December 9, 1996 10 AM ET

Digital to greet new year with thinner PC lineup
By Lisa DiCarlo

  In an effort to simplify the buying process for corporate customers and to minimize overhead, Digital Equipment Corp. next year will kick start Project 30, a plan to reduce its desktop model menu by more than 75 percent.

With the massive consolidation of its PC product lines--from 200-plus models to about 30--the Maynard, Mass., company plans to narrow its focus to the most-desired desktop configurations, said Steve Keilen, the company's director of product management. At the same time, Digital hopes to reduce the risk of being stuck with unsold inventories of yesterday's technology, Keilen said.

The drastic reduction in the number of its Venturis and Celebris models will result in about 30 stock keeping units, which will change configurations from quarter to quarter to reflect the latest CPU, memory, hard drive and chip-set updates, he said.

"We're putting a huge emphasis on end-of-life planning and will quickly [discontinue] systems that are not moving," Keilen said.

Under Project 30, which will officially begin in the first quarter of next year, the value-oriented Venturis line will be reconfigured to feature models with at least a 133MHz Pentium processor, and most models will be loaded with Windows 95.

The higher-end Celebris line will be outfitted with faster processors, including Pentium Pro, and will be loaded with Windows NT, officials said.

The company also will offer custom-configured models on a build-to-order basis for large customers who meet a volume criteria. For example, Windows for Workgroups will be offered in the first quarter only on a build-to-order basis.

Although there are no plans to reduce models in other product areas, the workstation division could adopt a similar initiative, Keilen said.

In recent months, Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and AST Research Inc. all have reduced the number of commercial desktop configurations.

Users don't appear to be bothered by the product consolidation and the potential early demise of particular models. "We always order the same thing, so it supports the kind of business we already do with them," said Brian Bertlin, microcomputer and network manager at Washington Corp., in Missoula, Mont. "If our configuration was not available, we'd probably just go to the next one up and get more system for the same money."

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