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  1. Technology
August 23, 1996


By CBR Staff Writer

As a company that has managed to notch up 18 years in the computer industry, Alpha Microsystems Inc could be described as something of a survivor. But the past few years have been tough for the Santa Ana, California-based firm and now the group, which according to Owen Daley at Alpha Micro’s investment advisors’ South Coast Communications, started out as just another hardware company, appears to be making a concerted effort to re-invent both itself and its product line. It still sells and maintains its proprietary AM-400 business computer system range and services the equipment, but it is dated and not where the money is, said Daley. After a spate of disappointing figures, president and chief executive Douglas Tullio decided the time had come to scout around for a new direction. As early as January 1993, Alpha Micro announced it would pursue acquisitions of profitable computer service and networking companies. It had already bought the US Pick business of Fujitsu Ltd, and the systems business of Rexon Inc, and a new flurry of purchasing activity ensued. First to succumb to Alpha Micro’s charms was the hardware maintainance division of Los Angeles-based Unix integrator, MGI Group International Inc. Next came privately held San Rafael, California-based dealer Alpha Computer Services Inc (CI No 2,368), and three months later the group had added the balance of shares in Sabre Business Systems Northern Ireland Ltd to make it a wholly-owned subsidiary, and Leicester, UK-based Kathy Parker Training Center Ltd, to its enlarged stable (CI Nos 2,430, 2,435). However, the acquisitions did not provide the impetus needed to turn its fortunes around.

New product range

Alpha Micro closed its Belgian unit and sold its imaging product line to Wyndham, New Hampshire-based KeyNet and in April of this year the group launched AlphaConnect, the first of a new product range that points the group firmly in a new direction. The idea behind the software, said Daley, is to cut a path through the clutter of the Internet. The software selectively collects data from multiple databases on corporate intranets, local area networks and Internet sites using HyperText Transfer Protocol and File Transfer Protocol standards. The collected data is converted for use in applications that run under Microsoft Corp’s Windows, Windows95 and Windows NT.

Further additions to the product suit were announced at the beginning of this month: Alpha Messenger, an electronic mail application and Stockvue, a ready-to-run Microsoft Corp ActiveX-based Internet application that mines and refines financial information, designed for investors that want to keep track of the stock market. The software could track either individual stocks or a specified range or type of companies. Now Tullio has decided the company will base its operations on its core Connect software. And to free up resources to develop additional applications for the product, this month Alpha Micro sold the UK end of its business, which included Sabre Business Systems Ltd of Dublin and Belfast, to Sanderson Electronics Plc (CI No 2,976) for 907,792 new shares worth $2.1m. Alpha Micro had never quite managed to develop Sabre’s sales and marketing channel, and Tullio said that to have done so would have required a significant spend. Instead, he said he preferred to concentrate efforts on the development of additional Connect applications, two more of which should be ready for release before the end of this year. And Tullio said the Sanderson agreement has established a vital distribution channel for Alpha Micro. Sanderson has agreed to sell Alpha Micro’s products through its international offices and established worldwide distribution network – and as far as Tullio is concerned, this is vital if Alpha Micro is to survive for the next 18 years.

By Louise Williams

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