Win Labs, Toshiba seek success with sub-$1,000 clone PCs

Win Labs, Toshiba seek success with sub-$1,000 clone PCs

By Bill Murray
GCN Staff

As many agencies turn to name brand PCs at an average $1,500 price, two vendors are hoping to find a niche for sub-$1,000 clones.

Win Laboratories Ltd. of Manassas, Va., is pricing its TradeWin PC at just $269 with a 333-MHz Intel Celeron processor, 128K internal cache, 32M of RAM, 8M of shared 3-D video graphics RAM, a 40X CD-ROM drive, a 56-Kbps modem, a 10/100-Mbps network interface card and two Universal Serial Bus ports. No hard drive or operating system is included.

For $200 more, buyers can get a TradeWin with a 4G hard drive, a keyboard, a mouse, speakers and Microsoft Windows 98. Upgrading memory to 64M costs $49, and a 15-inch monitor is an additional $139, which brings the price to $657. The chassis has a removable hard drive drawer, and Win Labs can install an optional key lock.

The TradeWin's most original feature is a lifetime trade-in privilege that sells for $260 and a two-year trade-in privilege that costs $199 on Win Labs' National Institutes of Health Electronic Computer Store II contract. Mark Magnussen, a company vice president, said the TradeWin also will be sold on the General Services Administration Information Technology Schedule contracts and on the Treasury Department Acquisition 3 requirements contract.

Company head Winfred Woo said Win Labs started selling computer hardware in 1984 and has delivered about 500,000 PCs to government agencies.

'Ten years ago the market was almost 100 percent clone,' Woo said. Some clone makers such as Dell Computer Corp. eventually worked their way up to Tier 1, he said, referring to the tier rankings of PC makers by worldwide market share and total ownership cost originated by GartnerGroup Inc. of Stamford, Conn.

Considering the TradeWin's rock-bottom price and trade-in privilege, Woo said, 'we've made leasing obsolete.'

Aiming for the top 10

In contrast, Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.'s Toshiba 3200 is a PC clone alternative from a company primarily known for its notebook computers.

Toshiba officials, who are eager to break into the top 10 of desktop PC makers, would not give a starting price for the 3200.

But the 400-MHz Pentium II unit with 64M of RAM, a 6G hard drive, Win98 and a 15-inch monitor likely will sell for less than $1,000, said Mike Wagner, director of product marketing at Toshiba's Computer Systems Division.

Several Toshiba resellers will list the 3200 on their GSA schedule contracts with a 90-day warranty, but agencies can buy longer-term warranties, Wagner said.

'The 3200 will still go through the Toshiba engineering process,' albeit with a short burn-in cycle, Wagner said.

Toshiba will shop for some cheap parts to keep prices down, but the 3200 will have an Intel processor, Toshiba memory and motherboard, a modem and NIC from 3Com Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., and a hard drive from Western Digital Corp. of Irvine, Calif.

'Forty percent of the market has said it doesn't want name brands,' Wagner said. 'We want to target buyers of the white-box market.'

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