Cable Boxes Out the PC Makers

When Wintel starts pulling resources away from PCs, it's time to rethink your investing strategy.
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Weird. I would rather own the white-box makers in the basement than the white-box makers in the home office. Yep, Maytag (MYG) and Whirlpool (WHR) - Get Report make more sense than Compaq (CPQ) and Dell (DELL) - Get Report in this tape.

How did this happen? How did things get so murky in personal computer land? I think it is this cable conundrum that is causing the investors to flee the sector. The cable conundrum says, basically, that if

Bill Gates

is willing to give a half-billion to any cable operator in the world to make Windows relevant, even as boxmakers

PAY GATES

for Windows, boxmakers must be on the wrong end of the stick.

Think about it: Brian Roberts from

Comcast

(CMCSK)

gets a billion bucks from Gates, ostensibly to keep Windows in the loop. Dell, on the other hand, pays millions to Microsoft to keep Windows in the loop. Boxmakers give Gates money so he can finance cable boxes that will wipe out PCs?

Sounds like Iran-Contra to me. I want to be a Contra in that equation.

You think, hey, maybe Gates is just a cable-channel-surfing kind of guy, addicted to the TV? Nope,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

seems to be doing its best to distance itself from the box, too. Any company that puts Gerhard Parker, the man who built the eighth wonder of the world, the Intel Fab, to work on non-PC business is also moving away from the boxmakers. (Parker will be working on project anti-Exodus, which so far, hasn't made much headway, but I wouldn't bet against Parker. I have seen his handiwork firsthand. The man's a genius and could be considered America's greatest manufacturer, topping

Ford

for king of mass production in this century.)

When Intel and Microsoft move their money and people away from their bread-and-butter PC businesses, why should we put our money with those businesses? Looks like a change of diet is coming soon, and bread and butter aren't on Wintel's menu. Maybe they shouldn't be on ours either.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Microsoft. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at

letters@thestreet.com.