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Death of an ATOM
When Mimos, wholly owned by the Government, announced in March that it would embark on a national PC project, the company also revealed that it would be the sole supplier of PCs and related peripherals to Government departments and suppliers on a lease basis.
Besides the PCs to be manufactured by Mimos, the contract also includes the supply of printers, storage devices, uninterruptible power supply, main memory, operating systems and various application software sourced from third-party providers.
Not surprisingly, the announcement by Mimos provoked immediate reaction.
"We are very concerned at how this would affect the industry,"' says Alan Fung, executive director of the Association of the Computer Industry Malaysia (Pikom). Pikom has some 300 members in its fold, comprising both local and multinational technology companies.
Part of Pikom's concern arises from what it says would be an increase in PC prices for the Government due to the presence of an additional supply chain layer, namely Mimos.
Even if prices were not raised, the organization argues that Mimos' exclusive contract would result in the further reduction of wafer-thin margins for public-sector suppliers in the intensely competitive Malaysian PC market.
Pikom is also concerned for the livelihood of small- and medium-size suppliers whose main revenue streams, which previously came from Government contracts, will be affected by the new arrangement.
Controversy also surrounds Mimos' capability in producing quality and reliable PCs.
One industry observer who has followed the local PC industry for more than a decade recalls a similar attempt at PC manufacturing by Mimos eight years ago. "The plans were noble but several ill-considered factors were the death of the project."
In 1991, a Mimos-led consortium laid plans to build the ATOM 1 PC, which was to be powered by an X86-based NEC microprocessor. The PCs were to be supplied to several schools under the Computers in Education project initiated by the Education Ministry. However, only a few of the PCs managed to be delivered to schools before the project died a quiet death.
"There were serious design flaws," recounts the observer who declined to be named.
Among other things, the ATOM 1's power unit had the fatal flaw of being assembled close to the disk drive. Needless to say, the ATOM bombed.
This time round, Mimos is partnering Intel Electronics (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd to help it build its yet-to-be-named PC. The PCs will be assembled by its subsidiary Mimos Smart Computing Sdn Bhd, which operates out of the Mimos complex in Technology Park Malaysia near Bukit Jalil.
However, CNET Asia was unable to obtain further details on the company's investments in the project or production capabilities as Mimos officials declined to be interviewed for this article.
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