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In Brazil, PC buyers accentuate Positivo

One key to success for the homegrown company: it creates products that make sense in the local market.

SAO PAULO, Brazil--At a high-end computer store in Brazil, you'll find the same kinds of Dell, HP, and Sony models you'd see anywhere in the world.

But in the department stores where Brazil's middle class do their shopping, a homegrown brand, virtually unheard of outside of Latin America, dominates: Positivo.

Positivo has the lion's share of Brazil's retail market, accounting for nearly a third of retail sales and selling more than a million PCs last year. At one key retailer, Casas Bahia, Positivo's desktops are the only ones on the shelves. Overall, Positivo says it sells more computers at retail than the next three players combined.

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In large part, the company's growth has paralleled that of the country's middle class.

"Positivo was at the right place at the right time," CEO Helio Rotenberg said in a telephone interview on Monday. "There are a lot of families that have the desire to buy their first computer and now they can."

Part of Positivo's success has been creating products that make sense in the local market. For example, it has a Media Center PC, dubbed PCTV, that combines the functions of a computer and TV.

Unlike U.S. models, which tend to be relatively high-end, Rotenberg said his company aimed for a low-cost machine that can serve dual purposes as a second TV and a first computer in moderate-income households.

"We tropicalized this concept," Rotenberg said.

One of the company's latest pushes is the "family PC" concept, which adds onto the computer a portal with everything from recipes to homework help to personal finance information.

Rotenberg notes that for customers in its target market, the PC is not a personal device, but rather one shared by the whole household. "Each part of the family, they are a part of the computer."

Click here to read all of the stories in The Borders of Computing series.
Click here to read all of the stories in The Borders of Computing series.

The cheapest of Positivo's desktops can be had for 50 reais ($30) a month, with financing from the store.

At that price, Rotenberg says it's possible to start reaching some in the next lowest economic segment, those whose monthly income is around $270 a month. Construction workers and those who clean houses are starting to buy computers, he said.

These are "not big numbers in this moment, but they are beginning to buy," he said.

Positivo is also trying to aim a bit higher on the pyramid. It now makes its own laptops, ranging from models that cost about $800 to models costing more than $2,000, including a stylish white model aimed at the upper segments of the market.

The bulk of the company's energy, though, remains on the growing middle class, Rotenberg said. "It's exactly where the growth is," he said. "It's exactly where we put our weapons."

Those weapons are growing. Positivo has started manufacturing its own motherboards and LCD screens, in addition to expanding its plant in Curitiba to up its capacity to 225,000 PCs a month.

"We are very happy with the market," Rotenberg said. "We think we are in a very good phase."