The 404 1,029: Where we're never going on a cruise (podcast)

There are few words to describe people that don't know that the movie "Titanic" was actually based on a real Titanic, and even fewer to describe the bravado in tweeting about that ignorance, but Jeff musters a few adjectives.

On today's episode, we'll cover the $1 billion Instagram buyout and what you can expect to change once Facebook takes over, all four major U.S. wireless carriers joining forces to create a "lost my phone" database, smart touch-screen displays replacing payphones in New York City, and the shaky future of Best Buy and its former CEO.… Read more

Best Buy's silver lining: Its mobile business

At least Best Buys still has its cell phone business.

On the heels of a disappointing quarterly report and today's resignation of CEO Brian Dunn, it's easy to think the entire company is doomed to follow in the steps of fallen electronic chains Circuit City and CompUSA. Yet its mobile devices business -- cell phones in particular-- has been impressively resilient during its recent troubles.

The cell phone business, which Best Buy has spent time and money building up, represents one of the rare bright spots in the company. Over time, Best Buy will likely be more heavily … Read more

Is Best Buy following CompUSA, Circuit City to certain doom?

Best Buy is on the same track that two former train wrecks were on, CompUSA and Circuit City.

Today, Best Buy reported a fiscal fourth-quarter net loss of $1.7 billion and announced it is closing 50 stores.

The basic pattern that CompUSA (closed brick-and-mortar stores in 2007) and Circuit City (closed stores in 2008) followed was: first select stores were closed, then more were closed, then all stores were shuttered or sold off.

Is this Best Buy's fate? And why? Below I try to offer some reasons for Best Buy's troubles based on my own experience and … Read more

The 404 887: Where we're bleeding $99 HP TouchPads (podcast)

Guess who got a TouchPad for $99 this weekend? Everyone. If you weren't lucky enough to snag one early Saturday morning, don't lose hope yet--we expect some online distributors to continue dropping prices for existing stock, not to mention the white 64GB model that just dropped last Friday.

We got plenty of voicemails and video messages from listeners standing in line for the TouchPad, so tune in to hear a couple horror stories from the trenches.

We're also encouraging all 404 listeners to shoot us an e-mail at the404(at)cnet(dot)com with your suggestions, criticisms, and ideas for growing the show. We've always valued our listener input about where you think we should improve, so let us know and we'll try to make it happen.

The 404 Digest for Episode 887

HP's TouchPad fire sale: The fallout. Wilson's Best Buy investigation shows dismal turnout for competing tablets. Arturo gets a touchpad for $99.

Episode 887 Subscribe in iTunes (audio) | Subscribe in iTunes (video) | Subscribe in RSS Audio | Subscribe in RSS VideoRead more

Systemax exec resigns, must hand over $11 million

Gilbert Fiorentino, head of Systemax's technology products group, has resigned in the face of undisclosed allegations, the company announced today.

Systemax, which sells computers and electronics online via the TigerDirect, CompUSA, and Circuit City sites, put Fiorentino on administrative leave last month. At the time, the company said that it was determining whether to terminate Fiorentino after completing an investigation into "anonymous whistleblower allegations" related to the company's Miami operations. The company's audit committee, which handles the financial side of the operation, conducted the investigation, according to a 10-K reported filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in March.

Systemax has not divulged the exact nature of the allegations or whether its investigation turned up anything. … Read more

Relaunched Circuit City site is a triplet

It wasn't long ago that I used these pages to write Circuit City's eulogy. At the time, many of us thought the company would be gone forever. Oh, how wrong we were.

Last week, Circuit City came back to the Web. On May 19, Systemax, the company behind TigerDirect and CompUSA, purchased the Circuit City brand and Web site for $14 million. It took only a few days for Systemax to populate the site with products. And now it's live.

Systemax's decision to acquire Circuit City shouldn't be a surprise. In 2008, the company acquired CompUSA's brand and domain for a discounted price. Systemax then relaunched Today, it even operates a series of CompUSA brick-and-mortar stores.

There's currently no indication that Systemax will be opening Circuit City-branded brick-and-mortar stores. Right now, it seems that the company is focusing mainly on

I've spent considerable time on the site, evaluating its design and comparing offers to see if it's a place worth spending cash. And after just a few seconds, it quickly became clear that it's basically just (or with a different name and logo.… Read more

Friday Poll: Which retailer should Systemax rescue next?

Computer vendor Systemax is bringing CompUSA back to life, and now it looks like it might be doing the same for Circuit City. The company bought the intellectual property and domain name this week.

The two might rise as separate chains, but we wouldn't be surprised if they end up as some sort of mashup, a Frankenstein-like monster of retailers.

But why stop there? We can think of a few more franchises Systemax could add to its unholy abomination of shops to round out its offerings to customers. What should it be? Vote in our poll. And if we … Read more

Circuit City rises from the grave (well, the domain name and IP, at least)

The prolonged death spiral of its retail stores have been well-documented (not least by our undercover spy shots of the so-called liquidation sales), but the Circuit City story seems to have added yet another chapter.

Computer vendor Systemax has agreed to purchase the bankrupt company's trademarks and domain names for $6.5 million, according to the Houston Chronicle. The actual sale is part of a May 11 auction of assets, and in court filings, Circuit City said, "The sale of the intellectual property and Internet assets would bring significant recovery for the sellers' estates and creditors."

If … Read more

CompUSA 2.0

Though presumed to be dead since it went bankrupt more than a year ago, CompUSA is showing signs of life.

As Wired noted in a post Thursday, there are 30 new retail outlets bearing the CompUSA name in the U.S. that are trying a new retail strategy that includes computers available for customers to do price matching on the Web sites of CompUSA's competitors.

Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of the Technology Products Group at Systemax, the company that bought CompUSA, told Wired: "We have invented this idea of retail 2.0...Every screen in every CompUSA store … Read more

Scrounging for bargains at CompUSA

With the CompUSA liquidation in full swing, some of the deals at closing stores have started to get quite interesting.

The hardware was not necessarily much of a bargain. During a recent stroll through the downtown San Francisco store, I found desktops and notebooks discounted 20 percent, and in many cases there was only a well-used demo model for sale. There were also printers (some new in boxes and some demo machines), but I suspect one can get a PC or printer for a better price just by shopping the weekend circulars.

The real bargains were in the software area. … Read more