Magazine article Marketing

Battle on the Home Front

Magazine article Marketing

Battle on the Home Front

Article excerpt

Compaq has swiped pole position in the home market from IBM. Now the rivals are blazing it out on state-of-the-art model launches.

Next month, new research from Datamonitor will show that Compaq has finally knocked IBM from the top slot in the British personal computer market.

It did it by concentrating on businesses and the "SoHo" (small office/home office) sector, but now it's preparing to tackle a changing market in which, by the end of the century, half of all computers will be bought for home use.

It aims, says Paul Twivy, whose agency Bates Dorland has just won the [pounds]35m Compaq account, "to be the Sony of this sector". It's a telling comparison, pointing to a switch in corporate thinking from industrial products to consumer goods. September 19 will see the launch of a new version of Compaq's best-selling desktop computer, the Presario, which will be styled to look more like a stereo rack system than a conventional computer.

But IBM is not giving up easily. In the UK, it has signalled its seriousness about the PC as a consumer product by hiring Graham MacPhee, former sales manager with Nintendo UK, as its consumer sales manager. It too has a new agency -- its choice of Ogilvy & Mather was what pushed Compaq out of that shop -- and is preparing to unveil its own range of nine home computer products, details of which are still secret, a week ahead of Compaq.

Apple, the other top-ranking computer maker to be tackling this market, has a head start. From the beginning, its machines were designed to be easy to use: the computer for the rest of us. Two years ago, Apple went further and repackaged its already user-friendly Macintosh business computer as the Performa, in a deliberate attempt to pull in home computer users. Last week it launched its most user-friendly model yet, the Performa 630, which combines TV, teletext and video in a computer and comes with infra-red remote control.

Compaq, Apple and IBM make up three of the top four computer manufacturers in the UK. The other is Dell, in third place and the only one not to have rushed down the home computer path. Last month it announced a decision to withdraw from the retail channel altogether, relying on off-the-page sales and working on the idea of "inventory less" sales points in bigger stores: possibly using interactive kiosks linked directly to a Dell office. A spokeswoman says that while Dell has low-cost desktop machines that are bought for home use, it has no plans to develop models specifically for this market.

Dell apart, industry experts agree that the home market will eventually make up at least 50% of computer sales. …

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