Mitsubishi-Apricot will pull out of the consumer computer market to concentrate entirely on increasing sales to small businesses.
The manufacturer confirmed last week that it will not be developing further machines purely for the home market but will continue to use its retail channel to target business users.
Chris Buckham, group marketing director at Apricot, said: 'We are not pulling out of retail but are concentrating on the small business side rather than out-and-out consumer products.' The move comes after weeks of rumours that the manufacturer was getting out of retail altogether - an accusation strongly denied by Buckham.
Buckham claimed the market for home use machines had 'plateaued out for the moment'. Although he claimed that only 25 per cent of homes in the UK have PCs, compared with 40 per cent in the US, he believed it would not be an area of high growth.
He insisted that UK small businesses had traditionally under-funded IT development. But Buckham said issues like the year 2000, internet access and EMU meant they were starting to look more seriously at improving kit.
Karen Sutton, UK manager of the consumer division at IBM, said: 'It is a challenge for Apricot because the company is known for hardware. For small businesses, you need to offer networks, internet access - everything.'
Susan Lazareff, director of marketing at Packard Bell UK, indicated that she did not see the consumer market tailing off. She said: 'We have certainly seen a lot of change in this market - it is a very difficult situation for both retailers and manufacturers since consumers are becoming more sophisticated.'
But she said companies must have 100 per cent commitment to succeed in the consumer market.
Martin Breffit, sales director at Tiny Computers, did not see consumer sales going down either, but said that Tiny was going after the same small business customer.
He said: 'By the start of next week, 12 of our shops will have a dedicated area for small business customers.' These will have specially trained staff and leasing facilities.
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