Commodore Computers Fires Up The Time Machine

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Do you remember when having a Commodore computer was something to brag about? Yes? Are you old? Yes. Think about this, today’s 25-year-old computer user has probably never even seen a real Commodore computer. But if the brand’s new CEO has anything to do with it, that could change soon. Yes, Commodore is back, baby!

Commodore is rising from the ashes like a phoenix – or at least it’s trying to. Later this year the brand will release a desktop computer unit enclosed in a keyboard. Commodore’s website describes the machine as “…a sleek, anodized aluminum case and a clean, contemporary surface. It’s small, elegant, and unassuming. In fact, it looks so simple it’s hard to believe it’s a computer at all.” President and CEO Barry Altman told tech blog Engadget that the accompanying advertising campaign will be “something like you’ve never seen in your life.”[more]

A dominant brand in the early 1980s with its Commodore 64 unit boasting a near 40 percent market share, Commodore was in severe decline by 1990, and eventually defeated in the marketplace by Apple and IBM. The brand finally declared bankruptcy in 1994. It may surprise many to learn that computers and software are still marketed under the Commodore name. Two years ago, the brand even had limited success in a co-branding partnership with Major League Baseball. However, almost all of its business over the last 15 years has been outside the United States.

Sadly, as much as our sense of nostalgia is pulling for Commodore, and as appealing as its ad campaign may be, its website is a bad sign. The pedestrian, circa-1989 layout of Commodore.com may be a play on the current popularity of “retro” design, but it’s more likely the site is representative of the effort we should expect from the brand. It looks cheap and computer brands cannot afford to appear cheap.

Commodore’s new product may interest a few, and we’re excited to see an ad campaign like none we’ve ever seen in our lives, but without true technical innovation the brand is unlikely to regain even a moderate level of its previous standing.

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