Compaq : The Bestseller’s Extinction

    Taking birth in the minds of Rod Canion, Jim Harris and Bill Murto, Compaq possessed the crown of the largest purveyors of personal computers before the 1990s with every household’s dream to own one. With the succulent taste of success over their tongues, not a single individual could predict the cataclysmic storm that awaited for the company in the impending years which eventually killed this once glorious company in 2013. 

    Taking its first steps in the field of business in 1982, this brainchild of the above mentioned trinity came to existence by the investment of $1,000 from each of them, along with aids from many others. It was christened with the name of Compaq, which was later comprehended to be nestled for ‘Compatibility and Quality’. Starting off the ride towards the glorious sunshine of happiness, it began with the task of brushing up and altering the entire International Business Machine (IBM) clone market. IBM computers used to possess an ‘open architecture’ system which allowed the user to embellish the device with other hardware and software to enhance the computer’s performance. IBM used to procure processors and operating systems from Intel Corporation and Microsoft, which opened an array of opportunities for them to clone the former’s products. Within a short span of time, Compaq became one of the best producers of these compatible clones. With the vision of discerning itself from the other start-ups of that era and focusing on reverse engineering, Compaq restrained itself from laying emphasis on price solely like the other clone producers. It instead focused on other arenas such as portability, eye-catching graphics display, etcetera coupled up with Intel processor which made it an instant hit. Another point of distinction arises from the fact that unlike the other clone manufacturers, Compaq sold its products through independent retailers, adding a feather to the cap. 

    The bag of achievements of Compaq was filled up to the brim with sales of $111 million by trading over 53,000 PCs in the very first year since its induction which gave it the title of the fastest start-up reaching the $100 million mark. The splashing of the colours of success and triumph on the canvas had just begun as by 1991, Compaq held the honour of grabbing the fifth spot in the market of personal computers with sales of more than $3 billion in that particular year. 

    Dark and melancholic days soon approached Compaq as sales tremendously took a downward slope due to the 1991 world economic recession and Gulf War. The lead was passed on to Eckhard Pfeiffer after Bill Murto’s retirement. The former laid off as many as 1,700 employees and striked down the prices to cope up with the incurred losses. This gained a pinch of success as the company started brewing profits again. The long economic expansion of the 1990s made Pfeiffer deliberate on expanding the company; either by buying another or merging with other associates. Choosing the first alternative, he bought Tandem Computers at around $3 billion and Digital Equipment Corporation at $9.6 billion in the next year. Pfeiffer also bought an end to the tradition of retail selling and introduced direct selling in the markets. This proved to be disastrous as it couldn’t compete with high-tech companies like Dell and Gateway and suffered gigantic losses. Compaq joined hands with Hewlett-Packard in 2002 and continued with HP until 2013 when it finally breathed its last breath.

    The once bestseller is now only a name found in memories of humans and in the pages of history.

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