Compaq Computer Firm Develops K-12 Sales Strategy

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Compaq Computer Corporation, the nation's third-largest computer maker, was expected to announce this week that it is entering the education market.

Analysts say the move will substantially raise the competitive stakes in a market niche previously dominated by Apple Computer Inc. and the International Business Machines Corporation.

Although Compaq, which posted record sales of $7.2 billion last year, will target both precollegiate and postsecondary education, it has developed a sales strategy specifically for the K-12 sector.

Alicia G. Goodwin, the director of government and education marketing for the Houston-based company, said several recent developments have convinced company officials that they cannot ignore the school market.

Ms. Goodwin noted that Apple's recent decision to discontinue its venerable Apple II machine--which still represents roughly half of the installed base of machines in K-12 classrooms--could open up an immense replacement market over time. (See Education Week, Jan. 12, 1994.)

Moreover, both Apple and I.B.M. have experienced the turmoil of financial retrenchment and corporate reorganization in recent years.

I.B.M. announced last week, for example, that its personal-computer division would take over hardware development for EDQUEST, the company's Atlanta-based education arm. Officials said the shift would enhance development of computers for the school market and simplify the parent company's sales network.

"We think that Apple and I.B.M. are a bit distracted,'' Ms. Goodwin said. "They are trying to fix some things outside of the education market that affect the way they deal with the education market.''

Compaq also hopes to benefit from its name recognition among consumers to take advantage of a trend in which teachers and administrators are making technology-purchasing decisions at the school level.

"We see the education market evolving,'' Ms. Goodwin said.

Networking Emphasis

One of Compaq's strengths, Ms. Goodwin added, is in networking technologies. That is an advantage in the school market, where the company projects 40 percent growth in networked systems between now and 1996, compared with 25 percent growth in other markets.

Compaq also has formed an alliance with Jostens Learning Corporation to provide its computers as platforms for integrated-learning systems, which frequently are networked.

Compaq is cultivating a network of dealers who are familiar with the school market. In addition, Ms. Goodwin explained, an equipment-leasing program developed by the Bank One Leasing Corporation will allow schools to obtain Compaq computers and update their equipment with smaller capital outlays.

Another part of Compaq's K-12 strategy is an existing initiative under which the company donates equipment to selected school districts.

One such district is Tucson, Ariz., where the program has furnished more than 300 free computers, 60 of them laptops.

The computers currently are being used at Maxwell Middle School, where a special program gives students access to computers both in every core-subject classroom and at home.

"They go from class to class taking their laptops with them, and when they go home they still have access to the system via modem,'' said Jesse Rodriguez, the district's director of information technologies.

"The goal is to provide our kids with the type of skills that they will need to survive in the real world,'' Mr. Rodriguez said.

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