It's official. Gateway (NYSE: GTW) is now taking orders for the world's first full gigahertz computer. If you've got the $2999, Gateway has a cow-patched shipping box with your name on it.

Now, last week the industry buzz was all about how Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) beat out Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) in this high-stakes game of Mille Bornes. Intel shipped its own 1,000-megahertz chip a few days later and will release a 1.5 Ghz chip later this year.

The speed of these chip introductions has been almost as fast as the processors themselves. I mean, heck, chips haven't been moving this fast since the days when Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox were riding with the California Highway Patrol in the late 1970s.

This is good not only for the computer industry but for the consumer as well. I remember when it was years between the XT and 286 rollout, then a respectable gap as the 386 and 486 machines eventually went live. PC shoppers always found themselves holding back. It was like crossing a street in the suburbs. Wait for the next car to pass before making a move. Now, it's a matter of perpetual obsolescence -- and that is not bad, folks. That sleepy street is now a six-lane highway during rush hour. You don't time your jump. You just jump in and hope for the best.

So you buy the gig now. Or you take advantage of the markdowns on slower computers. You just don't wait for the 1.5 Ghz models that will trickle in with autumn leaves. The two-gig chip might very well come around by the time you have to rake those leaves. Put another way, if Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) were to release Windows March 2000, followed by Windows April 2000, and so on, you wouldn't wait either. Well, sure, it's Microsoft, so you'd be buying Windows May 1999 around now, but that's neither here nor there. You get my point. Tomorrows are sewn far closer together than they ever were in the past.

So that's good for Gateway and, naturally, its competitors. But they are not all taking the same road.

The Intel chip is typically pricier than AMD's Athlon. That doesn't necessarily make it better. However, it does impact pricing points for the major computer makers. Compaq (NYSE: CPQ) went with the AMD chip, and Compaq's basic model -- sans some of Gateway's bells and whistles -- starts at just $2491. Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) wanted Intel inside and its gig machines start at $3999.

It's not as if we all need that kind of raw speed anyway. For some, how fast the microprocessor can shuffle the cards in virtual solitaire is not an issue. It's just that...

Uh oh. You're on to me. You know I'm not Whitney. Instead of Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK.A) Warren Buffett axioms or in-depth valuation analysis, you've got a staccato sandwich. Whitney will be back next week. Really. I'm just portsitting this week. And I'm really hoping you don't recognize me, because, if you do, odds are you don't like me very much.

I am the Dueling Fools scribe that penned the bearish side in the Berkshire Hathaway bout and also this week's feature on Costco (Nasdaq: COST). Rumors that I'm getting ready to trash Carlisle (NYSE: CSL) are just flat out untrue.

I won't rehash any arguments claiming that the game has passed Mr. Buffett by. No way. I live here in Miami where our own football hero Dan Marino is hanging it up today amid similar speculation. In hindsight, Buffett was a bearish visionary anyway. Remember how he was against the Class B shares that were issued back in May of 1996 because he felt the company was overvalued at the time? The stock closed at $1195 on its first day of trading. This past week, almost four years later, the stock was trading just 14.6% higher.

Over the weekend, the 1999 annual report was posted onto Berkshire Hathaway's site. Definitely check it out and read Buffett's frank assessment. It was the worst year in Buffett's tenure at Berkshire -- on an absolute basis as well as relative to the market.

"Even Inspector Clouseau could find last year's guilty party: your Chairman," he writes. He goes on to grade himself poorly. For someone not used to losing these short-term battles, he is certainly handling it with a great deal of dignity, even if it's marinated in self-effacing juices. Buffett is a class act. No question.

One other thing I noticed was Buffett's relative optimism. The key word here is "relative" since he expects to "modestly" outperform the market in the decade ahead. However, he remains skeptical as to how well the S&P 500 will fare over the next 10 years.

Suddenly the world-class investor who once found his own stock overvalued sees the opportunity for outperformance. Proof lies in the fact that both of last year's acquisitions were all-cash deals. The equity is too dear to serve as legal tender at these prices. The company is also now considering stock repurchases here below the $45,000 mark.

It's still not altogether comforting to hear Buffett reaffirming old industries and recalling even older song lyrics in his report in an effort to knock the new economy.

"Meanwhile," he writes, "if anyone starts explaining to you what is going on in the truly manic portions of this enchanted market, you might remember still another line of song: Fools give you reasons, wise men never try."

Hey, we Fools resemble that remark! And since Warren just did a lot of reasoning away, I guess he's a Fool too! Welcome aboard, Warren.

Related Link:
Fool Plate Special, 3/13/00: Buffett's Worst Year at Berkshire