Hughes, ZDS detail portable wares

Hughes Data Systems Inc. and Zenith Data Systems unveiled their portable computer offerings on the Air Force Desktop V contract, as industry analysts and other vendors predicted a booming federal market for the go-anywhere machines.

Both companies kept the identity and configurations of their portable offerings a closely held secret until the Air Force released details earlier this month.

That was because both Desktop V vendors were involved in last-minute shopping and bargaining with portable PC suppliers, industry sources said. One industry source said this reflected the heavy demand for portables, meaning suppliers such as Compaq Computer Corp. and Toshiba Corp. "can sell all the machines they can build at good margins."

Hughes selected a 4-pound IBM Corp. ThinkPad 560 with a 100 MHz Pentium processor and 16M of RAM for its version of the Desktop V Travelers Notebook, priced at $2,695 in the basic configuration. Industry sources said Government Technology Services Inc. will supply the ThinkPad through an agreement it reached with Hughes in the settlement of a protest GTSI filed, and then withdrew, against Desktop V.

Tom Walters, Hughes' vice president, called the ThinkPad a "hot product," adding, "We think we are going to sell a lot of these."

The ThinkPad is a technology refreshment from the original notebook offered by Hughes, and even though it represents more advanced technology, Walters said, "We're not charging any more for this than what we originally bid."

ZDS offers a Gateway 2000 Inc. notebook running on a 100 MHz 486DX chip, also in the 4-pound class, for $3,199. When asked about the technology disparity between the two companies' offerings, ZDS vice president Pat Gallagher said, "I don't know how large the demand is for an executive-class notebook, but this is one of the units we will focus on upgrading." He added that "the current offering is an award-winning product from a world-class manufacturer."

Both companies also offer feature-rich traditional portables with bigger screens on the contract. Hughes features a Micron Electronics Inc. Millennia notebook with a 133 MHz Pentium processor, a high-capacity hard drive and a built-in CD-ROM in a bundled version selling for $3,752. ZDS sells a Swan Technologies Corp. 120 MHz Pentium notebook with a built-in CD ROM and a 777M hard drive for $2,417.

Jan Morgan, a research analyst with International Data Corp., said both vendors should do well with their notebook offerings because "portables are in demand right now, and the Air Force has been biding its time waiting for this contract."

Morgan said IDC has forecast a 30 percent growth rate for portables in the federal market, and Defense Department users are a natural for the machines "for true mobility reasons."

EDS PC-1 Refresh

Meanwhile, Electronic Data Systems Corp. last week updated its Army PC-1 contract, adding a 166 MHz Pentium with a 1.6G hard drive, 16M of RAM, an internal CD-ROM and a 17-inch monitor priced at $2,719.

Hughes sells a roughly similar bundle on Desktop V but with a 133 MHz Pentium priced at $2,179.

ZDS sells a similar 133 MHz package for $1,801.

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