When IBM Needed To Shift Gears, They Did

ibmWhen IBM wanted to show customers it was serious about winning PC market share, its weapon of choice was a new support facility near Atlanta.

Unveiled last month, the HelpCenter is classic IBM: clean, modern offices; polite, well-dressed service representatives; uncluttered desks.

But it also typifies what is wrong with IBM, particularly regarding its desktop computing strategy. First, HelpCenter is an expensive service to offer, part of the fabled IBM corporate overhead that keeps its prices high. Second, the HelpCenter support, part of its new HelpWare offering, is geared only toward customers who buy OS/2 or IBM’s PS/2s — which sell for as much as 50 percent more than competitors’ products — and not the lower-priced PS/1s or other, less-expensive PCs it has promised by the end of the year.

IBM is caught in a dilemma that all of its reorganizations and restructurings have yet to resolve. Key executives in the Personal Systems line of business know that they must market low-priced PCs to win back customers the company has lost to Dell Computer Corp. and other direct-response vendors. Sam Inman, president of IBM’s National Distribution Division, has promised to deliver PC products by the end of the year that will come within 5 percent to 15 percent of the prices charged by IBM’s main competitor s in each part of the market.

At the same time, IBM executives seem both scared of and repelled by the low-profit low end of the market. As far back as 1986, IBM Chairman John Akers said that the computer giant would walk away from the PC market if the machines were ever sold as commodities. Akers was unavailable for comment last week.

Fernand Sarrat, who heads worldwide marketing efforts for Personal Systems, calls the industry’s emphasis on cheaper, faster and smaller products a “vortex” that will destroy vendors’ profit margins and dry up funds needed for vital research and development.

“If we stay in that vortex, there will be no leadership, and the entire industry will be the one to suffer by it,” said Sarrat, assistant general manager of Personal Systems market development.

The Subsidiary Strategy

One possible strategy that Inman mentioned for competing at the low end is to set up an independent U.S. subsidiary to sell low-priced clones made by an outside vendor — a tack IBM officials already have said they will pursue in Europe. But if Sarrat has his way, IBM’s only involvement would be to invest in the subsidiary and in turn receive some of the profits. The products would not get the IBM logo, he said, or be sold by IBM’s sales force — two advantages that IBM granted to Lexmark International Inc ., an independent company formed a year ago when IBM spun off its low-end printer business.

For any clone subsidiaries, Sarrat said, “there would be zip of the marketing connection we have with Lexmark. They’re on their own.

“Customers have a very high level of expectation for a product that carries those three blue letters [IBM],” he said, adding that it is impossible for IBM to meet those high standards for quality and service in a product that meets clone prices.

Such a stance, while it may be noble, could cost IBM even more PC market share, analysts said. “To be the price leader, you have to be the cost leader,” said Martin Ressinger, an analyst with Duff & Phelps Inc., a Chicago investment bank. “That’s different from the IBM culture. These independent units have to develop a culture that fits the market they’re in. I think it will be a while before the IBM PC business [succeeds at that].”

In the meantime, IBM is still drawn back to its heritage of selling top-quality products at premium prices.

One of its goals is to “build an industry that has some more [profit] margin in it again,” Chuck Whetsel, manager of systems strategy for Personal Systems, said at an IBM executive conference last month.

Almost five years ago today, IBM pursued that approach by introducing the Micro Channel architecture and the OS/2 operating system. Those efforts, for the most part, have failed. IBM’s worldwide PC share has fallen from 18 percent of units shipped in 1987 to 14 percent, according to Gartner Group Inc., a Stamford, Conn., market-research firm. At the same time, compatibles makers such as Dell and CompuAdd Computer Corp. have risen from obscurity to become more than $600-million-a-year companies.

“We don’t even consider IBM a threat,” said Bill Hayden, CEO of CompuAdd, in Austin, Texas. “If CompuAdd and IBM walked straight into the potential customer’s shop together, we wouldn’t even worry about them.”

At the IBM conference, Whetsel said “we missed the boat” by not clearly showing users the advantages of the Micro Channel architecture. “It’s not our intent to make a big deal out of the Micro Channel at this point,” he said. “We’ve got to deliver on the promise before we can bring it back up to the industry as something that’s important.”

OS/2 also has failed to make much headway in the broad marketplace of desktop PC users. In 1991, IBM shipped only 193,000 copies of OS/2, compared with the 4.7 million copies of the Windows graphical user interface that Microsoft Corp. shipped. IBM hopes to regain some momentum with OS/2 2.0, which it began to ship last week (see First Look, Page 1). IBM officials are much more willing to talk about how they will differentiate their products at the high end than about how they will compete on price in the barracudalike low end of the market.

In discussing their new HelpWare service and support offering, for example, they stress that their aim is to “delight” customers, not just please them.

But HelpWare wasn’t enough to bring SunTrust Service Corp., an Orlando, Fla., financial-services firm, back into the IBM fold.

“We were pretty much an IBM customer,” said PC support manager William Beem. But at the insistence of senior management, the firm now buys lower-priced compatibles from Zeos International Ltd. and Advanced Logic Research Inc.

Beem uses and likes the new HelpWare offering for his existing PS/2s, but added that it mostly “fills in the gaps” left when IBM sent local customer representatives out of their offices and into the field in search of more sales.

