Osborne (computer retailer)

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This article is about the Australian company. For the American company, see Osborne Computer Corporation.

Osborne was the name of one of the largest and most successful computer wholesalers and resellers in Australia. Started by Stanley Falinsky as the exclusive Australian distributor of the original Osborne 1 "luggable" computer featuring a Z-80 processor and running CP/M as the operating system. The company moved into IBM PC compatibles in the mid-1980s and had great success with both business and government clients.

A number of entities were involved in the complex trading relationship of the brand in Australia. A search of the ASIC names database return 28 entries for "Osborne Computers".[1] Telnet pty Ltd, Peak Pacific, Computer Manufacturing Services Pty Ltd, System Support Services Pty Ltd, Osborne Computers (UK) Ltd, Osborne Computers (NZ)are a few of the other related entities at the time.

In about 1992, the company appointed a John Linton (now deceased[2]) as the new CEO of a combined entity who was determined to double their already substantial market share, largely by massive discounting without reducing the traditional good quality of an Osborne machine. The marketing push was financed by demanding that customers place a 100% deposit and then wait six weeks before picking up their new system, and by buying components on ever more generous credit terms from major suppliers like Micronics and Seagate. For about six months the new policy was remarkably effective: Osborne sales boomed and competitors were unable to match their prices. Osborne were selling well below cost, but their retail losses were made up for by currency fluctuations, in particular the steadily rising value of the Australian dollar against the United States dollar.

Inevitably, the currency movement swung back the other way eventually, and Osborne were placed on credit hold by several of their major suppliers: unable to secure more components until at least some of the previous shipments had been paid for, and unable to ship the promised new computers to the many customers who had long since paid in full for them, Osborne went into Voluntary Administration on 25 June 1995. The notification was passed to the company's employees on 26 June 1995.

Star Dean-Willcocks were appointed Administrators to the company in June 1995,[3] resulting in the sale of the business assets to Gateway 2000 computer company Gateway. As a result of the sale employees received all entitlements and customers who had pre-paid for computers received a new computer from the new Osborne-Gateway company.

In the course of the Voluntary Administration new legal references were created in regards to the ownership of prepaid customer goods in Osborne Computer Corp Pty Ltd v Airroad Distribution Pty Ltd 13 ACLC 1129, 17 ASCR 614[4]

Relaunched at the PC96 show as Osborne Gateway 2000,[5] the company later traded as Gateway 2000 Australia for several years, but were unable to recover Osborne's former dominant position and were unsuccessful in the Australian market. Gateway withdrew from Australia in August 2001.

The trading entity continues to be registered as an Australian company ACN 003 677 272 [6]

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