America Online has signed a promotion and distribution agreement with Compaq Computer that will result in AOL being the "featured" consumer online service preinstalled on Compaq's newest Presario PCs.
All Presarios will provide integrated, easy access to AOL through an informational multimedia commercial hosted by comedian Dennis Miller. Additionally, AOL will be co-promoted via advertising, direct mail, in-store promotions, on hard drives, and within the Compaq packaging.
America Online will create, update and maintain a comprehensive Compaq online consumer services area. The companies will also work together to create new and unique interactive, digital relationship marketing programs for consumers integrating the Internet, World Wide Web, CD-ROM and transactional services.
OfficeMax As Dealer
Cleveland-based OfficeMax is the latest retailer -- and the first office products superstore chain -- to carry Digital's Starion line of retail PCs. OfficeMax has over 425 superstores covering more than 150 markets in 42 states and Puerto Rico.
The office products superstore will sell DEC's new Starion line of Pentium PCs Digital recently announced as part of its expanded push into the consumer market. The new systems optimize Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system and are the first consumer PCs to offer home theater-quality JBL speakers.
Industry Execs Form
With backing by two venture capital firms, six original products already in development, and a distribution deal with Electronics Arts already in its pocket, Palladium Interactive has been launched to pursue new business models for product development and distribution.
Headed by CEO Ed Bernstein, formerly director of product development for Broderbund, Palladium has created the Collaborative Publishing Program, a collaboration with developers and content providers that shares risks and rewards.
In the model, Palladium shares development costs, but funds the publishing costs, such as manufacturing, marketing and distribution. After costs have been paid back out of cash flow, profits are then shared consistent with each party's contribution.
Under its Multiple Channel Distribution Program, all products are designed to appeal to all channels, including retail, OEM, direct, education, catalog and international. So far, Palladium has established alliances with six developers and content providers.
Paladium's original titles, slated for 1996, will be CD-ROM programs focused on children's entertainment, edutainment, reference and productivity/creativity categories. To provide an immediate revenue stream, Palladium has introduced four CD-ROM compilations, each containing six proven sellers. Street prices start at $29.95.
In addition to Bernstein, Palladium's management team includes Steven Horowitz, VP of research and development; Ed Roffman, CFO-VP of finance and operations; and Susan Sinclair, VP of sales. Palladium is based in Sausalito, Calif.
New ViewSonic Monitor
ViewSonic's newest monitor is the ViewSonic 17EA multimedia monitor, which the company expects to street for under $700.
The 17-inch monitor has an 85MHz refresh rate at 1.024x768 resolution, a 0.28mm dot pitch, and an Invar Shadow Mask for better picture quality. Other features include built-in stereo speakers, OnView onscreen control, ViewMatch color control, and anti-static/anti-glare screen coating.
The ViewSonic 17EA is compatible with both PCs and Macs, and when used with a DDC-compatible video card, is plug-and-play with Windows 95.
The latest input device from Sejin America is the SPR-8630WP Wireless Keyboard, which uses an infrared receiver connected to the keyboard port on a PC to untether the keyboard from the computer.
Priced at $99.95, the SPR-8630WP can be used from up to 20 feet away, with two AAA batteries providing more than 900 continuous hours. The notebook-size keyboard has 86 full-size keys with 101 key functions and comes complete with the infrared receiver, a PC/AT five-pin cable for connecting the receiver to the PC, a six-pin PS/2 adapter, two AAA batteries, and a user's manual.
The unit will be available at retail this month.
To Split Businesses
Ingram Industries says it will divide its businesses into three independent companies and proposes to undertake an initial pubic offering for Ingram Micro sometime after April of next year. The three companies will begin to operate independently on January 1, 1996, with the legal separation expected to become effective later in 1996, pending IRS approval.
Ingram Micro also says it has reached a deal to acquire a parcel of land in Millington, Tenn. for the purpose of developing its largest distribution facility.
Following the company's reorganization, the three companies will be: Ingram Industries, which will include Ingram Barge, Ingram Materials, Ingram Book Group, Ingram Merchandising Services, Ingram Cactus and Permanent General; Ingram Entertainment, a wholesaler of prerecorded video cassettes both for the rental and video sales markets; and Ingram Micro, the world's largest distributor of microcomputer products. Ingram Micro plans to sell shares in a public offering sometime after April 1996.
Martha Ingram, who was named chairman in June following the death of her husband E. Bronson Ingram, will assume the additional duties of president and CEO of Ingram Industries after the reorganization. Her son David Ingram, president of Ingram Entertainment, will be the CEO and principal owner of that company, while Chip Lacy will relinquish the positions of president and CEO of Ingram Industries and become Ingram Micro's CEO and co-chairman.
All three companies will continue to be owned principally by members of the Ingram family.
Corporate headquarters for the three companies will not be moved from their present locations in Nashville, for Ingram Industries and Ingram Entertainment, and Santa Ana, Calif., for Ingram Micro.
"This reorganization fulfills Bronson's desire for his three sons to have an opportunity to run businesses and to place their own marks on those businesses," said Martha Ingram in a prepared statement. Orrin Ingram is senior VP-chief commercial officer of Ingram Barge, and John Ingram is president of Ingram Book.
In addition to the other changes, Ingram Distribution Group will be split several ways, with Philip Pfeffer continuing to serve as executive VP of Ingram Industries through the completion of the reorganization, after which he will retire but remain on the boards of both Ingram Industries and Ingram Micro.
Ingram Micro says it will begin construction of its new Tennessee facility late this year and expects to take occupancy by the fall of 1996. As part of its contract, Ingram can purchase 40 acres of land, with an option to acquire up to an additional 60 acres to support potential expansion. Initial plans include building up to a 600,000-square-foot distribution center on the site.
