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Mass market and consumer technologies and strategies for retailersCreative blasts off its gaming PCsby Gerard NorsaSYDNEY - Creative Pacific has moved into the business of online ordering with its new built-to-order Blaster PCs, which are specifically aimed at those looking for enhanced gaming and home entertainment.

The systems will initially be exclusive to Harvey Norman, before becoming broadly available to retailers.

Ian McKinnon, Creative Pacific's general manager, marketing and sales, told ARN the systems will be generally available to retailers other than Harvey Norman well before Christmas.

McKinnon also said that with Creative Pacific already distributing most of the components you would find in a serious gaming PC it was a logical step to use that product range to help game-heads build units to their ultimate specifications. He said the online ordering system would feature in selected retail outlets and that prices for a typical Blaster PC would start at around $3500.

"It's difficult to say exactly how much Blaster PCs will cost because everyone will be different, but they will be at the upper end of the scale by virtue of the quality components involved. Users will be able to order a PC to their price restrictions and will be able to bring prices down by removing components if required," he said.

After getting some casings specifically manufactured, the only parts CP needed to source externally were high-end monitors, processors (which will be 300MHz Pentium IIs at minimum) and RAM modules.

According to Michael Wong, managing director at Creative Pacific, in addition to being assembled with nothing but quality components, Creative has also enhanced the motherboard to make use of the add-on products involved.

"The Blaster PC will take users and in particular gamers to the next level of entertainment and true 3D game immersion," said Wong. "We have worked together with the gaming community to produce a gaming PC which meets all their requirements."

There will also be a seven day a week exten- ded hours telephone support line, a 12-month warranty and a 24-hour turn-around policy on repairs which will help in selling the product to users.

Creative Pacific Tel (02) 9906 8887

Harvey Norman computer sales grow 18 per centSYDNEY - In the face of falling hardware prices and increasing competition from rival mainstream retailers, Harvey Norman has managed to grow its computers and communications business by 18 per cent to $425 million during the financial year ended June 30, 1998.

This was a very pleasing result, according to Harvey Norman's general manager, computers and communications, Tony Gattari, who said the figures quoted - which excluded sales from the two stores the company owns in New Zealand - were better than he expected.

"We were very happy with the result," said Gattari. "The thing that is important to remember is that the unit growth is more like 30 per cent. However, because we have been delivering lower prices on the products we sell, the financial growth is only 18 per cent.

"Canon printers dropped from $299 to $169 during last financial year and the price of the average PC is $500 cheaper than it was last year. So, in that environment of price deterioration, we think 18 per cent looks pretty impressive," he added.

With recent acquisitions of Joyce Mayne in NSW, Loughran's Living in Tasmania and Wesfarmers in regional Western Australia (see ARN July 22, 1998), Harvey Norman now has 82 stores across all states of Australia except South Australia and the Northern Territory. Stores are slated to open in those two markets during 1999.

Gattari attributed the sales growth to Harvey Norman's expansion of operations, a broadening of its product range as well as aggressive marketing and pricing strategies. He also indicated that Windows 98 was a big boost and that an initial order of 35,000 copies sold out several weeks before it was expected to.

Tim Quinn, buying manager for David Jones, indicated rising sales in mass merchant retailers was not restricted to Harvey Norman. David Jones has a different departmental set-up, which sees computer hardware, software and home office equipment tallied separately.

Without giving exact totals, Quinn said computer hardware grew by "about 25 per cent" last financial year, while software sales and home office delivered more moderate growth results of "about 8 per cent". by Gerard NorsaTurismo's charismaSony Computer Entertainment Australia recently announced that its latest motor racing game for the PlayStation platform, Gran Turismo, has been a sales phenomenon in Australia with in excess of 110,000 units sold in less than two months. There are another 10,000 units on back-order while globally the product has sold over 5 million copies. Sony expects the product to become the biggest selling computer game ever in any format.

Sony Computer Entertainment

Tel (02) 9324 9500

Shark from the West

Canberra-based memory module distributor West Group International announced it would be distributing Avatar Systems' Shark 250 portable removable storage drives, a rival to Iomega's zips.

West Group will be singing the praises Avatar hangs on its Shark 250, such as its read/write speeds attaining that of a hard drive (2MB per second), as well as being smaller with 2.5 times the storage capacity. West Group will be generating demand to justify the drives and consumables being on shelves at mass merchant and independent dealer retail outlets.

West Group International

Tel (02) 6280 4439

Drop me a line

Drop me a line at gerard_norsa@idg.com.au with any news leads you want followed up, opinions you feel are important to retailers, and/or any ideas for stories you feel are relevant to, or of interest to Australia's computer retailers.


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