Nexar picks GTSI as exclusive reseller

Nexar Technologies Inc., a new PC maker run by former Leading Edge Products Inc. executives, has tapped Government Technology Services Inc. as its exclusive federal reseller.

The company's products are designed to make a PC's processor, memory and hard disk drive—the most expensive elements of a PC—easier to replace. This allows buyers to keep up with technology over time and prevents resellers from being stuck with unpopular, outdated technology, according to Nexar.

In the federal market, Nexar will ship its PCs to GTSI without any of the critical components that define the system. Instead, processor, main memory, cache memory and hard disk drive suppliers will ship those parts directly to GTSI. The reseller thus can install whatever configuration is in immediate demand, instead of guessing what buyers will want in advance.

"It is an extremely interesting concept," said Tony Colangelo, marketing director for GTSI. "It allows the reseller to support an almost infinite number of configurations but to enjoy minimal exposure." Among GTSI's financial difficulties in the recent past was a problem with unsold PC inventory.

The result for customers is that the reseller can supply a custom-configured PC very quickly. It also means that if one supplier suffers shortages that hamper component availability, the reseller is free to shop around for alternate suppliers. "There are numerous places where you can source memory, hard drives and processors," Colangelo said.

Nexar has three product lines: the 4000, 7000 and 9000 series. The first two target consumer, home and small-business buyers, while the 9000 is aimed at corporate and government customers. Nexar promises the performance of Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Gateway 2000 Inc. PCs at much lower prices. Exact prices are not yet available. Nexar is a subsidiary of Palomar Medical Technologies, a publicly held, $60 million company. The company has contracted with Wang for its customer support and warranty coverage.

Easy Upgrades

Nexar's ease of upgradability and configuration comes from its design, which places the sockets for memory and processor chips on the opposite side of the system board from the expansion slots, power supply and disk drives. The design uses a tower cabinet so that these parts are accessible through a door on the side instead of being on the bottom, as they would be in a horizontal desktop configuration.

The hard disk drive is easily removed because it is mounted on rails in a design similar to that used in many notebook computers. This means that it is not only easy to substitute a larger drive, but it is essentially a removable hard disk drive, which appeals to many security-minded federal buyers, said Al Agbay, Nexar's chairman and chief executive officer. "Removable hard drives are a standard item in the federal market for security," Agbay said. With Nexar's PCs, that feature is built in instead of being an optional upgrade that adds to a system's cost. Nexar plans to make upgrades an attractive option for buyers and resellers. Nexar will buy back components, make upgrade products available at a low price and then split half the profit with the reseller, Agbay said.

The practical limit on upgrades is that Intel Corp.'s Pentium chip is already near the upper end of its performance range. The chip now revs to 166 MHz and is expected to be available in 200 MHz form soon. If there are no faster Pentiums after that, it would be impossible to upgrade the processor further.

Unlike the 486-to-Pentium transition, the Pentium and Pentium Pro chips cannot use the same socket. Many 486 machines had an upgrade socket that let users remove the 486 and install a Pentium OverDrive chip. But that will not work with the Pentium Pro because it is not pin-compatible with the Pentium. Agbay said he has reason to believe that Intel will introduce a Pentium Pro "lite," which will pack the power of Intel's 32-bit-oriented chip in a Pentium chip pin configuration.

Nexar uses Intel's 430FX chipset in its custom system board. That means the PC can accept any Pentium chip that runs between 75 MHz and 200 MHz without any changes. The design works well, Colangelo said.

"We have run it through our lab, and we have been extremely pleased," he said.

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