“When I call my local IBM representative, I hear a recording that says they’re out at a customer site,” said Beem. “When I call in, I don’t have any help.” Instead, he said, “I’ll probably have to use the [HelpWare] 800 number.”

An Eye on Advanced Technologies

IBM is also looking at advanced technology to differentiate its offerings, with products such as multimedia-equipped PCs, some of which are available now, as well as research and development projects under way on modular PCs and hand-held computers.

“The palmtop will be the interface to a worldwide network of information,” Whetsel told the executive conference. (See related story, next page.)

However IBM does it, if the company wants to regain market share it must find a way to win back customers such as Lynn Handy, assistant data-processing manager at Bassett Furniture Industries Inc., a furniture maker in Bassett, Va.

“We’ve moved away from IBM completely” to PCs made by direct marketer Gateway 2000, he said. His reason: “Price, mainly, and functionality. They work as well, [and] they’re as reliable.”

For IBM to win his business, Handy said, “they’d have to match [Gateway’s prices], or go lower, before we’d swap.”

Can You Fix Broken Hard Drive By Yourself?

There are many reasons behind a broken hard drive and it is important to find out the root cause of the problem so you can fix the issue right away. Assuming that you know where the problem lies may only do more harm than good to your hard drive. This is why if you think that it is a mechanical problem, you should leave the job to an expert. However, it is also possible to fix a broken hard drive yourself but you must see to it that you replace the parts with the exact version and model. You should also keep in mind that making a mistake when fixing your hard drive may reduce your chances at recovering the files. So if you are not really sure how to fix a broken hard drive, it is better to hire a professional to deal with it.

Experts may need special software to fix the problem especially if it has something to do with a corrupt file. When you fix a broken hard drive, it is important that you are very careful and it is still possible that you will lose the previous data your stored especially if the problem requires formatting and changing partitions. You will not be able to recover files that have already been deemed corrupted.

Step By Step Instructions For Recovering The Data From Damaged HDD

Among the multiple ways to do HDD recovery and one of the more convenient ways is to recover files using Linux. Following are detailed step by step instructions in order to recover data from your hard drive using Linux.

First, in order to do HDD recovery, you have to download the system rescue CD and burn them image as .iso on a blank CD.

You should not forget to modify the booting order in the BIOS. This must be set to boot with the Linux operating system and should start backing up of data while in parallel you can check if Linux can locate the data on the Drive.

The drive has to be first mounted by checking at the basic Linux guide for the instructions for mounting them. Now you have to mount another drive and try to back up the data again by consulting a Linux basic guide. They have various utilities especially in place for performing the data recovery.

Now the live desk for Linux has to be booted.

After booting it, you will have to identify the drive and choose in order to recreate the partition disk table for the HDD recovery.

In Linux, the partition on the drive starts with the C and they can be found at /dev/hda1 whereas the second partition can be seen at /dev/hda2 and many more.

The above mentioned steps can be helpful in recovering the lost or damaged HDD and their data from it. This becomes easier as the Linux system can identify any kind of file it can deal with and reads them with no issues.

Determining Data Recovery Services Costs

Even if you have experienced data loss because of physical hard drive failure, this is not yet the end for you as there is a good chance of recovering those files. One way you can retrieve files is by downloading data recovery software. These applications are designed to restore files due to a number of computer problems. However, necessary precaution must be kept in mind if you want to make sure that the files are going to be successfully retrieved. It is important that you do not store new files on the drive or the files you want retrieved will be lost permanently. If you are not sure of the process, it is also advisable that you seek help from an expert. Aside from checking the qualification of your prospective company, you should also determine the data recovery services cost.

Data recovery services costs are also an important factor to consider because this will help you find out how much you should shell out to resolve this kind of problem. This is why you need to be very careful when hiring a data recovery specialist because not all of them can provide you the benefit you are looking for. As much as possible, you need to opt for the ones with experience because no matter how complicated the problem is, you have the assurance that the problem will be solved. This company offers cheap data recovery, even if you have a fatal system error. You will also realize that their services are worth the total price.

Need Network Info? Take A Sniff Of This…

nnifWith its automatic, “intelligent” analysis of network traffic, Expert Sniffer makes impressive gains over unaided LAN diagnosis, but network managers will be skeptical of its results until they can be sure that the entire diagnostic cycle meets corporate standards of accuracy. In PC Week Labs and ZD Labs tests, some of Expert Sniffer’s raw event counting was suspect, possibly making its event classification less reliable.

A second-quarter release is expected; pricing has yet to be announced. Expert Sniffer’s major goal is to Continue reading

Remember Floptical?? If You Say You Do, You’re Lying

rmbftlFor corporations seeking more storage space in a non-networked environment, floptical technology clears a new path.

This technique of high-density magnetic recording on special floppy disks with optical servo tracks frees up 20M bytes of storage space on a single disk. Optical tracks, which support more accurate seeks than magnetic tracks, are used on floptical disks as alignment guides for the magnetic tracks on which the data is stored.

Because a laser places the optical tracks on the disk in a factory preformatting process, conventional disks cannot be formatted to the 20M-byte capacity. However, because floptical drives can also Continue reading