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If you were a personal computer manufacturer like Packard Bell NEC Inc, the idea of selling your personal computers direct to consumers would seem very attractive, well to everyone except the middlemen that earn their livelihood from marking up your goods and selling them on. Upsetting these people is the dilemma Packard Bell is now about to face as it launches is NEC Now initiative, with which it will effectively try to emulate the likes of Dell Computer Corp and sell direct, to businesses if not to consumers. To soften the blow to resellers, the company is somewhat hedging its bets and will offer companies the choice of buying direct or through existing resellers, who will also be offered the opportunity to pick up the installation and support contracts on anything sold direct. The company says this will not apply to consumers, who will continue to buy its products through high street stores, but it is targeted at small and medium business as well as Fortune 1000 companies. Packard Bell NEC is also taking the just-in-time manufacturing approach, and will begin stocking components at its factories in Sacramento and Washington state, so that orders can be fulfilled to demand, and cutting down on excess inventory. Some analysts think the either- or strategy could backfire by both confusing customers and alienating the channel. NEC Now will launch in the autumn. Meanwhile, everyone awaits with baited breath the moment when Compaq Computer Corp finally bites the bullet and goes direct.

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CBR Staff Writer

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