Toshiba readies for its desktop product foray

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. a heavyweight in the federal notebook market is entering the desktop market with Pentium and Pentium Pro models.

Toshiba which plans to formally announce its desktop products March 10 recently briefed federal agencies and resellers on its product plans. Industry sources said Toshiba's desktop product line will include 166 MHz and 200 MHz Pentium PCs with MMX technology and a Pentium Pro-based desktop. The Pentium machines will start shipping next week the sources said. Toshiba officials declined to comment on the new product line dubbed Equium before the announcement date.

The desktop push will build upon Toshiba's traditional strength in the portable market. Toshiba was the eighth-ranked General Services Administration Schedule B/C reseller in fiscal 1996 with sales of $50.9 million. Toshiba has also made gains in the indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity market capturing a supplier slot last year on a Census Bureau contract held by Comark Government & Education Sales.

Toshiba has already branched into desktops in the consumer market. Last September the company introduced its Infinia line of Pentium PCs.

Toshiba's strength in portables notwithstanding some observers questioned whether there is room for another desktop supplier in the federal market. "They are a pretty good marketing organization...but I just don't think the world needs anther PC manufacturer " said Bob Guerra president of Guerra and Associates a consulting firm.

"They are doing so wonderfully in the notebook market " said Mark Zelinger director of product sales at BTG Inc. "Why diffuse that energy?"

The task of differentiation will be difficult for Toshiba Guerra added. He said federal PC competitors are well-established in direct and indirect channels. "Where does the differentiation come from?"

In addition to its GSA schedule Toshiba sells through such schedule resellers as AmeriData Federal Systems BTG and Government Technology Services Inc. In addition to the Census pact Toshiba products are available on AmeriData's blanket purchase agreement with the Navy.

"There is a lot of competition but Toshiba...already has the brand recognition " said Payton Smith a research analyst with IDC Government Falls Church Va.

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