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Toshiba salivates over notebooks

Ravenous consumer hunger for notebook computers has sent Toshiba on a mission to snare a large portion of what is set to become a new retail feast.

Toshiba this week launched an in-store marketing campaign with four of Australia's top-ranking PC retailers in what it claims is the first attempt by a notebook vendor to target retail with "a very specific go-to-market strategy".

The strategy is designed to help potential buyers to make an informed decision about which computer suits their needs best by demonstrating its notebooks' improved functionality and affordability.

Toshiba's retail marketing manager, Aaron Blackman, said that in addition to a custom-built display unit, an interactive multimedia software program called Toshiba Freedom has been developed to deliver a notebook sermon.

"We have not been serious in the retail marketplace and have pretty much ignored it until now because of traditional price and technology differences between laptop and desktop computers," Blackman said.

According to Blackman, barriers to the retail market have now been broken down and notebooks represent the definitive computing tool for an increasingly large range of consumer categories.

"Small and home office users are now seeing the benefits of notebooks and they are buying them at retail," he said.

Retail big guns David Jones, Harvey Norman, Myer Grace Bros and Dick Smith Electronics are benefiting from the deployment of merchandising teams and POS displays in prominent retail outlets.

Toshiba cites GFK Research's recent market analysis revealing a 28 per cent growth in notebook sales through retail outlets last year. Toshiba itself has recorded an 83 per cent increase in the number of units it moved through mass merchants, the survey said.

Harvey Norman's national com-puter buyer, Ted Johnson, confirmed it was experiencing a strengthening of notebook sales and welcomed the Toshiba initiative and "massive potential" of mobile computing technology.

"There is no doubt that notebooks are far more competitive now," Johnson said. "Just one month ago we only had three offerings. Now we have 10.

"Toshiba is putting a lot of effort into the retail space and that is sure to help sales."

The Freedom program can be left running continuously in a demonstration mode until a consumer uses it as a self-service information source or a salesperson takes the reins to highlight their pitch.

"This is an exercise in market expansion rather than changing the focus of our marketing," Blackman said. "It is all about helping computer buyers make an informed decision about what is the right sort of computer for their needs. This is a tool which gives them the knowledge to aid that process."

Blackman said this is the first stage of a new push into retail and any Toshiba dealer can have a copy of the Freedom program. Future developments are expected to include a sub-$2000 notebook, loyalty programs and the type of low-entry price Internet connection packages gaining headlines for PC vendors of late.