What to buy and when? 

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Anyone who's lived in Whistler for a little while has probably figured out that the best time to buy winter gear is in the spring, and the best time to buy summer gear is in the fall, providing you don't mind being a year behind everyone else. It's the same when it comes to technology, or in any situation where there's a predictable retail cycle.

For example, according to a matrix put together by Lifehacker.com, February is the best time of the year to buy HDTVs and home theatre systems. Why? Well, because they're big retail items in the fall when the weather changes and hockey and football seasons get underway, in the run-up to Christmas and in the run-up to the Superbowl. After that, prices come down. As well, like car companies, most TV and audio companies release updates annually, and in early 2013 you'll generally see all the top models from 2012 discounted to make way for the new models.

Video games are also cheaper in February for different reasons. New titles are released year-round, but the most intensive release period is the fourth quarter so those new titles will be available for Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day sales. Most people have a limited budget when it comes to games, so it makes sense to start discounting in February before the annual spate of summer games is announced and people decide to wait. Late summer is also a good time to buy games with retailers and studios anticipating all the new releases coming out in the fourth quarter.

Most electronics like laptops get cheaper in the spring as new models are released and people start to think more about outdoor purchases; plus, students are more likely to buy new laptops in the summer and fall to prepare for school. As for desktop computers, those are usually discounted heaviest in the summer months, after all of the main technology conferences (CES, Apple World Wide Development Conference, E3, etc.) where new things are announced. Plus, people spend more time outside in the summer months for obvious reasons, and sales typically go down as computers fall off the priority list.

There are good reasons to buy digital cameras all year long (holidays, vacations, family events, etc.) but many companies announce new technologies in the summer, which means older technologies are usually discounted by the end of the summer as companies start looking ahead to Christmas.

Visit Lifehacker and search for "The Best Time to Buy Anything" to find out the best time to buy everything from shoes to large appliances.

Dell — the future of technology?

Shareholders can be difficult, and the stock market is a good place to get worked over by people who are purely in it for the money. The image of mom and pop investors putting capital into projects they believe in and sticking it out for the long haul has been exploded in recent years, and for many tech companies — Apple, BlackBerry, Sony, Facebook — their shareholders have become their greatest liability. Expectations of profits that meet or exceed forecasts every single quarter are unrealistic in a competitive industry where major releases are usually done annually. Far too much time and energy is spent making company finances look good instead of improving products and processes.

So while it comes as no surprise that Michael Dell would be leading a $24.4 billion bid to take his company private once again, it's not something that a lot of companies have done successfully at this point.

Interestingly, the main reason Michael Dell and Silver Lake are pushing to privatize Dell has little to do with their current business of assembling and selling PCs and accessories. Dell is sitting on a cloud-based "computer on a USB stick" concept they think will be huge (plug it into any computer to access your own desktop and files) and they want to make Dell the leader in the market — a long-term vision they'll never realize if they're focusing on meeting short-term investor expectations and have to beg for every dollar in R&D funding.

Some employees of Dell are a little upset about the value of the deal, given how much stock they hold and the fact that the company has revenues of $60 billion per year and profits over $14 billion. They feel Dell shares are probably worth at least twice as much if not more. The stock market doesn't agree, however, and Dell's share price has actually dropped 43 per cent since 2003, losing over half that value in the past year despite strong revenues. Dell simply can't afford to be traded publicly if that's how success is valued in this day and age.

Dell's bid, if successful, could prompt a lot of other companies to consider taking the same route. It makes sense for companies where founders and CEOs still play an active role in the company, like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, or with companies that have virtual monopolies in their markets and have nothing to gain from investors.

It's unknown what it will mean in terms of pricing, but Dell already runs on razor thin margins. Taking the stock market out of the picture will make the company more efficient, and I'd say that Dell's pricing will be more competitive in the near future; just don't expect any massive cuts.

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