Ingram Micro hopes that its new facility will "entice... some direct-marketing customers to also locate in land adjacent to Ingram's new distribution center."
Once the new site is constructed, Ingram Micro will continue to operate its recently opened, 160,000-square-foot warehouse facility in Memphis.
NMB Includes SRS
In Multimedia Keyboard
Keyboard manufacturer NMB Technologies' new multimedia keyboard, the Right Touch ConcertMaster, features enhanced stereo sound by SRS to create a 3-D stereo effect.
The ConcerMaster, model number RT-9100WIN, includes three new keys optimized for using Windows 95. In addition to SRS sound, the keyboard includes a stereo speaker system with a 2-watt per channel amplifier, a built-in microphone, and side jacks for headphone, microphone and subwoofer. A power slide switch allows users to turn on the speakers or internal microphone without affecting the keyboard's functionality.
NMB says the ConcertMaster is compatible with DOS, Windows 3.X and Windows 95, and has received approval from both Microsoft's Compatibility Labs and to use Creative Labs' Sound Blaster compatibility logo.
NMB says the ConcertMaster keyboard will be available for the 1995 holiday season, with a street price estimated to be $129.95.
Home Title Prices
In an effort to get consumers to buy twice as much Microsoft product during the holiday season, the software giant has sharply cut prices -- by up to 45% -- on numerous home software titles.
As a result, more than 30 titles will carry estimated street prices under $50, with some priced at $29.95.
The new pricing structure, which went into effect October 1, effectively establishes three price tiers: $30, $40 and $50. According to a Microsoft spokesman, dealer margins on the products will remain intact.
Microsoft says the new pricing was established after several months of in-store market research and testing. In some instances, the company says, retailers tripled the number of Microsoft consumer titles sold in their stores.
The spokesman dismissed the idea that the price move was strictly an effort by Microsoft to use its deep pockets to buy market share from competitors. "We went into the stores to determine what are the real, natural price points for these products," he says. "It is the same type of price elasticity research done in the packaged goods industry."
? Spectrum Holobyte will be releasing two of its PC titles, X-COM UFO Defense and Gunship 2000, for the Sony PlayStation. The games are in development in the company's MicroProse U.K. Studio, which will release the games worldwide
? Philips Media and Sony Signatures Licensing have inked a deal for Philips to develop and publish interactive games based on Tri-Star Pictures' fantasy/adventure film, Jumanji. Philips will develop CD-ROM games for Mac and PC home computers, CD-i players, and other "appropriate" platforms, the company says. Philips also recently signed agreements with IBM, Apple and Austin Computers for its Video CD catalog to be bundled with various products.
? Market research firm Dataquest is partnering with Netscape to create an Internet site to deliver global IT market research. As part of the agreement, Dataquest will use Netscape Navigator and Netscape Publishing Software to deliver the research online. The system incorporates credit card security for transactions, and a database management system integrated by Netscape. Dataquest can be reached via the Internet at http://www.dataquest.com.
? According to a new PC Data report, LucasArts Entertainment has captured the number one market share in game software sales for the first half of 1995, thanks to top-selling titles such as Dark Forces, TIE Fighter, X-WING Collector's CD-ROM, and Full Throttle. Last year the company's first-half ranking was number three.
? An under-$1,000 CD-recorder/reader is now a reality, thanks to Smart & Friendly's CD-R 1002/CI, which is expected to street at $999. The internal dual-speed unit installs in a 5.25-inch bay, is aimed at the DOS/Windows environment, and features a package that includes Corel CD Creator software, one CD-R disc, and an Adaptec SCSI-2 host adapter.
? Ingram Micro has an exclusive deal through the rest of the year to distribute Iomega's Jaz drive -- a portable drive capable of storing 1GB of data on a single Jaz disk -- to its VAR base.
? PPI Entertainment Group, a division of Peter Pan Industries, is entering the computer software publishing market by introducing 19 multimedia software titles covering the children's adult and SOHO markets. Prices are expected to range from $19.95 to $49.95.
? Interplay Productions has filed a lawsuit against Lasersoft alleging violations of trademark laws by distributing software bearing the label, "Dimensions For Descent." The software has been sold for use with Interplay's popular Descent game. A California district court has issued a preliminary injunction against Lasersoft, barring the company from selling, advertising or distributing any computer games that use packaging similar to Interplay's Descent, and has ordered Lasersoft to remove existing versions of Dimensions For Descent from retail shelves.
? Compton's NewMedia has launched a new brand identity for its product packaging, which will be incorporated throughout its family and children's product lines. All titles included in the branding program will feature a prominent red bar that stretches across the spine and face of the box highlighting the company name. Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia, 1996 Edition, which ships this month, will be the first product to bear the new brand image.
In other news, Compton's has gathered 11 top-selling reference works together on one CD-ROM, called Compton's Reference Collection. The title, which has a suggested retail price of $49.95, offers more reference tools for home offices and small businesses than do competing products, the company claims. Included on the disc are The New York Public Library Reference Desk Reference, The Macmillan Dictionary of Quotations and Compton's Concise Encyclopedia, JK Lasser's Legal And Corporation Forms For Smaller Businesses, and Strunk & White's Elements Of Style, among others.
? Earlier this month, Lonestar Technologies sponsored San Diego's first interactive multimedia contest featuring The Key, the company's interactive musical instrument that allows would-be musicians to play along with digitally Key-encoded music. The event was held at Incredible Universe, with prizes such as The Key and concert tickets awarded to winners.