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Canon's edge.

COSTA MESA, Cal.--Differentiation is a central tenet of marketing anything--a product or a presidential candidate. PC companies are no exception, as they forever look to create a niche that sets them apart.

Increasingly, however, differences in the PC retail business have become blurred; vendors use many of the same components and offer similar performance benchmarks, such as Pentium chips, 1Gb hard drives or bigger, 28.8 fax modems, and dozens of software titles.

In many cases, the only clear difference is the brand itself.

Canon Computer Systems Inc. (CCSI) doesn't have that problem, though. Along with Hewlett-Packard and Apple Canon is the only manufacturer selling computer printers and PC desktop systems through retail channels.

Think about the bundling possibilities: Purchase a Canon 100MHz Pentium multimedia PC and get $100 off a Canon ink-jet printer. CCSI has thought about this; its marketing plans also call for matching certain desktop configurations with the most suitable printer SKU.

"We realize the value of cross-pollenization of the two products," said Tom Perrier, director of PC sales and marketing for CCSI. "Differentiation is what Canon has to play with. We're going to address that as much as possible."

Last week Canon introduced its spring line of Innova desktop systems to retail. The products are shipping. Canon also will be coming out with new ink-jet printers and imaging products in the first half. In late April it will reveal plans about new product categories.

"Anyone can introduce one or two products or have a special `price of the week,' but only Canon can deliver the family of products across all these markets," said Peter Bergman, vice president of marketing for CCSI.

Since it was formed in 1992, the computer systems division of Canon, CCSI, has nearly doubled its sales year to year.

CCSI is a separate company from Canon USA of Lake Success, N.Y., although both firms are owned by the same parent, Canon Inc. of Japan. Canon USA markets cameras, copiers and word processing machines to retailers--all non-PC based products; CCSI markets products that are all PC-based.

The computer division was successful from the beginning. It hired away key executives, aggressively marketed products through most channels of retail distribution and worked closely with retailers on everything from merchandising to programs that help reduce product returns.

"We're committed to providing our retail partners with programs that give them the best products at the right time and right price," said John Arnos, vice president of sales for CCSI.

Arnos has worked with retailers for decades and has earned high praise from many in the industry. "Very few can match the energy, charisma and genius of John Arnos," said Tom Campbell, board director of DOW Stereo/Video, which carries Canon products. "Canon is making a major commitment in computers and printers, and they have some exciting stuff coming out."

"Our relationship with Canon is a true partnership," said Bob Baird, senior vice president of merchandising and marketing at The Good Guys!, a major regional consumer electronics retailer. "Their input, P-O-P [point-of-purchase] displays and training complements our in-store execution and our focus on customer service."

Canon recently named The Good Guys! as its dealer of the year. At the awards presentation, David Fensch, director of sales, and Paul Plutzer, regional sales manager, represented Canon. Canon has initiated several sales programs to support its retailers including field sales representatives that provide in-depth, in-store detailing and training, and "Demo Days."

CCSI has also been at the forefront of reducing returns to the dealer. Its "Call Us First" program encourages consumers to contact Canon about a product before bringing it back to the retailer.

As evidence of Canon's commitment to the PC market, CCSI has introduced six new Pentium-based mini-tower models for its Innova series. The Internet-ready multimedia systems are targeted for the home and small office.

Several of the new systems come with six-speed CD-ROM drives and simultaneous voice/data (SVD) modems, which enable users to talk to one another while transmitting data or playing interactive games.

For example, two gamers can compete against each other as they play head-to-head. Also, two users can simultaneously share and manipulate files in real time while communicating, even if only one PC is loaded with the file's software applications.

"With the addition of a video capture mechanism and application software, video conferencing can be added later at a minimal cost," said Perrier. The Innova MT series features a large number of pre-loaded applications, including five Internet-access options: Pipeline USA, NetCruiser, Chameleon, CompuServe and America Online.

The systems are backed by a three-year warranty and supported by Canon's seven-day, 24-hour technical support.

Prices start at $1,799 for the Pentium 100MHz unit with 8Mb of RAM, a 1.27Gb hard drive and 14.4 fax/voice/data modem. The high-end Pentium 166 (16Mb of RAM, 1.6Gb hard drive), 6x CD-ROM and 28.8 SVD modem) is expected to sell for around $3,199.
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Title Annotation:adds a coupon for Canon printer with its personal computers
Author:Ryan, Ken
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Mar 4, 1996
Words:821
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