NCAL Computer Source is a good old-fashioned computer store that stays up to date. In a world of anonymous online ordering and big box retailing, that's a special combination - and a significant accomplishment.
The old-fashioned part stems from the personalized customer service that has been an NCAL hallmark since owner Jose De Oliviero and his wife/partner Maria moved the business into Hacienda's Gateway Square in 1995. The dramatic changes in technology over that time are reflected in the latest assortment of notebooks, desktops, workstations, and servers the company stocks for a customer base that includes many of the area's well-known businesses, as well as home computer users.
Among the intriguing new products NCAL carries is the Eee PC series of Asus notebook computers, promoted by their Taiwanese manufacturer as "Easy, Excellent, and Exciting Computing" (hence the Eee tradename). These inexpensive, ultraportable laptops, with seven to 10-inch screens, are targeted at away-from-home users who want more basic computer functions at their fingertips, so they can check email and web-surf, look through photos or listen to music, or do some quick word-processing while on the go. The smallest models weigh in at about two pounds (.92 kilos) and boast automatic Wifi connectivity in hot spots. Their shock-proof design and bright color choices, including Blush Pink and Sky Blue, plus the reasonable $300 to $400 price tag, make them an attractive choice for 'tweens and teens, De Oliviero says.
At the other end of the spectrum, the store is seeing a lot of interest in "power" machines. "Home users want multimedia capability, which takes more memory. That means moving up to the new world of 64-bit computing, in order to run applications like rendering and video," he notes. Older clients are coming in to ask about these new configurations, he reports.
Not all computer owners are ready to step up to this next-generation gear, however, and De Oliviero has noticed higher traffic on the service side of his business. "We see more people going as far as they can to keep up older machines." Most of the repairs are software-related; many involve data recovery. "I don't have the cleanroom to fix a hard drive that crashes and doesn't turn on, but we can do immediate data recovery from a virus, for example, or a lost command file. We do that every day, and we do it well," he states, adding a reminder about the importance of regular back-ups for all users.
Components used to be a bigger part of NCAL's business, but that has shifted with the proliferation of Internet sites with minimal physical facilities to maintain. Operating on very slim margins, online sellers pose stiff competition to storefront retailers, one of the reasons De Oliviero has readjusted his inventory to focus on systems (although his selection of motherboards, drives, cables, etc. is extensive). He also points out that the self-built computer has lost much of its cachet. "Anyone can put his own computer together these days," he observes, adding, "Kids grow up knowing a lot more about computers than their elders."
For more information, visit www.ncalcomputers.com , call (925) 460-0580, or stop by 4825 Hopyard Road.
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