about their daily business up and down the country. In addition to a computer you'll need a Vodafone or Telecom Digital phone to play. It may be geeky but it's probably more engrossing than making up cryptically short love notes, as Vodafone's advertising would have us do. Trade Me seems to be doing okay; when I signed on this week I was the 20,951st member, and the site looks pretty busy, although mostly with people selling garage-sale stuff but what should you expect? Of course it attracts geeks - the sections for computer and electronic gear are particularly busy - but it isn't bad on other stuff, either. Worth a look, as much as anyone's for sale classifieds.

Portability when?

More cage-rattling from the telecommunications industry - this time nine companies (CallPlus, Clear, Compass, Ihug, Newcall, Quest, Superway, Telstra Saturn and WorldXchange) have put out a joint statement claiming we could have number portability (the ability to freely transfer numbers from one telco to another) within a year. Which would be a great boost to competition in the industry and I sometimes wonder why such a thing wasn't allowed for when we originally sold off our telephone system. Spokesman for the group Dennis Millard said last Friday the group's proposals were being considered by Telecom and Vodafone "Vodafone has indicated its willingness to work with the industry players to progress this issue." No word from Telecom, presumably.

PDA Big Blues

Fool that I am, I've let everyone know how much I like PDAs and little pocket-size computing devices in general. My specific infatuation with Palm OS devices hit trouble last week when I accidentally hurled my IBM WorkPad c3 against a filing cabinet, cracking the touch-sensitive screen and generally ruining the whole thing. Well, it's under guarantee, isn't it? And a hand-portable device should be able to withstand a few knocks - so I called up IBM, asked for the address of its local service centre (383 New North Road, Kingsland, I learned from someone else) and dropped it in. That was my general idea, but thanks to IBM's obtuse call centre system it never happened. After several cascading trans-oceanic telephone calls, I now have five different 0800 numbers for IBM, only one of which connected me immediately to a human (who was outstandingly helpful, so please don't mob her at 0800 801 800). The rest mostly connected me to Australia, where operators often seemed surprised to learn I was calling from New Zealand. IBM's system appears to take no account of time differences between the two countries, either - depending on the time of year it wouldn't be wise trying to get anything out of these people before 11 am. I strongly suspect one of my calls was needlessly routed to Singapore, too. It's far from the worst call centre system in the world - I never had to wait very long to be passed on to someone else - and eventually I managed to fulfil IBM's procedure, by logging a service request, then posting my WorkPad to New South Wales. But I bet the guys in Kingsland could have done that for me with less fuss all round.

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