The announcement that Amstrad has bought Sinclair Research, made a few hours before this issue of CRASH went to press, is the most significant development in the UK home computer market since the launch of the ZX80.
Clive Sinclair had little option but to accept Alan Sugar’s offer of £5 million for the worldwide rights to sell and manufacture all existing and future Sinclair computer products. It was a case of take Amstrad’s money or go into receivership, by all accounts except Sir Clive’s. After six years, Clive Sinclair has left the home computer market.
The QL is effectively dead — it’s unlikely to resurface unless Amstrad sells the machine to a third party. The Microdrive, seen as a personal pet project of Sir Clive, is also likely to die — Amstrad have no time for erratic floppy tape drives, preferring the straightforward, non-innovative but reliable three inch disc system as installed on their present range of computers.
Buying out the opposition is a bit of a policy departure for Amstrad — in the past the company has avoided takeover bids. Now, for a bargain basement price, Amstrad have been able to consolidate their position in the home computer market. Providing the Office of Fair Trading doesn’t object to the deal, Amstrad now has sixty per cent of the UK home computer market by volume. The acquisition of Sinclair’s computers will allow Amstrad to dominate the entertainment side of home computing — and it is the Spectrum that will lead the new push. This is good news.
At the press conference held to announce the deal, Amstrad’s boss, Alan Sugar, dropped hints about £139 entry points, integral cassette players, and organised software market with Amstrad giving ‘approval’ to products and disc drives for the Spectrum. He said nothing about cheap entertainment consoles based on the Spectrum — £139 for a 128K Spectrum with integral tape drive and joystick port would be a good deal — but don’t be surprised if a 48K Spectrum games machine appears in the shops before this Christmas. Selling for around thirty pounds.
But is Commodore on Alan Sugar’s shopping list, too?