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Compaq no turkey, hungry for Asian markets

Sexy Siemens excites Indian sensibilities

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An article in local New York rag The Wall Street Journal said yesterday that Compaq's CEO, Mike Capellas, is giving thanks that US consumers don't think its PCs are turkeys.

Although the piece doesn't quite say the following, the suggestion appears to be that Americans, after they had stuffed themselves silly on silly dead birds, and seen enough college football games on TV over Thanksgiving, then levitated themselves from their collective couches and went out in droves to buy its shining boxes.

Capellas was responding to warnings from other PC manufacturers [You mean Gateway - Ed], that sales of the pesky devices are flagging in the US market. At the same time, he denied that it had too many PCs sitting in its warehouses.

Compaq, the firm which made its millions by almost single handedly taking on IBM in the 80s, and which gave itself the handle Compatible Quality differs from Dell in that it believes keeping PCs in stock pays dividends.

Compaq is not even that concerned about the US home market. Earlier this year, a report from a US analyst suggested that the firm was set to make waves in the PC market in South East Asia, mostly because Dell's build to order model won't work in India and China.

It's certainly true that Compaq's latest ad campaign (Inspiration, Perspiration? We can't quite remember) is being aired worldwide, and the brand name is everywhere to be seen in India, for example.

How its latest New Age style ad campaign goes down with the man on the Mumbai omnibus remains to be seen. Compared with other multinationals keen to penetrate the Indian and Chinese markets, Compaq's ad is tame stuff indeed.

The sexiest thing you're likely to find on Indian TV today is a controversial ad from German combine Siemens which flies in the face, so to speak, of Bollywood sensibilities.

That Haagen Dazs advert which showed a semi-naked young lady with a dollop of what appeared to be ice cream adorning her navel has nothing on the Siemens ad, believe you us.

These, and other multinationals (Coca Cola, Pizza Hut, Domino Pizzas, Pizza Express, McDonalds - lamburgers, OK? and... err Haagen Dazs), are engaged in a mighty charm offensive in South East Asia which shareholders in the States might find charming but some locals might find offensive - that is, if they can afford tellies.

With the average middle class salary bottoming out at around $5000 a year, readers might wonder how a family could afford a Compaq PC, a Hot American pizza, a Siemens mobile or even a dollop of ice cream.

The answer is that in order to sell their products in the Indian and Chinese markets, Compaq, Coke and the rest have to charge far less than they do here or in Poughkeepsie.

A medium-sized Coke costs ten rupees (two cents), a packet of Indian tabs less than a buck, while two of you can dine out in the Jaipur Pizza Hut and still have plenty of change from a five pound note (300 rupees).

So the shiny Compaq PCs are far cheaper too.

However, Compaq's strategy appears to be that it's in these markets for the long term, and as the combined population of China and India hovers around the two billion mark, it surely can't be that long before Dell realises that build-to-order might not hack it in those markets.

Mind you, the fastest PC we saw in New Delhi was a Siemens 286. Our lovely little Fujitsu Lifebook, even with its Celeron processor, seemed to be the fastest PC in the whole of Rajasthan. ®

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