|★ PEOPLES ★ ''The market is ready for us to move'' says Amstrad as it enters the battle against the ST and Amiga ★|
|AMSTRAD's PC2000 Hard Disk Sensation (New Computer Express)|
Wholesale replacement to save image
Amstrad last week took the extraordinary decision to swap all the hard disks on its 286 and 386 machines in circulation for brand new units.
This “dramatic gesture" follows months of industry speculation concerning the performance and reliability of the top end PCs. Amstrad admits that the hard disk failure rate is “unacceptable" but says it is lower than industry rumours would suggest.
No 2286 or 2386 hard disk machines have been shipped by Amstrad to distributors and dealers since April. Amstrad engineers and technical staff from hard disk manufacturer Western Digital have been working to correct the faults.
Users who have bought either of the machines are being urged to call a special hotline. Amstrad has set up a 48 hour on-site maintenance arrangement with Dictaphone. Engineers from that company will visit owners and replace their machine's main system box containing the hard disk and its controller. Also, they will transfer all data from the old disk to the new free of charge.
Hard facts: Action stations for PC2386 >>
Amstrad's top end models have come under fire from users and the trade with reports of the hard drives seizing up.
They have also been criticised for being slow. A recent benchmark test measured an access speed of 100 milliseconds. Normally, 50 milliseconds is considered slow. But it is not yet clear whether the replacements will offer greater speed.
In an unusually long statement to the industry, Amstrad boss Alan Sugar acknowledged that there is a problem with the disks and expressed concern about the damage done to the perception of his company.
“The hard disk failure, whilst low, is unacceptable to us. But rumours in the market suggest wholesale failure and we cannot allow our reputation as suppliers of reliable equipment to be damaged,” he said.
This decision has not been taken lightly. Amstrad launched the PC2000 range with the intention of establishing itself as a serious PC manufacturer. The firm was hoping to attract upmarket buyers looking for power, speed and reliability. However, as yet that has not happened with various problems holding up production and busting shipping deadlines.
Indeed, the Stock Exchange is extremely jittery about Amstrad with analysts downgrading profit predictions and citing the sluggish sales performance of the PC2000 range as the main reason.
“A dramatic gesture is now needed to overcome any suggestion that this company is failing in its duty to supply reliable products,” said Sugar. He went on to compare this with his decision to fit the PC1512 models with a fan in 1986 after talk that the machines were overheating. “It did not overheat, but because people believed that it did we immediately fitted a fan to finish off that damaging rumour."
However, Amstrad clearly feels that this problem has more substance than the infamous fan fiasco. Then, Amstrad only fitted new machines with fans and it was quick to crack down on those who questioned the machine's performance. This time it has not been so confident.
Bitter pill for Sugar: “We have chosen to exchange all
A spokesman for the firm refused to speculate as to how much this will cost Amstrad. Nor would he reveal how many machines are involved. Whilst it will find this a serious embarrassment Amstrad hopes its decision will go down well in the corporate sector.
"We want to capture 30 to 40 per cent of the market for top range personal computers by next year," said Sugar. "I think we can do it.”
Users who have experienced hard disk problems should call the hotline on 0926 429***.
New Computer Express #38 (29 July 1989)