SINCLAIR RESEARCH announced the Spectrum in a blaze of publicity in April. At the time the company was stating that the machine was ready to be despatched and that production was ready to meet the expected demand.
The confidence of the company was matched by the enthusiasm with which people placed their orders. Since then, nothing seems to have gone right and the disillusion of customers throughout the country has grown. Sinclair User has been flooded with telephone calls and letters from people expressing their dissatisfaction with the way they have been treated.
The level of the anger has filtered through to Sinclair Research and Clive Sinclair considered the situation to be so bad that he wrote to the magazine explaining the problems. It is printed in Spectrum User. A voucher for £10 and a promise that the backlog should be cleared by the end of September is being offered to customers, some of whom have been waiting for three months.
The most unfortunate feature is that it could easily have been avoided. Sinclair Research makes great play of the fact that it can work to strict deadlines. It is an ability of which to be proud - if it can be achieved. There is no reputation to be gained from making claims which cannot be justified.
The company can advance any number of excuses but the fact remains that it has not been able to substantiate the claims it made at the time of the launch. Problems in gearing-up to full production, obscure faults discovered after production began, and unexpected demand are all acceptable in companies new to the market but Sinclair Research has had the experience of two previous machines, yet still seems unable to profit from experience.
The only excuse for not making sure that the Spectrum was ready to go ahead as soon as it was announced, with a suitable stock to ensure that unexpected demand could be met, was that it had to rush to market a machine to beat the opposition. That does not apply in this case.
It would have made no difference to the competitive position of Sinclair if the machine had not been announced until September. It would, however, have made a great difference to its position with its customers.
It has been said that Sinclair Research is a company with a technology bias. That is used as an excuse for its poor customer relations. That is a reasonable comment for a company which is doing research work for other companies. It is not acceptable for one wishing to deal so closely with the public.
It is also inconsistent. Clive Sinclair is scarcely an innocent where employing the media to publicise his successes is concerned. The shortcomings appear once the machine has been developed and the market has been created.
None of that should detract from the achievements of the company. In a very short time it has developed a dominant position in the home computer market. Such success, however, brings its own pressures. Others see the profits which can be made and in a short time methods which worked less than a year ago are no longer sufficient to ensure that the leading position is maintained.
Clive Sinclair is worried, and probably rightly so, about the threat from the Japanese. It has not appeared yet. The only competition has been from other British companies, which seem to suffer from the same delivery problems as Sinclair Research. It will not last for ever. The best way to meet the threat is to have the proper product at the proper place at the proper time and the ability to meet the demand satisfactorily.
Sinclair scores on the product side. Once it can organise its production effectively it should have no difficulty in justifying the image it has built for itself.