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IBM fulfilling channel strategy

By Margret Johnston

MUNICH - IBM recently unveiled its Advanced Fulfilment Initiative (AFI) to partners in Europe, the Middle East and Africa with the aim of improving channel assembly and delivery in those regions.

Launched in the US last month, the goal of the initiative is to simplify the way IBM PCs are built, customised and delivered and to reduce inventories at both IBM and reseller locations.

AFI complements IBM's Authorised Assembly Program, which lets IBM business partners customise system configurations to the specifications of corporate users at reseller locations.

AFI combines with IBM's SystemXtra program, recently introduced in Europe, to simplify the process of managing IT assets, IBM said. SystemXtra, the current version of IBM's System Care Program, provides IBM business partners advanced technologies, better services and software solutions, IBM said.

Acer boss predicts smooth build-to-order transitionTAIWAN - Taiwan's Acer Group is joining what is rapidly becoming an industry-wide move towards a build-to-order (BTO) business model, but has no plans to forsake its channel partners for a direct sales strategy, said Stan Shih, Acer's chairman and CEO.

For Acer, moving to a BTO model is much easier than many other PC vendors, since the Taiwan-based vendor was halfway there already with its "fast-food" business model, said Shih.

Similar to a BTO model, under which PCs are built after customers have placed orders, the "fast-food" model pioneered by Acer in 1992 is based on local assembly centres near the market using centrally made or locally sourced parts and Terho UimonenCompaq, Intel to speed networksBy Peter WolchakTORONTO - The sluggish speed of networking technology is impeding the performance of high-end PCs and PC servers, according to Intel and Compaq - and they plan to do something about it.

According to the networking green thumbs, networking technology has not kept pace with desktop and server level speed gains.

To address that, the two industry giants recently announced a technology licensing, engineering and product development alliance that they say will result in network hardware which is faster, more affordable and interoperates better. By concentrating on NICs, switches, hubs, xDSL technology and remote access servers it appears both Intel and Compaq have 3Com, the current number 4 in the networking market, firmly in their sights.

According to Albert Daoust, an analyst with Evans Research, the agreement with Compaq is the latest salvo in Intel's drive to speed up networking technology.

He points to the vendor's decision to lower the cost of fast Ethernet cards.

"That has been a simple strategy with catastrophic effects for their competitors," Daoust said.

Toshiba's tough times

SAN MATEO - Toshiba's recent announcement of a 47 per cent drop in non-consolidated profits during the first half of its fiscal 1997 year may indicate deep problems at the computer giant's information systems division.

The company blamed cutthroat price competition in the Japanese and US PC markets, slowed US PC sales, and a fall in demand for consumer goods in Japan.

Despite remaining the worldwide market leader for notebook PCs, the company has also been plagued by excess inventory problems for over a year, analysts said. by Rob Guth and Ephraim Schwartz

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