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Britain's ACT Unveils Its Computer for U.S. Market

January 23, 1985|HEIDI EVANS | Times Staff Writer

In an attempt to take a bite out of Apple Computer Inc.'s business, Applied Computer Techniques, Britain's largest computer company, introduced its Apricot microcomputer Tuesday at a press conference in Menlo Park, Calif.

The company, known as ACT, also announced agreements with three major software companies--Culver City-based Ashton-Tate Inc., Software Publishing Corp. of Mountain View, Calif., and Microsoft Corp. of Bellevue, Wash.--to develop and market software products for the Apricot family.

ACT opened an aggressive, $7-million ad campaign with a series of ads in today's Wall Street Journal, with one ad showing a whole apricot and an apple eaten to the core. But some industry officials believe that ACT's real target is IBM and that ads challenging Apple are just a vehicle to make the public aware of the British company's entry into the U.S. market.

"Whether they say it or not, they are really going to wind up competing against IBM," said Ron Posner, vice president and general manager of Ashton-Tate's international division. He noted that ACT's four microcomputers range in price from $1,495 to $4,495, similar to prices on IBM microcomputers, and are geared to business rather than home computer users.

Apple's products have been aimed primarily at home users, although the company will introduce at its annual meeting today the Macintosh Office, a small family of office-automation products designed around the $2,200 Macintosh computer.

Posner estimated that Ashton-Tate's agreement with ACT would be worth $5 million. "This is the largest financial transaction we've signed with a manufacturer," he said. "To us it's very important (to have an alliance with ACT) because of their presence in the United Kingdom." Posner said ACT and IBM each have about 35% of the British microcomputer market.

In a release, Roger Foster, group managing director of ACT, said: "By forming alliances, we demonstrate . . . our commitment to make the leading business programs available on current and future Apricot microcomputers."

Industry analysts described as "fairly conservative" ACT's goals of U.S. shipments over the next three years. The company plans to send to the United States 15,000 units in 1985, 40,000 in 1986 and 70,000 in 1987. ACT officials said the 1987 figure will represent $150 million in sales.

"I guess they are trying to position themselves in people's minds as equal with Apple," said Jack Smyth, an analyst and vice president of Software Access International Inc. in Mountain View, who noted that Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple produced more than 30,000 Macintosh personal computers a month last year. "With these numbers, they are not going to surpass any of the top 10 companies."

But, Smyth added, "with an interesting (advertising) strategy, they have the possibility of being relatively successful and making money."

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