AST Research

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AST Research, Inc. was a personal computer manufacturer, founded in Irvine, California, in 1980 by Albert Wong, Safi Qureshey and Thomas Yuen. (The name comes from the initials of their first names.) AST's original business was the manufacture and marketing of a broad range of microcomputer expansion cards, later focusing on higher-density replacements for the standard I/O cards in the IBM PC. A typical AST multifunction card of the mid-1980s would have an RS-232 serial port, a parallel printer port, a battery-backed clock/calendar (the original IBM PC did not have one), a game port, and 384 KB of DRAM (added to the 256 KB on the motherboard to reach the full complement of 640 KB) - marketed under the product name 'SixPakPlus'.

AST Research also produced the Mac286, a pair of NuBus cards containing an Intel 80286 and RAM, allowing a Macintosh to run MS-DOS side by side with its existing operating system. These cards were announced March 1987 alongside Apple's Macintosh II line (AKA, the 'Open Mac'). The product line was eventually sold to Orange Micro, which developed the concept further.

As PC manufacturers improved the integration of peripheral controllers on their motherboards, AST's original business began to dry up, and the company developed its own line of PCs, for the desktop, mobile, and server markets.

AST was one of the members of the Gang of Nine which developed the EISA bus.

In 1992 AST became a Fortune 500 company at place 431.

AST computer's reliability was considered close to that of quality leaders Compaq, Gateway, and IBM.[citation needed] AST managed to gain a decent market share of the PC market, however, it never came close to overtaking Compaq and Dell. During 1992-1995, AST owned the largest market share in China with Legend (Current Lenovo) as the largest local reseller of AST computer.

In 1993 Radio Shack sold its computer manufacturing division to AST[1], and 1994 AST reached a deal to sell AST computers in Radio Shack stores[2] but a year later the electronics chain started selling IBM-brand computers instead.[3]

AST's fortunes turned south due to their strategy of sticking to only offering premium models, in an increasingly competitive personal computer market, while Compaq Computer Corporation and other top-tier manufacturers slashed prices to go head-to-head with the cheapest clones.[4] The failure of AST to recognize the movement towards the commoditization of the PC contributed to its downturn. AST insisted on developing and using its own components in the PC's it produced, instead of those of specialized OEM's. One often used saying at AST, in an attempt to dismiss competitors who did so was, "the best technology they have (i.e. Dell, Compaq, etc.) is a screwdriver."[citation needed]

By the mid-1990s, AST had severe problems in the highly competitive PC market. Revenues for 1996 were $2.104 billion, down from 1995 revenues of $2.348 billion. [5]

AST Research was acquired by Samsung on August 11, 1996. Prior to this move, Samsung had already owned a substantial stake and provided considerable financial support to keep AST going. However, Samsung was forced to close the California-based computer maker after a string of losses and a mass defection of research talent.[6][7]

AST sponsored the English football club Aston Villa from 1995 to 1998.

AST Computers, LLC[edit]

In January 1999, the name and intellectual property were acquired by a new company named AST Computers, LLC.

AST Computers, LLC was a private company founded in 1999 when Beny Alagem, founder of Packard Bell Electronics, bought the name and intellectual property of AST Research, Inc.

AST Computers disappeared from the market in 2001.

Revival of the AST trademark[edit]

As of early 2011, the dormant AST trademark appears to be being relaunched [1] by a new, independent company named DATA ACCESS [2] based in France.

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