ZDS may be gone, but its PCs live on at several AF sites

Thousands of Z-248 systems are
still running at DOD agencies.





In the heyday of the Air Force’s massive desktop indefinite-delivery,
indefinite-quantity procurements, Zenith Data Systems sold more than 1 million PCs to the
government.


Thousands of the old Z-248 systems are still running at Defense Department agencies,
and a dwindling number of ZDS notebook PCs also are still in service, primarily in the Air
Force.


Packard Bell NEC Inc. of Westlake Village, Calif., acquired ZDS in 1996, and the
company lost its Desktop V contract about 18 months ago after failing to comply with
contract provisions. Even so, the few Air Force sites with ZDS notebooks have encountered
little trouble with warranty support, which was a highlight of the Desktop procurements.


For example, scientists at the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air
Force Base, Ohio, still use more than 100 ZDS notebooks and have had no support problems,
said Capt. Kathy Bienfang, a public affairs officer.


“Generally speaking, there is no longer a one-stop shop to go to” for repairs
on older notebooks from vendors such as ZDS that did not have large market share outside
the government, said Lazaro Duremdes, director of the Notebook Service Center Inc. of
Anaheim, Calif.


ZDS assembled many of its PC products at a factory in St. Joseph, Mich., but typically
contracted out the manufacturing to Taiwanese vendors, a common industry practice,
Duremdes said. ZDS’ original equipment manufacturer agreements with the foreign
vendors may have expired, he said.


The Air Force Standard Systems Group, which administers Desktop V, has received a few
complaints from ZDS notebook users about repairs, but “ZDS has always taken action to
resolve the problem after it was identified,” said Mack Griffin, deputy director of
commercial information technology products for the Gunter Annex at Maxwell Air Force Base,
Ala.


Most bases, however, are well into replacing the aging 486 and slow Pentium processors
found in ZDS’ installed base. The Air Force Reserve at Peterson Air Force Base,
Colo., has replaced its ZDS notebooks with notebooks from Desktop V contractor
International Data Products Corp. of Gaithersburg, Md., said Roger Wolf, a network
administrator.


Likewise, the Automation Division of the Armament Support Offices at Eglin Air Force
Base, Fla., has substituted mostly Dell Computer Corp. notebooks for its ZDS units, said
Greg Fullmer, network administrator.


The Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson no longer has any ZDS notebooks,
said Maj. Harry Edwards, a public affairs officer.


Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, replaced its surviving ZDS notebooks with notebooks
from Micron Electronics Inc. of Nampa, Idaho, said Sgt. Gary Gilcollins, a network
administrator.


The Logistics Group at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., has 50 Toshiba America
Information Systems Inc. notebook PCs but no remaining ZDS units, said Tom Holman,
computer resources chief.


Many of the ZDS notebooks lacked the power to run modern applications and operating
systems, said Brad Mack, an industry consultant in Chantilly, Va.


“You’re probably better off buying another one” if major repair becomes
necessary, he said.  

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