Compaq tries to remake the company in the image of a low-cost supplier of high quality Hyped as the relaunch of a leader and innovator, Compaq Computer Corp yesterday went right overboard in announcing the low-cost notebooks, personal computers and desktop systems that it hopes will claw back volume from the mass marketeers. Compaq is […]
Compaq tries to remake the company in the image of a low-cost supplier of high quality
Hyped as the relaunch of a leader and innovator, Compaq Computer Corp yesterday went right overboard in announcing the low-cost notebooks, personal computers and desktop systems that it hopes will claw back volume from the mass marketeers. Compaq is keen to talk about quality, claimimg that other vendors don’t have the history, track record and infrastructure to produce such high-quality, affordable computers. Can Compaq afford to launch cheaper systems given a generally depressed market and uninspiring financial results? The company reckons that lower production costs and high-volume shipments will cover any shortfall and claims to have a backlog of several thousand orders for the new lines.
Compaq-manufactured quality for small business, individual buyers
The prices of the new machines are described as typical, so they are open to some negotiation, but the LTE Lite/25c notebooks come in at UKP3,700 and the Contura notebook computers go from UKP1,000 to UKP1,900. The upgradable DeskPro/i personal computers are between UKP1,250 and UKP2,100 while the DeskPro/m systems come in at UKP2,100 for the 80386 model, rising to UKP3,500 for the 50MHz 80486DX2 system. The ProLinea desktop machines go from UKP550 for a 25MHz 80386SX model to UKP1,500 for the 33MHz 80486 machine. At the same time as introducing new products, Compaq has taken a red pencil to its existing price list, slashing prices on most systems, with the existing DeskPro/m systems down by between 20% and 46%, LTEs reduced by 20%, and the entry-level SystemPro/LT reduced to UKP3,100. The company has released a new version of SystemPro with a RAID 5 disk subsystem and as reported last week, it will resell Novell’s NetWare together with its own network management products. While denying that the new prices are recognition that it has been overcharging customers, Compaq acknowledges that there are users that are unwilling to pay for leading edge technology. While the 1980s was dominated by the corporate marketplace, the 1990s will be about small businesses and single users. Nonetheless, the company seems uneasy about mixing it in the gutter, claiming that it is differentiated from second and third tier vendors like Elonex Plc and Dell Computer Corp by its insistence on quality. Neither is it following the IBM Corp Individual Computer Products International Ambra route, saying that the while IBM is sourcing systems from the Far East and setting them up in competition with IBM-manufactured offerings, the Compaq machines will have the stamp of Compaq quality, if not all of the function, coming from its own US and Scottish plants. Compaq intends to spend millions of dollars advertising the new systems, but unlike IBM, television advertising will be confined to the US and France, with the rest of the world being blitzed through computer trade magazines and newspapers. Would Compaq be introducing the new systems and following this strategy if Rod Canion were still in charge? Yes, according to vice-president Joe McNally, but possibly not at the same pace as under Eckhard Pfeiffer. Essentially, it comes down to price. The new line-up includes the ProLinea family of desktops; the DeskPro/i range of upgradable desktops; the higher-end DeskPro/m family; the Contura notebooks; the LTE Lites; and the Portable 486 and 486c systems.
Contura notebooks start at UKP1,000; Lite has colour active matrix display
The Contura 3/20 and 3/25 are shipping immediately costing from UKP1,000 for a model 40 with a 20MHz 40386SL-based system to UKP1,900 for the top-end with a 120Mb hard disk and a 25MHz 80386SL processor. All models are 8.9 by 11.7 by 1.9 and weigh 6.2 lbs without battery, and all four include a 9.5 diagonal VGA display, a 3.5 1.44Mb disk drive, a socket for an 80387SL processor, parallel, serial and external VGA monitor interfaces and pre-installed MS-DOS 5.0. The LTE Lite/25c comes in at UKP3,700 using a 25MHz 80386SL processor with a 64Kb cache, 4Mb memory and 84Mb disk. Both th
e Model 84 and Model 120 (4Mb memory and 120Mb disk) measure 8.5 by 11 by 2, weigh 6.5 lbs and use active matrix Thin-Film Transistor technology. Pre-installed software includes Windows 3.1 and MS-DOS 5.0.
Prolineas start at UKP550 with 80386SX
The ProLinea desktops compete with the aforementioned second tier clones, and Compaq says that an average installation will will cost around UKP650, although the range starts at UKP550 for a 25MHz 80386SX box. They come with MS-DOS 5.0 preinstalled, 2Mb to 4Mb memory, 40Mb, 84Mb or 120Mb disks, and either a 25MHz 80386SX or 33MHz 80486. The 80386SX models are available now and the 80486-based systems will ship in August, and they cost from UKP550 to UKP1,450. The DeskPro/i personal computers cost between UKP1,250 and UKP2,100, ranging from the 25MHz 80386-based 3/25i Model 1 to the 33MHz 80486 4/33i Model 210. The computers are said to deliver accelerated graphics under Windows and all include up to 32Mb memory, VersaChip Upgrade architecture, integrated audio features and input-output interfaces for audio ports, parallel and serial ports and a mouse interface. Also included are three drive bays, three 8/16-bit expansion slots and the integrated QVision 1,024 by 768 pixel accelerated graphics controller. The Windows edition of the DeskPro/m family incorporates the QVision graphics controller with 1Mb of Video RAM, pre-installed MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 with integrated audio technology. The entry-level system costs UKP2,100 and uses a 25MHz 80386, it comes with 4Mb memory and a 120Mb disk. The high-end system is UKP3,500 and has a 50MHz 80486DX2 processor, 8Mb memory and a 340Mb disk. Both the DeskPro/i and DeskPro/m systems are designed to be upgradable and will take the 80486DX2/66 when it becomes available – despite the fact that there is no evidence that users ever upgrade processors. The company also belatedly repeated the US announcements of earlier in the month on the Systempro servers for the benefit of the UK market.