While retailers recognise the interest created by Intel's Pentium III launch, most report that the tills weren't exactly ringing up a sales storm on the first weekend.
As is usually the case with the early stages of any product's life cycle, stock of the branded systems with the new processors was proving a little difficult to put in front of the potential buyers attracted by the launch.
Ted Johnson, national hardware computer coordinator at Harvey Norman, said it will only be advertising three models in a national TV, radio and press campaign it plans to start this week. He wanted at least five but couldn't get guaranteed stock.
"IBM have two models but they are delayed and won't be available until the middle of this month," Johnson said. "Compaq have one model for us at this stage and HP have two models. Overall we are so far offering five models, starting at $4500, but will only be advertising three."
At the coalface, the stock problem was more evident, according to Gary Wheelhouse, Harvey Norman computer proprietor at Sydney's Moore Park superstore.
"This sort of product is ideally suited to the market around here," Wheelhouse said. "The latest and greatest PC technology is definitely in our kill zone, but for us it is a matter of scrounging around for stock. We had demonstration models and some limited stock to sell, but not the ideal amount."
Wheelhouse added that he had pre-orders to fill and that he could have sold more systems on launch weekend if he had had a better range of price-points.
"Based on the fact that there was limited stock, it was relatively successful. We had a lot of people come through the store to have a look and we sold more than 10 systems.
"To get into the double digits on the first weekend was a pretty strong performance. There is a definite 'wow' factor involved in the product, but it will really only come into its own when prices come down and more PIII-enabled Web sites and software products start to appear," Wheelhouse said.
Don Sparks, computer product manager for Victorian-based electronics and computers retailer Clive Peters, said the in-store demonstrations it took part in would have been much better if stock had been available.
"We couldn't get any machines in time for the launch, and are keen to get some systems on the shelf," Sparks said.
"We weren't overwhelmed with pre-orders, but we did get a lot of interest from customers during the demonstrations. There is clearly some potential in the product."
As a computer upgrade, Pentium III systems are seen as a great opportunity for the rental finance industry. Ned Montarello, managing director, RentSmart, said any system with an entry price of around $4500 and a "must have factor" will bring rental agreements into play.
"We had a very active day yesterday," Montarello said of the Tuesday following the launch. "There was definitely a component of Pentium III sales in that spike. We were expecting this month to be down a bit, but yesterday's exceptional result is making us think otherwise," he added.
Dick Smith Electronics was another to partake in the Intel demos. "The Pentium III demonstrations in our Powerhouses were very successful. It created a lot of interest amongst our customers," a DSE spokesperson said.
Peter Dansie, store network manager at Grace Bros' Sydney city superstore, also had no stock of the brand names they will be selling. Intel ran nine sessions which attracted about 20 people to each and there was a high level of interest, Dansie said.
"There was a positive response from a number of people. The staff have been trained on the PIII and we are confident it will do well."
Intel's extensive in-store demonstrations kicked off over the February 27-28 weekend and will continue across the country through March at a broad range of computer retail outlets.