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BenQ Enters PC Market As It Widens Lineup

BenQ is boosting its nascent presence in retail with the introduction of several IT products this month and an ambitious plan to roll out DVD burners and computer accessories later this year.

BenQ made its first foray into CE retailing at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but the company is expanding its efforts into the PC segment with the announcement of its first direct retailer relationship with CompUSA. When the product expansion is completed this fall BenQ should have about 15 CE and PC SKUs at retail, up from the three now being sold.

Mark Donnelly, BenQ’s sales VP, said the company’s first new product installment started in late April with CompUSA. The national chain picked up three LCD monitors, two 17-inch and one 19-inch, and this offering will be expanded by mid-May with the addition of a 23W-inch that will carry a $1,799 suggested retail price.

The monitors are selling under BenQ’s Lifestyle product line and will feature aggressive introductory price points, Donnelly said, but not at loss-leader levels.

The next step is the introduction of keyboards and mice that BenQ has co-developed with the BMW Design Works. The devices would hit stores this summer and include corded and wireless types, Donnelly said. Pricing is not set.

BenQ’s optical-drive plan centers on the introduction, starting in late May, of three DVD burners with a starting suggested retail price of $179. The first two drives, shipping in late May, features 8x and 16x DVD+R/RW burning speeds while the third, which will follow in July or August, will burn to both the Plus and Dash formats. These drives will burn newly developed dual-layer blank discs that can hold 8.5GB of data.

Donnelly said all three drives can be upgraded to dual layer through a firmware patch that the consumer will be able to download in September. The dual-format model will carry the moniker Double Dual because of its dual-format/dual-layer capability.

“Since there is so little dual-layer blank media available now, we just built the hardware into the drives, so they can be activated when more media will be for sale,” Donnelly said.

BenQ has no definitive plan to date to delve any further into the PC world in the U.S. market, but Donnelly admitted that the company intends to test sales of its notebook computer line in Latin America in the near future. It already sells these items widely in Asia and to a lesser extent in Europe. Donnelly said the U.S. computer market is a particularly bloody business right now and that is a solid reason for approaching it with caution.

In CE, BenQ will spread into a totally different arena with new portable MP3 players sold through mall-based women’s boutique stores, such as those that sell women’s fashion accessories. Donnelly said the company has developed several different models, priced in the $99-to-$130 range, that are designed to appeal to 14- to 25-year-old women. One of the players, the Joybee, is small enough to be worn like a pendant or necklace and will come in a variety of colors and with either 128MB or 256MB of flash memory. A hard drive-based model will ship by late summer or early fall.

Donnelly said the stores being targeted, which he would not name, already sell some basic CE products so adding the BenQ products is not that much of a stretch.