Compaq expands PC products

Arman Danesh

FOLLOWING close on the heels of IBM's recent announcement of its Aptiva line in the United States, Compaq last week launched 10 products spanning the entire range of its PC line - from portables to servers.

The new products include three new additions to the company's popular Presario line, which helped take Compaq to the top of the PC market during the past year, as well as redesigned and updated Contura notebook computers.

The company's Hong Kong marketing manager, Simon Hong, said Compaq hoped to use the new products to define its focus for the coming year in two areas: the consumer market and the application server field.

'Last year, the market was looking for fax-ready PCs,' Mr Hong said, referring to Compaq's efforts at the time to provide Presario's with built-in fax/modems.

'This year, the end-user is looking for multimedia-ready systems.' For this reason, Compaq is including CD-ROM drives and sound cards and speakers with most of its new Presarios.

'It gives customers convenience that they don't have to shop around,' Mr Hong said.

Compaq has purposely tried to price its machines at a level which will make them attractive to customers who are increasingly having to decide between PCs from leading name-brand vendors, rather than generic clones, which were once the mainstay of the consumer PC market in Hong Kong.

According to Compaq's own market research, last year in the consumer PC market only 18 per cent of PCs were sold by leading vendors.

Compaq forecast that this year the number could be as high as 38 per cent, and there is every indication that this level will be realised.

To complement the new desktop and notebook consumer-oriented product announcements, Compaq has announced locally the opening of a showroom in Windsor House in Causeway Bay, already the site of a successful computer mall.

'The showroom will mainly target the consumer,' Mr Hong said.

'Consumers are looking for convenience, and shop outside business hours at times when most of our dealers are closed.' Also, Mr Hong said users often wanted to try a system and take a close look before making a buying decision, and this was often difficult in a small, crowded dealership which sold a wide range of products.

The Compaq showroom is designed to provide a forum for potential Compaq customers to test equipment before making a buying decision, and making their purchase at a nearby dealer.

'We are not going to sell anything [in the showroom],' Mr Hong said.

'We don't want to compete with our retailers or our dealers. We want to complement them.' The showroom will also serve as a drop-off point for service needs, as well as an actual service centre for minor repairs. If successful, Compaq will also open a showroom in Kowloon in the next few months.

In addition, Compaq is placing increasing importance on the application server market.

According to Mr Hong, as companies down-size, they are looking for application server alternatives. Accordingly, Compaq has introduced its new ProLiant models to provide scalable Intel-based solutions to this market.

Compaq's line of rack-mountable, Intel-based servers were the first in the industry, where most rack-mountable equipment focuses on other processor lines.

According to research by IDC, more than 65 per cent of the marketshare for these types of servers presently belongs to Compaq.

According to Davie Lim, Compaq's server product manager, this is all part of the company's efforts to change its image.

'We are trying to change our image from a PC vendor to a total solution provider,' he said.