Archive: November 1999 — Easy come, easy go

In November 1999, NEC sent Packard Bell packing.

The company laid off roughly 80 per cent of its Packard workforce and shifted the remainder to its Mountain View, Calif. offices. It was a number

of customer and channel complaints that prompted the purge, the company’s vice-president of communications Ron Fuchs told CDN at the time.

“”The brand is damaged,”” said Fuchs. “”We’re just going to basically walk away from the Packard Bell brand.””

The No. 1 PC retailer in 1995, according to Dataquest numbers, Packard Bell was losing US$650 million a year by 1998.

Yet the poor reputation didn’t seem to faze Canadians. “”I didn’t sense that,”” said InterTan’s CFO Jim Gingerich. Packard Bell appeared to be fairing better North of the border. The company pegged its market share as about 15 per cent. It was spared the axe in Canada and continued to be sold through Canadian outlets for a time, including InterTan-owned Radio Shack.

Packard Bell may have clung to the Canadian market in 1999, but was soon met with another competitor in the form of Gateway Canada Inc.

The direct sales company, founded the same year as Dell Computer in 1985, started up its Canadian operation with a launch on Nov. 3.. But it was the Gateway Business unit that set up here first and sought Canadian channel partners to help it make inroads into education, government and small and medium-sized businesses. In July 1999, the company followed with its Gateway Country stores, initially with six outlets, then 10.

Less than a year later, they all closed and 240 Canadian employees were laid off. Executives blamed a lack of awareness and insufficient marketing.

Before Gateway pulled the plug on its Canadian stores it yanked the cord on the mighty Amiga.

Once hailed as the alternative to Mac and PC, the Amiga appeared to be booting for the last time in 1999 after Gateway decided not to release the MCC (multimedia convergence computer) edition.

Gateway was the third owner of the Amiga name, following Commodore, which went bankrupt in 1994, and German company Escom, which met with financial difficulties of its own by 1996. By the end of the year, Gateway sold the Amiga name and some of its technology to Amino Development. The Amiga, which developed a cult following over the years, briefly resurfaced in 2000 under the name AmigaOne.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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