Microsoft Corp has set up a deal to co-brand personal computers for the retail market with Amstrad Plc spin-off Viglen Plc – the first such agreement in the UK. The companies will market a new range of personal computers aimed at the first time user, called the Viglen Microsoft HomePro range, packaged with full multi- media and video telephony support. The PC 97 -compliant products also come with a range of Microsoft software, and Viglen will offer support services including actually setting up the kit in the user’s home, and on-going after sales support. The range will be sold in the UK exclusively through retail outlet the Dixons Stores Group Plc, which owns Dixons, PC World and Currys, and is targeted at first time buyers that want state-of-the-art systems. Now that Microsoft has established its name among non-techie consumers, the branding should give the first time buyer a degree of comfort. For Viglen, still 34%-owned by former Amstrad chief Alan Sugar, the deal is a departure from the company’s direct sales methods, and could also increase its sales by up to 50% from last year’s 106m pounds. Its shares were up 20% on the news. This is the first branding endorsement Microsoft has done in the UK. In the US, it has similar deals with Hewlett-Packard Co and Packard Bell NEC Inc, and it has a similar deal with a Polish firm. Microsoft said it was not actively pursuing such deals, but that in this case Viglen came to it with a package that fits its philosophy.
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