AST - R.I.P.
After several tough years in the PC market, AST Research is finally being cast adrift. AST once stood as the fifth-largest computer maker, but began floundering in the early 1990s as more and more cut-rate computer makers started taking over the market with snazzy advertising and quick turnaround times on products. Samsung, the Korean conglomerate, bought AST in 1995 for $900 million, but AST continued to stagger. In 1997 alone, AST lost $350 million. By January 1999, Samsung decided it had had enough and sold the AST name and company patents to Beny Alagem, the co-founder and former CEO of Packard Bell NEC.
Alagem renamed the company AST Computers, and took several months to evaluate his new company and its weaknesses before actually selling AST Computers products. Since then, Alagem has successfully targeted small- and mid-sized companies and the home market, becoming a leading provider of complete IT solutions. While the company will continue to put its name on computers, AST will contract out its manufacturing. Samsung still owns a majority of the company.
From five to dive
Early in the PC wars, AST had a sizeable market share. At its zenith, it employed nearly 2,000 people at its California headquarters and 6,500 employees internationally. The company sold its computers cheaper than IBM and Compaq did, and relied on its lower prices to drive most of its business. The tactic worked until competitors caught on and started doing the same thing, only with better advertising - including cow-spotted computer boxes.
Albert Wong, Safi Qureshy, and Tom Yuen founded AST - named after the initials of their first names - to produce enhancement boards for the original IBM PCs. In 1986, AST introduced the first computer of its own, and it has since unveiled model after model to keep up with new technology. Throughout the 1990s, the firm has been able to take advantage of sales in Southeast Asia; it now has subsidiaries in Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea (as well as Norway and Ireland).
AST is regaining credibility and hoping to re-establish international trust in the company name after a hurried closing and abandonment of its Canadian offices in 1998. The reliability of the products was never questioned, and the new AST is building on the quality of its computers, introducing desktop PCs with high-speed processors and enhanced multimedia capabilities.
Potential applicants should consult either AST's job hotline or the company's employment Web page, located at www.ast.com/americas/company/jobs.hotoppor.htm. Neither list is entirely complete, but both describe many of the current openings while giving applicants an idea of the company's general requirements. Most new positions are in Irvine, CA, the home of AST's corporate headquarters, but the company also has positions in its Chicago and Texas locations. Applicants can apply on-line, or submit their resumes by regular mail, fax, or e-mail.
AST employees say about their company that "this is a results-oriented corporate culture, but one of the friendliest in the industry." They say that the company has treated them "generously" in the past, even after it "fell on hard times."
Personal computers;Laptop computers;Servers;Multiprocessors
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